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Mahon, E. (2000). Parapraxes in the Plays of William Shakespeare. Psychoanal. St. Child, 55:335-370.

(2000). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 55:335-370

Parapraxes in the Plays of William Shakespeare

Eugene Mahon, M.D.

Parapraxes in the psychopathology of everyday life are “mistakes” that reveal the workings of the unconscious. (Obviously they existed before Freud's time, but it was Freud who gave them a name and dissected their complex psychological meanings.) When they occur in a great work of art (as in Shakespeare's plays) they are obviously not “mistakes” at all but carefully planted details of the artist's over-all aesthetic conception. Just as fictional dreams, as in Jensen's Gradiva, seem to follow the rules of nocturnal dream process and can be subjected to psychoanalytic scrutiny, fictional parapraxes are doubly interesting because they not only express the inwardness of a protagonist but reveal something of the writer's aesthetic method as well. This paper attempts to address these double points of entry into the mystery of Shakespeare's plays, posing the question, “Can the seemingly trivial or irrelevant (a handful of parapraxes in 38 plays) shed any light on the most complex characters in Western literature and the extraordinary mind of their creator?”

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