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Rothenberg, A.B. (1973). Infantile Fantasies in Shakespearean Metaphor: I. The Fear of Being Smothered. Psychoanal. Rev., 60(2):205-222.

(1973). Psychoanalytic Review, 60(2):205-222

Infantile Fantasies in Shakespearean Metaphor: I. The Fear of Being Smothered

Alan B. Rothenberg


In exploring the origin of the creative writer's impulse in “Creative Writers and Daydreaming,” Freud writes that “every child behaves like a creative writer at play in that he creates a world of his own, or rather rearranges the things of his world in a new way that pleases him” (pp. 143-14411). Freud implies that the process is reversible, that the creative writer in turn may behave like a child at play, expressing the unfulfilled wishes of childhood in the form of literary daydreams. But Freud is careful to indicate that he does not consider this re-creation process a simple one. In order to give successful expression to an unfulfilled childhood wish, he suggests, the writer makes use “of an occasion in the present to construct on the pattern of the past, a picture of the future.” Even this, Freud suspects, “will prove too exiguous a pattern” (p. 151).

Freud is at pains to distinguish between child's play and adult fantasy. Alluding to what he conceives to be the indestructibility of infantile wishes, which do not die but find reincarnation in “substitute or surrogate form,” he believes that when the child grows up and stops playing, “he gives up nothing but the link with real objects; instead of playing, he now phantasies” (p. 140). In other words, the adult's fantasy must bow to the reality principle and yield its link with real objects. Indeed, even after this concession is made, “overluxuriant and overpowerful phantasies” on the part of the adult, Freud warns, may become preconditions “for an onset of neurosis or psychosis” (p. 148).


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