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Birner, L. (1971). The First Foreign Land. Psychoanal. Rev., 58(2):303-309.

(1971). Psychoanalytic Review, 58(2):303-309

The First Foreign Land

Louis Birner, Ph.D.

Friar barnardine: “Thou hast committed …”

barabas: “Fornication. But that was in another country; and besides, the wench is dead.”

Christopher Marlowe

This penetrating remark was spoken by Barabas, the “Jew of Malta,” when he was accused of having committed fornication. He excuses his action on the basis of another country (the foreign land) and the wench's death.

The dead woman cannot be accused. She is forgiven through death. Barabas cannot be used as a pawn to degrade the woman. Her death frees them both of responsibility; and assuages their guilt for having had intercourse. Death, the final castration, implies mercy and compassion on the part of others.

The excuse of another country is intriguing. The poet Marlowe sensed that in the foreign land the ego can free itself from superego inhibition. The stranger in a strange place can be noted but is not known. His past is not wedded to his present surroundings. The stranger has a special type of freedom that he lacks in his own land.

Analysts frequently hear of cases where the patient has to go out of the city, state or country to have sexual intercourse. There have also been cases where sexual intercourse can only be enjoyed in a foreign place.

Hence, land, location, place and scene (or as Marlowe put it, another country) play a very strong role in the unconscious perception or symbolization of the love object.

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