Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Tragedy and otherness: Sophocles, Shakespeare, psychoanalysis

By Nicholas Ray


The thesis is concerned with the relationship between psychoanalysis and tragedy, and the way in which psychoanalysis has structured its theory by reference to models from tragic drama - in particular, those of Sophocles and Shakespeare. It engages with some of the most recent thinking in contemporary French psychoanalysis, most notably the work of Jean Laplanche, so as to interrogate both Freudian metapsychology and the tragic texts in which it claims to identify its prototypes.\ud \ud Laplanche has ventured an ‘other-centred’ re-reading of the Freudian corpus which seeks to go beyond the tendency of Freud himself, and psychoanalysis more generally, to unify and centralise the human subject in a manner which strays from and occults some of the most radical elements of the psychoanalytic enterprise. The (occulted) specificity of the Freudian discovery, Laplanche proposes, lies in the irreducible otherness of the subject to himself and therefore of the messages by which subjects communicate their desires. I argue that Freud’s recourse to literary models is inextricably bound up with the ‘goings-astray’ in his thinking. Laplanche’s work, I suggest, offers an important perspective from which to consider not only the function which psychoanalysis cells upon them to perform, but also that within them for which Freud and psychoanalysis have remained unable to account.\ud \ud Taking three tragic dramas which, more or less explicitly, have borne a formative impact on Freud’s thought, and which have often been understood to articulate the emergence of ‘the subject’, I attempt to set alongside Freud’s own readings of them, the argument that each figures not the unifying or centralising but the radical decentring of its principal protagonists and their communicative acts. By close textual analyses of these three works, and by reference to their historical and cultural contexts, the crucial Freudian motif of parricide (real or symbolic) which structures and connects them is shown ultimately to be an inescapable and inescapably paradoxical gesture: one of liberty and autonomy at the cost of self-division, and of a dependence at the cost of a certain autonomy

