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Faber, M.D. (1985). Antony and Cleopatra: The Empire of the Self. Psychoanal. Rev., 72(1):71-104.

(1985). Psychoanalytic Review, 72(1):71-104

Antony and Cleopatra: The Empire of the Self

M. D. Faber, Ph.D.

The following discussion is grounded in specific theoretical and critical propositions which should be stated clearly at the outset: I believe that Western tragedy, whether it receives narrative or dramatic expression, invariably presents us with characters who undergo a traumatic reactivation of infantile feelings. Tragedy's inner chaos, tragedy's inner disruption expressed through the character of the hero, is always a chaos, is always a disruption, grounded in reactivation. What is reactivated? Basically, the unconscious ego, the repressed introjections of very early experience during which a splitting of the maternal image takes place. The hero discovers himself in a situation that reactivates the bad maternal object, which is but another way of saying that the hero confronts within himself a constellation of repressed desires; the introject is an expression of the forbidden aim.

The splitting of the maternal object is prompted by maternal ambivalence; I regard it as a primitive defensive maneuver whose intensity will vary in proportion to the ambivalence expressed toward the subject. Where the mother harbors truly annihilative inclinations the splitting will be radical. Where the mother's ambivalence is minimal the splitting will be minimal. In most instances splitting results from the mother's confusional behavior, rejecting at times, accepting at others. This can be particularly destructive.

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