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Feldman, A.B. (1955). Imaginary Incest: A Study of Shakespeare's Pericles. Am. Imago, 12(2):117-155.

(1955). American Imago, 12(2):117-155

Imaginary Incest: A Study of Shakespeare's Pericles

A. Bronson Feldman


The known facts about the man William Shakespeare of Stratford on Avon (1564-1616) have so far resisted every attempt to bring them into harmony with the spirit or psychology of the poems and dramas which have survived for three and a half centuries under his name. I have pointed out some of the reasons for this resistance in an article on Shakespeare-worship, published in Psychoanalysis (1953). The last attempt was made by the bold Frank Harris in two volumes of critical studies and a play. His play was hardly more imaginative than its companion books; they subjected the facts to a process comparable to dream-work and piled guess upon guess in a wonderful artistic way. Any information Harris could not fit into his structure, he simply left out. The result appears to have successfully warned most researchers against the daring to prove that a vital relation, a concord of motive and method, exists between the biography of Shakespeare, the merchant and moneylender, and the art of The Merchant of Venice, King Lear, etc. Other investigators have tried to solve the problem by abandoning the belief that the gentleman from Stratford was the real author of the works of art in question. The belief has been challenged since the middle of the seventeenth century but only by amateurs of learning and literary artists. Not until our own time did experts in the English classics arrive at the conviction that the name William Shakespeare was just a pen-name, chosen to mask the identity of a genius who was ashamed or afraid to let his true name be connected with these masterpieces.

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