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Psychological Approach to Shakespearean Criticism
Shakespeare is the world famous dramatist.
Psychological criticism is peculiar to the present century, which is dominated by psycho-analysis, even though it was clearly initiated by a set of medical critics and psychological investigators in England and Germany in the nineteenth century, who studied the problem of madness in Shakespeare’s tragic figures, the malignity of Iago and the procrastination of Hamlet. Freudian depth psychology has provided new dimension to Shakespeare’s knowledge of human nature and aided the defenders of Shakespeare immensely against the onslaught of Stoll and others that the figures of the great dramatist are a compound of contradictions.
Freudian psychology has supplied new tools and terminology to the critics of Shakespeare which have been effectively used to unravel the mysteries of characters and motives. The best know illustration of this approach is provided, of course, by Dr. Jones’ attempt to apply Oedipus complex to account for the delay of Hamlet.
From Hamlet, however, he passes on to Shakespeare, in a sweeping remark that behind Ophelia stands the mother of Hamlet and behind Hamlet’s mother stands the mother of Shakespeare, which means that Hamlets’ Oedipus complex is a dramatization of Shakespeare’s own complex and the writing of the play was a catharsis of the writers’ own repressed impulses. This is a typical case of the Freudian approach which ultimately comes to a sort of detective investigation of literature to collect all possible clues to the latent neurosis of the author.