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March 20, 1972

Discourse on Hamlet and HAMLET: A Psychoanalytic Inquiry

JAMA. 1972;219(12):1638. doi:10.1001/jama.1972.03190380064030

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Dr. Eissler's double expertise as psychoanalyst and Shakespearian scholar becomes quickly apparent. Shakespeare's plays, he says, offer a "mind-created world... but a complete one, parallel to the one we know... the vicissitudes of human life appear to be compressed into... solid and meaningful forms..." The "New Criticism," he points out, finds the psychoanalytic approach a deliberate attempt to equate Shakespearian characters with living human beings, in an effort to unearth unconscious motivations. In the body of Shakespeare's work, there are depths that scientific psychology has not yet come tounderstand, for Shakespeare is "a master in the presentation of human passion, character and destiny whose scope could be asserted only after psychology had caught up with his insights." Brilliantly, he uses a dream metaphor to clarify the plays and their analysis, speaking of the "manifest" and the "unconscious" content.

In the problem of understanding Hamlet, Dr. Eissler selects