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Bernstein, I. (1954). International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXIV, 1953: Variation on a Theme. Nancy Procter-Gregg. Pp. 142-145.. Psychoanal Q., 23:616-616.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXIV, 1953: Variation on a Theme. Nancy Procter-Gregg. Pp. 142-145.

(1954). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 23:616-616

International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXIV, 1953: Variation on a Theme. Nancy Procter-Gregg. Pp. 142-145.

Isidor Bernstein

Ahoy, Savoyardian analysts!

'Things are seldom what they seem,

Skim milk masquerades as cream,'—

And Hamlet, Oedipus and more

As Pinafore and Ruddigore.

Dr. Procter-Gregg has analyzed Ruddigore for your edification and entertainment. She develops the thesis that Gilbert displayed his preoccupation with the Hamlet theme by his protests and his works. The story of Ruddigore is a variation on the ubiquitous Oedipal theme. The Baronets of Ruddigore have been cursed by witches for the crime of the first Baronet, Sir Rupert Murgatoyd. In an effort to escape his fate, Ruthven disguises himself as a farmer but is unmasked by his foster-brother during their competition for the love of Sweet Rose Maybud. Ruthven therefore has to assume his burden of penance, the execution of a daily crime, which culminates in the abduction of Old Hannah, his uncle Roderic's renounced love. She is the phallic mother from whose attack Ruthven is rescued by his uncle. Ruthven finally hits upon the device of committing a crime by abstaining from a crime, since such abstention is punishable by death and is therefore tantamount to suicide which is itself a crime.

Dr. Procter-Gregg overlooks in her account some further confirmation of her thesis. The original crime for which the line is cursed is the persecution of witches by Sir Rupert. These witches are reminiscent of those in another Shakespearean tragedy, Macbeth, which is a different version of the Oedipal theme. As Jones has shown in his book, Nightmare, Witches and Devils, witches represent the incestuous object. The bad wishes are thus projected onto a bad object. The sadistic attacks express, in a regressive way, the sexual Oedipal wish for which the punishment is to commit further crimes on pain of death. The importance of the sadism is underlined by the title Ruddigore with its allusion to blood and piercing attacks (Ruddy-gore).

Ruthven's crimes are concerned with money until his alter ego, Adam, abducts Hannah. With this return of the repressed, the danger becomes greater and necessitates the summoning of the father and the neat piece of reversal—making omitting crime equivalent to committing it—thereby effecting a solution and rendering the whole situation harmless through absurdity.

The article is a refreshing and enjoyable combination of musical, literary, and analytic knowledge in which Dr. Procter-Gregg demonstrates understanding of the works of Gilbert and Sullivan as well as of their personalities.

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Article Citation

Bernstein, I. (1954). International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXIV, 1953. Psychoanal. Q., 23:616-616

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