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Psychology is literary destiny

Our fundamental understanding that psychology is deeply embedded in creative output is delightfully demonstrated in this vignette from Laurie King’s mystery novel A Letter of Mary. (Bantam paperback edition 1996, p. 105)

Scene: early twentieth century, an alfresco luncheon
Characters: Sherlock Holmes and narrator Mary Russell

I must have drifted off, because I was startled when Holmes spoke.

“Shall I abandon you here, Russell, in the arms of Nature’s soft nurse?”

I smiled and stretched deliciously on the rocky ground. Holmes caught the box and handed it back to me when I sat up.

“William Shakespeare must have been an insomniac,” I declared. “He has an overly affectionate fixation on sleep that borders on obsession. It can only have stemmed from privation,”

“A hungry man dreaming of food? You sound like the jargon-spouting neighbour of Sarah Chessman, with her traumatic experiences and neuroses.”

“Who better qualified than I for the spouting of psychological jargon?” I muttered.

Georgetown University psychiatry professor Richard M. Waugaman, MD, is no more a fan of jargon than Holmes; but, unlike Holmes, Waugaman finds the psychology of Shakespeare to be a deeply interesting pursuit. His recent article, “A Psychoanalytical Study of Edward de Vere’s The Tempest, was featured in the December 2009 edition of the Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry. In the abstract of his article Waugaman said:

There is now abundant evidence that Freud was correct in believing Edward de Vere (1550–1604) wrote under the pseudonym “William Shakespeare.” One common reaction is “What difference does it make?” I address that question by examining many significant connections between de Vere’s life and The Tempest. Such studies promise to bring our understanding of Shakespeare’s works back into line with our usual psychoanalytic approach to literature, which examines how a great writer’s imagination weaves a new creation out of the threads of his or her life experiences. . . . (JAAPDP 37:4 2009, 627-644)

Waugaman will share copies of his “. . . Tempest” article if readers will contact him at: <mailto:rwmd@comcast.net>.

In his 2007 article, “Unconscious communication in Shakespeare: ‘Et tu, Brute?’ echoes ‘Eloi, eloi lama sabachthani?'”, for the journal, Psychiatry, Waugaman offered this psychological insight:

The parallels between the dying words of Julius Caesar and of Jesus Christ offer us a window into Shakespeare’s creativity, specifically, his ingenuity in using unconscious channels of communication to stir the audience’s emotional responses. Scholars have noted many connections between the Bible and Shakespeare’s works, including Julius Caesar. To my knowledge, the echo noted in my subtitle has been partially acknowledged by only one previous commentator. 1 I will explore some possible meanings of this parallel in depth. Was Shakespeare deliberately echoing Christ’s dying words (“Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani?” meaning “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”) 2 When he had Caesar ask, “Et tu, Brute?” We do not know the answer to this question. Although I cannot assert that Shakespeare was conscious of this parallel, I will attempt to show at the very least that his unconscious creativity led him to choose words that resonate powerfully for a Biblically literate audience with Christ’s dying words. In the discussion that follows, I hope to make this possibility plausible for the reader. I hope this discussion will highlight and exemplify the central role that unconscious communication plays in a great work of art. (Psychiatry. 01/02/2007; 70(1):52-8)

Waugaman is one of 12 editors of the new journal of authorship studies, Brief Chronicles, as announced by Roger Stritmatter on his website, Shake-speare’s Bible. Waugaman has published extensively on the topic of Shakespeare. His article, “The Sternhold and Hopkins Whole Book of the Psalms is a Major Source for the Works of Shakespeare” appears in the December 2009 issue of Notes & Queries.

Richard M. Waugaman, MD
Selected bibliography of publications on Shakespeare

Articles

“Unconscious Communication and Literature,”  Psychiatry, 66: 214-221 (2003).

Unconscious Communication in Shakespeare: ‘Et tu, Brute?’ Echoes ‘Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabbachthani?’”  Psychiatry, 70:52-58 (2007).

“A Wanderlust Poem, Newly Attributed to Edward de Vere,” Shakespeare Matters 7(1):21-23 (2007).

“A Snail Poem, Newly Attributed to Edward de Vere,” Shakespeare Matters 7(2):6-11(2008).

“The Pseudonymous Author of Shakespeare’s Works”, on-line Princeton Alumni Weekly (March 19, 2008).

“Shakespeare’s Sonnet 6 and the First Marked Passage in de Vere’s Bible.” Shakespeare Matters (in press).

“Echoes of the ‘Lamed’ Section of Psalm 119 in Shakespeare’s Sonnets.” Shakespeare Matters (in press).

“The Bisexuality of Shakespeare’s Sonnets and Implications for De Vere’s Authorship.” The Psychoanalytic Review (in press).

“A Psychoanalytic Study of Edward de Vere’s The Tempest”. J. Amer. Academy of Psychoanalysis (2009).

“The Psychology of Shakespeare Biography Scholarship.” Brief Chronicles: The Interdisciplinary Journal of the Shakespeare Fellowship (2009).

“The Sternhold and Hopkins Psalter is a Major Source for the Works of Shakespeare.” Notes & Queries (in press).

“Shakespeare’s Sonnet 80, Marlowe, and Hero and Leander. Shakespeare Matters (in press).

“A New Biblical Source for the Works of Shakespeare: The Sternhold and Hopkins Psalms.” Renaissance Studies (revised draft under review).

“Psalm Allusions in Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 1.Notes & Queries (revised draft under review).

Book Reviews

Shakespeare by Another Name, by Mark Anderson. Psychoanalytic Quarterly 76: 1395-1403 (2007). Reprinted in Shakespeare Matters (2008).

Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature, by John Mullan. Shakespeare Matters 7(3): 10-14 (Spring, 2008).

Shakespeare the Thinker, by A.D. Nuttall. Shakespeare Matters 7(4): 8-11 (Fall, 2008).

The Mind According to Shakespeare: Psychoanalysis in the Bard’s Writings, by Marvin B. Krims. Psychoanalytic Quarterly 77: 1298-1305 (2008).

The Anonymous Renaissance, by Marcy North. Shakespeare Matters 8(3):20-26 (2009).

The Muse as Therapist: A New Poetic Paradigm for Psychotherapy, by Heward Wilkinson. Brief Chronicles: The Interdisciplinary Journal of the Shakespeare Fellowship. (2009).

About Linda Theil

One comment

  1. Concerning Dr. Waugaman’s article, “Unconscious communication in Shakespeare,” and Caesar’s last words as related to Christ; please see Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Caesar and Christ, pages 196 and 197 in which “it was thought…..that Brutus was Caesar’s son, as Caesar was the lover of Servilia about the time of Brutus’ birth.”
    George Hunter

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