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Wexler, H. (1959). Fate Knocks. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 40:232-236.

(1959). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 40:232-236

Fate Knocks

Henry Wexler, M.D.

Prefatory Remarks

The germination of the thematic idea began in an analytic hour while listening to the dream of a patient in which there was a repetitive knocking at a door by a surrogate of Fate. It suggested to the analyst the Porter's soliloquy in Shakespeare's Macbeth, during which there is a repetitive knocking at the castle gate following Macbeth's murder of the king, Duncan. The question then arose: Could a parallel study of these add something to our understanding of the dramatic device of a knocking at the gate (door) as a way of representing Fate, a device used by the dream work in the patient's dream and by the poet in the play? Encouraged by at least one other, Thomas De Quincey, who had singled out this particular action for purposes of study in an essay called 'On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth', and with the advantage of psycho-analytic viewpoints and methods, the writer proceeded in his own study as follows.

Symbolically 'an utterance of Fate' (1) may appear as a knocking at the door. Generally the knocking portends that the immutable, often ruthless, necessity called Fate to which man bows is close at hand. In this sense Fate appears in its guise of Death. There is no escaping. Fate has other forms as well, for example, to mention one. that of 'Opportunity', which is said to knock but once. These other happier and more fortunate forms will not concern us here.

Writers and composers have deliberately or intuitively used this particular 'utterance of Fate' within the design of certain of their compositions, as, for instance in the opening bars of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony (7) and, as I shall somewhat arbitrarily assert, in the knocking at the gate during the Porter's soliloquy in Shakespeare's Macbeth (Act 2, Scene 2).

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