James Shapiro the Psychoanalyst analyses Freud the Psychoanalyst

Sat, 27/03/2010 - 21:04 -- Heward Wilkinson

Writing with my psychotherapist hat on, I do think there is an interesting sideline in the reviews of James Shapiro's 'Contested Will'. There are repeated allusions to pathology and so forth, e.g.,


and now James Shapiro himself in a BBC interview says, 'Because they need to imagine something very powerfully that doesn’t relate to what actually happened....And that’s hard to explain...I’m not a psychoanalyst but THAT’s what this is ultimately about.'

So I am wondering, if they are prepared to resort to psychoanalysts as experts, what on earth do they think the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, was doing in being himself convinced of the Oxfordian case?
Obviously they then have to go on to 'psychoanalyse' the father of psychoanalysis himself. In the Independent review its reported that Shapiro embarks on precisely this:


'Prince of doubters: Sigmund Freud

The most distinguished intellectual figure ever to sign up to the proposition that someone else wrote Shakespeare's plays is Sigmund Freud. The founder of psychoanalysis wrote brilliant essays on Shakespeare, and 'Hamlet' underpinned the ideas that led to the 'Oedipus complex'. For James Shapiro, Freud's conviction that the Earl of Oxford wrote Shakespeare is bound up with a search for Oedipal themes in Oxford's life - and a crisis of faith and identity following Freud's father's death in 1896.'

Isn't this contradiction just a little 'intellectually bankrupt' ?


Gertrude: Methinks the gentleman Shapiro doth protest too much. By resorting to psychoanalysis he refers unquetionable to the unconscious and his comment on Freuds brilliance finding the oedipal conflict in Hamlet, reveals Shapiro's own unconscious
conflict: the realization that their is nothing litarary known about the Stratford man, thus making him the most unlikely candidate on the one hand and his (Shapiro's, in his own words) "need to imagine something very powerfully that doesn’t relate to what actually happened….And that’s hard to explain." Not so hard if we suppose his denial as one of the strongest, psyschoanalytical mechanisms of defense. Jan Scheffer, psychoanalyst

Jan yes indeed - and I do think we ourselves need to be cautious in doing tit for tat in reductive interpretation - but its one among several interesting anomalies and faultlines in Shapiro's position. So I myself am getting more and more desperate to read the damn thing the more I read ABOUT it!

I've read Hamlet, but it was only when I
saw it at the theater that I "saw" the Oedipus
complex face to face.

The scene when Hamlet and Gertrude are alone
in her room and she prays to him not to show her
the truth was so shocking to see..., the audience
was silent, nobody moved, the air could be cut with
a knife. There was a huge taboo there.

Günter Grass ("Prehistory and History of Corolianus") comments
that Corolianus' mother, Volumnia, treats his son as her lover,
while Corolianus suffers from the Electra complex: he collects
his scars to put at his mother's feet, etc., etc.

Adonis, before being raped by Venus, says to her, mutatis mutandis:

"Fair queen, if any love you owe me,
try not to know me before I know myself."

And Bertram's mother says to him before he goes away:

"In delivering my son from me
I bury a second husband."

And in "Dido, Queen of Carthage", Aeneas says to Hermes:

"If was my mother that beguil'd the queen
And made me take my brother for my son."

"Dido" is full of Oxford, as I show in this essay: http://shakespearemelodijo.blogspot.com/2011/01/ensayo-1-eliza-queen-of-...

PT theory Part II is all over the works--Beauclerk's analysis seems to me to
be the last word on Shake-speare, and I was not a PT Part II follower before
reading him...

Ricardo, thank you for this. I have a lot of problems with PT theory in both its versions, but I am also inclined to think that PT theorists have grasped SOMETHING, and clearly Charles Beauclerk is a brilliant man, and Hank Whittemore also, even though I find Hank's arguments tendentious. I suspect I will be putting much more down to what psychoanalysts call 'transference' than the literal form the PT theories postulate. I certainly agree with the massive incestuous preoccupations of Hamlet and Coriolanus. (TS Eliot's preoccupation with Coriolanus in the context of the Family Reunion is certainly significant and DH Lawrence's distaste with Hamlet also:
http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/l/lawrence/dh/l41tw/chapter2.3.html ). I also do think that, UNLESS IT IS TRUE, PT theory makes for huge difficulties for Oxfordians in establishing Oxfordian theory as credible academically, and ANONYMOUS may not do us any favours on balance. But there are elements in Oxfordian theory which probably ARE true, such as that Robert Greene was probably a pseudonym for Oxford before 'Shakespeare', which are also embarassing for us, and the issue is primarily what is true, not what is tactical.

But you, and Michael Delahoyde
and Marie Merkel
have persuaded me I need to read this book, and fortuitously now out comes the paperback, so....

I'll keep you posted!


Wow, thanks for the D.H. Lawrence link.

I am enjoying it to the full. Thank you.

I am writing a book (for spanish readers) about Oxford and his various literary masks. Now, if you read Watson "Hekatompathia" (1582), Daniel's "Delia" (1592) and "The Tears of Fancy" of Watson (1593), you will see that the danish ghost is there again freeing his grievances under his Acteon, Narcissus and AEdipus myths.

The other sonneteers (Constable, Smith, Lodge, etc.) do not have that trauma, that..., how to say it: obsession.

If you read Marlowe's "Faust", you will see a Benvolio character (Oxford in his university years, circa 1560's) being transformed by the magician into a stag...

Concerning Robert Greene ("lusty ver" for sure), he has the euphistic style of Lyly, which had the style of that mask of Gascoigne who wrote the narrative (impressive indeed) of "Dan Bartholomew" and "The Adventures of Master F.J."

I have, lately, found that Sackville is a mysterious man... How could he wrote such a musical and rounded ovidian narrative poem as the "Induction" (from the "Mirror of Magistrates", 1563) and "Gorboduc" (1561), and then live 60 and odds years without doing anything else? Something is rotten here...

Take a look to "Gorboduc" first Act. Mother and son as lovers:

Yes: mine for thine my son: A father? no:
In kind a father, but not in kindliness.

My father: why? I know nothing at all;
20 Wherein I have misdone[17] unto his Grace.

Therefore, the more unkind to thee and me.
For knowing well (my son) the tender love
That I have ever born and bear to thee,
He grieved thereat[18], is not content alone,
25 To spoil thee of my sight my chiefest Joys,
But thee, of thy birth, right and Heritage
Causeless, unkindly and in wrongful wise[19],
Against all Law and right he will bereave,
Half of his kingdom he will give away.


Mother content you, you shall see the end.

The end? thy end I fear, Jove end me first.

Now, that's Gertrude and Hamlet with King Claudius as Gorboduc. And here is the plot for "King Lear" and the disastrous consequences of dividing the kingdom among the princes. Sackville may be here another anchor...

Sackville is not a cover of Oxford, so it seems until now.

His Induction and Complaint of Buckingham is good music, but
is not the symphony, fast and furious, sweet and elegiac, ovidian,
of Oxford.

Gorboduc, however, had its first edition in 1575. It says its author is
some William Griffith. Then it changes to Thomas Norton and Sackville.
Critics agree that Norton had no share on it due to his low rated poetic style.
So, why Griffith and later Norton inclusions? No idea. There is nothing to
gain here but the pleasure of reading.

Concerning D.H. Lawerence and his "to be or not to be" King, I felt
the same after reading Charles Beauclerk. His book is really a masterpiece.