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Veszy-Wagner, L., Jr. (1968). Macbeth: “Fair is Foul and Foul is Fair”. Am. Imago, 25(3):242-257.

(1968). American Imago, 25(3):242-257

Macbeth: “Fair is Foul and Foul is Fair”

L. Veszy-Wagner, Jr., Ph.D.

The second part of Freud's essay on “Those Wrecked by Success” (5) deals, almost perfunctorily, with Shakespeare's Macbeth. This is a curious fragment, preceding the analysis of Rebecca West (of Ibsen's “Rosmersholm”). It ends abruptly, after barely six pages, in which, after having started off with the sentence:

“We may take [Lady Macbeth] as an example of a person who collapses on reaching success after striving for it with single-minded energy …”

and pointing out her obsessive washing ritual, Freud suddenly abandons the theme and in a sense, his earlier theory about Macbeth. The first line of the essay's third part simply says:

“If we have been unable to give any answer to the question why Lady Macbeth should collapse after her success, we may perhaps have a better chance when we turn to the creation of … Rebecca …,”

never returning to “Macbeth” again.

The second oddity of this fragment appears in the sentence: “One is so unwilling to dismiss a problem like that of Macbeth as insoluble, that I will venture to bring up a fresh point which may offer another way out of the difficulty.”

This second theory was not his own idea but adopted Jekels' view (6) which he quotes but which, according to Strachey's footnote, does not appear to have been published. A year later, Jekels barely referred to it apart from quoting the above paragraph of Freud's. It seems that both dropped this theory.

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