Behind Sigmund Freud’s desk chair in the Freud Museum London sits the central section of his library, his volumes of Shakespeare and Goethe. Shakespeare’s plays occupied a significant place on Sigmund Freud’s bookshelf for most of his life. He began reading Shakespeare when he was eight years old and quoted from the plays in letters to his friends, his colleagues and his beloved. He used lines from the plays to help him grasp difficult issues in his life such as failure and death. Most significantly, Shakespeare’s plays are part of the raw material from which Freud constructed psychoanalysis. Themes, images, plots, and lines from the plays are woven throughout the foundational texts of psychoanalysis in a way that suggests their formative influence. Freud’s intertextual relationship with Shakespeare took many forms including quotation, allusion and literary interpretation. Some of the allusions are deeply embedded in Freud’s texts in a manner that even Freud may not have been aware of. This talk will explore the influence of Shakespeare on Freud and on the development of psychoanalysis.
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