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Gajdusek, R.E. (1974). Death, Incest, and the Triple Bond in the Later Plays of Shakespeare. Am. Imago, 31(2):109-158.
(1974). American Imago, 31(2):109-158
Death, Incest, and the Triple Bond in the Later Plays of Shakespeare
R. E. Gajdusek
Sigmund Freud, in “The Theme of the Three Caskets,” studies the recurrent situation in fairy tale, legend, and story where a hero is confronted by the need to choose among three women or three caskets. Analyzing Bassanio's choice for the lead casket in The Merchant of Venice, its origins in a tale in the Gesta Romanorum, and the Esthonian folk-epic Kalewipoeg, he concludes that the caskets patently are symbols for women. Going further, Freud then analyses King Lear's division of his kingdom among his three daughters, and the fairy tale prince's choice for Cinderella as one of three sisters, and Paris' choice of one of three goddesses. He notes that Psyche (from the tale of Apuleius), revered as Aphrodite, was one of three sisters and shared with Cordelia and Cinderella the fact of being youngest and fairest and most ill-treated of the three. Freud studies the shared attributes of the youngest sister—the chosen one in all the variant forms of the myth—of paleness, of concealment or disappearance, and of silence or dumbness, and sees that this youngest sister is related to death. The prince in Cinderella, Bassanio in The Merchant of Venice, and Paris in the pagan myth make choices that lead them towards ashes, lead, and the body of Helen, respectively. They choose the third in a series of women and announce a predelection for the totems of mortality or death.
As Freud observes two fairy tales from Grimm where a sister of similar attributes demonstrates her power over death, he is able to observe that the unique third sister in a triad must be the Goddess of Death, the third member of the Fates, the Moerae, the Parcae, and the Norns—or Atropos, the inexorable.
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