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Stockholder, K. (1987). Macbeth: A Dream of Love. Am. Imago, 44(2):85-105.

(1987). American Imago, 44(2):85-105

Macbeth: A Dream of Love

Kay Stockholder

Plato in the Republic reflected uneasily that even a good man might dream that he slept with his mother, and Freud tried to reassure the audience to his Introductory Lectures to Psycho-Analysis when he reminded them that there was someone in the real world actually doing the horrible things of which they merely dreamed.1 The combination of the involuntary nature of our dreams and their emotional power can remain a source of worry even though most of us exempt from moral judgment the expressions of desires in the willess realm of dreaming. However, any action that ensues from a state of mind that seems on the borderline between waking and dreaming, any engulfing or compulsive emotion, raises troublesome questions about whether desires as well as actions are subject to moral judgment.

In literature a similar kind of question appears in the gulf between an aesthetic and moral apprehension, between the impulse to savour the formal beauty in which any kind of experience is rendered, and the impulse to come to literature, as Sydney suggested was appropriate, for delightful teaching. That there might be some kind of gulf between these two aspects of literature is implied by Freud and developed by Norman Holland, who in the Dynamics of Literary Response2 argued that the moral aspect of literature, by sublimating the core phantasy, allows us secretly to indulge, much as we do in dreaming, otherwise forbidden desire. The parallel dichotomies between dreaming and waking experience and between the aesthetic and moral aspects of art suggest that the dream level of art is not as easily integrated into the cognitive and rational aspects as Anton Ehrenzweig and other theorists suggest.3 Rather, it suggests that art contains an inherent internal conflict of a kind that Stephen Green-blatt saw in an historical context.4

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