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Mandelbaum, G. (2018). Shakespeare at Work: The Four Closet Scenes. Psychoanal Q., 87(2):323-350.

(2018). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 87(2):323-350

Shakespeare at Work: The Four Closet Scenes

Review by:
George Mandelbaum

Hamlet is the only Shakespeare play to have come down to us in three distinctly different versions. The three Hamlets (1603, 1604, 1623) embody different versions of the “closet scene,” in which Hamlet kills Polonius and takes Gertrude to task for having married Claudius. Shakespeare wrote a fourth closet scene in the climactic Othello “death scene,” which also depicts a man enraged at a woman to whom he is deeply attached and who he feels has betrayed him. This paper argues that as Shakespeare moved from version to version of the closet scene, he penetrated a defensive, wish-fulfilling fantasy as well as other defenses. He was then able to access and dramatically symbolize painful and powerful inner states as well as to create a lifelike, three-dimensional character in Hamlet. The process has implications about how Shakespeare worked.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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