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THE FREUDIAN MECHANISM OF REPRESSION OF LIBIDO

IN THE FIRST FOLIO

 

 

 

 

I show in UDGCB that the numerous self-concealments of a figure behind an arras – Falstaff, Borachio, the Executioner (King John IV, i), Polonius - represent in every case, on the plane of allegory, the psychic defence mechanism of repression of libido, to anticipate Freud and the supposed inauguration of Western depth psychology by some centuries. Drunkenness portrays always in the First Folio the state of dissolution in blind libido (see Dionysius in Bacon’s De sapientia veterum): hence the allegoric value of Falstaff, and also Borachio (< the Spanish borracho, “drunk”, “inflamed with passion”) in Much Ado About Nothing. These allocations are not arbitrary, but have their precise place in a tightly structured narrative of the disintegration and repair of a single psyche, the ultimate reference being always to the life of Shakespeare. In Richard the Third (Richard is the “Ugly Dick” of the title), this repression is allegorised in the murder of Clarence; its inevitable re-irruption to precipitate the breakdown (also anticipating Freud), in the abrupt entry of Richard, in the “last supper” scene in the Tower, to effect the arrest and execution of Hastings, which portrays the coup that struck down Shakespeare in 1587, to precipitate his flight to London in search of healing and a new life.

 

Polonius also bears the allegoric value of the libido. Hamlet is, to an extent, the odd play out in FF: for, whereas the remaining plays deal invariably with the case history of Shakespeare, HAM pushes the envelope to examine paranoid schizophrenia, that most tragic and destructive of all psychiatric illnesses. (Kenneth Branagh’s horrific full-length version for the cinema does the HAM allegory brilliant justice). The histories as allegory make it clear that Shakespeare at no time descended into psychosis, the defining characteristic of which is a loss of touch with reality: his condition being rather of the nature of a severe anxiety/depression neurosis of acute onset. However Bacon understood, with characteristic brilliance, schizophrenia as a near extension of this condition; and that, under different conditions, - if he had not intervened, - this could well have been the fate of his patient and pupil. This is made clear in the entry and abrupt exit in the first lines, never to be seen again, of Francisco, who represents (like his namesake in The Tempest, and Friar Francis in MAN) Bacon himself. Hamlet’s sword bears the value of the ithyphallic principle; its piercing of Polonius, the reactivation of libido, as invested in negative mantle by the Puritan world-view, to precipitate the psychotic crisis. Its re-entry into consciousness is portrayed in Hamlet’s stowing of the body upstairs in an attic: a typical example of the topological/geographical symbolism of FF. Fortinbras bears the value of the unconscious; his final victory, its tyrannisation over the psychotic psyche. HAM is adorned with one of the most memorable pieces of symbolism in FF: that of Ophelia, floating supine and singing on the brook, as the Biblical “Spirit that moved on the face of the waters”, - the Holy Spirit Herself, - before its suppression from the schizophrenic psyche. Once again, these allocations are not arbitrary, but are key pieces in the jigsaw of a striking picture: HAM as allegory being revealed thereby, like FF as a whole, as exemplary to a rare degree of the Aquinian virtues of consonance, radiance, and integrity.

 

The chapter on HAM is the second longest in UDGCB, and explicates in detail the allegory of this most shattering tragedy in the Western tradition.

 

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