SHAKESPEARE'S ROYAL SELF by James Kirsch

SHAKESPEARE'S ROYAL SELF

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Ever since Jung's first publications on the relationship of literature and psychology, which appeared around the late Twenties, there has grown a school of criticism primarily concerned with myth and archetypal figures or primordial images. Maud Bodkin's Archetypal Patterns in Poetry was the most notable of these pioneering works, and did much to popularize the Jungian notion of the ""collective unconscious."" Since then the methodology has grown increasingly refined or complex, and if one favors such procedures Dr. Kirsch's bulky investigations of Hamlet, Lear and Macbeth should prove an immensely rewarding experience. But his book presupposes 'a familiarity not only with the plays and Shakespeare in general, but also a thorough knowledge of psychoanalysis as well as an interest in previous Shakespearian scholarship, to Which he refers with all the earnest industry of a Ph. D. candidate. Accordingly we find that Shakespeare ""experienced the archetypal world as a realm in which the opposites-male and female, good and evil- were constantly attempting to gain possession of him. But by maintaining his determination to 'live in doubt' he sustained the freedom of his soul."" Dr. Kirsch's thesis is bolstered by some awesomely close readings of the three texts under consideration, and to each he brings insights of value and originality. Indeed he seems to have pondered the plays for many years, and his interpretations in part are brilliant. His conclusions, however, seem a bit Procrustean. Thus, as against the Freudian approach, we have Jungian renderings: Lear's experience of ""God-consciousness,"" Hamlet not involved with the Oedipal situation but with coniunctio or ""the realization of the Self,"" and Macbeth's fate involved with ""destructive feminine forces"" he could not master or integrate. An addition to Jungian literary criticism.

Publisher: Putnam