Topics: PN
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (1977). (1845), `Theses on Feuerbach, doi
  2. (2001). (1966b), `The Theatre of Cruelty and the Closure of Representation',
  3. (1997). (1977b), `The Unconscious as Mise-en-Scene',
  4. (1992). (1992a), `The Kent Seminar',
  5. (1913). [ 1912-13]), Totem and Taboo: Some Points of Agreement between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics, doi
  6. (1985). [1887-1904]), The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess: 1887-1904, trans. doi
  7. (1950). [1895]), `Project for a Scientific Psychology', doi
  8. (1940). [193 8]), `An Outline of Psychoanalysis', doi
  9. (1999). 1999A [ 1992b]), `Interpretation between Determinism and Hermeneutics: A Restatement of the Problem', in Laplanche
  10. (1999). 1999A [ 1992c]), `Notes on Afterwardsness',
  11. (1999). 1999A [ 1992d]), `Time and the Other', in Laplanche
  12. (1999). 1999A [ 1992e]), `Transference: Its Provocation by the Analyst', in Laplanche
  13. (1999). 1999A [ 1992f]), `The Unfinished Copernican Revolution', in Laplanche
  14. (1999). 1999A [1992a]), `Implantation, Intromission', in Laplanche
  15. (1913). A Little Rooster Man', in Ferenczi
  16. (1993). After Oedipus: Shakespeare in Psychoanalysis, doi
  17. and their Relation to the Unconscious, doi
  18. (1986). Anger, Madness and the Daimonic: The Psychological Genesis of Violence, Evil and Creativity, doi
  19. (1966). Annaeus doi
  20. (1982). Before the Law', in Derrida doi
  21. (1989). Beyond Representation', in The Lyotard Reader,
  22. (1920). Beyond the Pleasure Principle, doi
  23. (2002). Book Review: Shakespeare in Psychoanalysis, by Philip Armstrong,
  24. (1996). Bryan Loughrey and Andrew doi
  25. Civilization and its Discontents, doi
  26. Collective Violence and Sacrifice in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar',
  27. (1933). Confusion of Tongues between Adults and the Child (The Language of Tenderness and of Passion)', in Ferenczi doi
  28. (1971). Custom: An Essay on Social Codes, doi
  29. (1994). Daemonic Figures: Shakespeare and the Question of Conscience, doi
  30. (1982). Desire and the Interpretation of Desire in Hamlet', doi
  31. (1999). Die Traumdeutung, in Gesammelte Werke, vols. 2 and 3, Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag,
  32. (1996). Do my ear that violence" (1.2.171): Hamlet ou la rhetorique du secret',
  33. (1982). ed. Literature and Psychoanalysis, doi
  34. (1992). eds. Nothing to do with Dionysos? Athenian Drama in its Social Context, doi
  35. (1969). Essais sur le symbolique, doi
  36. (1964). Fantasy and the Origins of Sexuality',
  37. (1996). Fashion it Thus": Julius Caesar and the Politics of Theatrical Representation', doi
  38. (1999). Ferenczi: Selected Writings,
  39. Forget to Remember, Remember to Forget: Sade avec Kant', in Paragraph: doi
  40. (1989). Foundations for Psychoanalysis, trans.
  41. Francois (1977a), `Jewish Oedipus', trans. Susan Hanson,
  42. (1987). Freud and Oedipus, doi
  43. (1999). Freud and the Institution of Psychoanalytic Knowledge, doi
  44. (1966). Freud and the Scene of Writing', doi
  45. (1989). Freud: A Life for Our Time, doi
  46. (1972). Freud: Living and Dying, London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psychoanalysis.
  47. (1918). From the History of an Infantile Neurosis (The `Wolf Man ), doi
  48. (2000). Gender, Sexuality and the Theory of Seduction', in Women: a cultural review, doi
  49. (1977). Ghosts, Kin and Progeny: Some Features of Family Life in Early Modern France',
  50. Ghosts'.
  51. (1912). Greek and English Tragedy', doi
  52. (1977). Greek Religion: Archaic and Classical, trans. John Raffan, doi
  53. (1921). Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, doi
  54. (1967). Hamlet and Oedipus', in The Living Eye, trans. Arthur Goldhammer,
  55. (1971). Hamlet and Revenge, Stanford and London: doi
  56. (1999). Hamlet and the Ghost of Purgatory: Intimations of Killing the Father'. doi
  57. (1994). Hamlet and the Politics of Individualism',
  58. (1991). Hamlet: The Dialectic Between Eye and Ear'
  59. (1999). Haunted Greece and Rome: Ghost Stories from Classical Antiquity, doi
  60. (1981). Heironimo, Hamlet and Remembrance', doi
  61. (1961). Hölderlin et la question du pere, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, doi
  62. (1991). Honor Thy Gods: Popular Religion in Greek Tragedy, Chapel Hill: doi
  63. (1985). How Culture Influences the Interpretation of the Oedipus Myth', in Pollock and Ross eds.
  64. (1993). III: The Psychoses, trans. doi
  65. in Sophocles: vol. II, trans. Hugh Lloyd-Jones, doi
  66. (1968). Interpreter [aver] Freud', in La revolution copernicienne inachevee: travaux 1965-1992,
  67. Interrupting Derrida, London and doi
  68. (1999). Introduction: Psychoanalysis and the Question of the Other', in Laplanche
  69. (1980). Introduction'
  70. (1964). Introduction' to Julius Caesar, Cambridge: doi
  71. (1997). Issues of Death: Mortality and Identity in English Renaissance Tragedy, doi
  72. (1968). Jacobean Political Theology: The Absolute and Ordinary Powers of the King', doi
  73. (2001). Jacques Lacän: Psychoanalysis and the Subject of Literature, Transitions Series,
  74. (1993). James I and the Politics of Literature: Jonson, Shakespeare, Donne and their Contemporaries, doi
  75. (1985). Julius Caesar and the Tyrannicide Debate'. doi
  76. (1968). Julius Caesar: An Experiment in Point of View', doi
  77. (1988). L 'heritage et sapsychopathologie, Paris: Presses Universitaires de
  78. (1994). Law of Free Monarchies', doi
  79. (1970). Life and Death in Psychoanalysis, trans. Jeffrey Mehlman, doi
  80. (1969). Literary History and Literary Modernity', doi
  81. (1961). Lives, trans. Bernadotte Perrin, Loeb Classical Library, doi
  82. (1994). Ma mere, ce n'est pas eile. " De la seduction a la negation', in Laplanche
  83. (1981). Man's Estate: Masculine Identity in Shakespeare, doi
  84. (1923). Memorabilia and Oeconomicus, trans. doi
  85. (2001). Miguel and Simon Sparks doi
  86. (1917). Mourning and Melancholia', doi
  87. My Views on the Part Played by Sexuality in the Aetiology of the Neuroses', doi
  88. Notes Upon a Case of Obsessional Neurosis (The "Rat Man")', doi
  89. (1915). Observations on Transference Love (Further Recommendations on the Technique of Psycho-Analysis III), doi
  90. (1907). Obsessive Actions and Religious Practices', doi
  91. (1986). Oedipal Texuality: Reading Freud's Reading of Oedipus', doi
  92. (1957). Oedipus at Thebes: Sophocles' Tragic Hero and his Time,
  93. (1982). Oedipus Revisited: Laius and the "Laius Complex"', in Pollock and Ross
  94. (1970). Oedipus the King, trans. Thomas Gould,
  95. Oedipus Without the Complex', , in Myth and Tragedy in Ancient Greece,
  96. (1977). On a Question Preliminary to any Possible Treatment of Psychosis', in Lacan
  97. (1996). On Sleep and Dreams, trans. doi
  98. (1997). On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life', doi
  99. (1999). Play in a Godless World: the Theory and Practice
  100. (1971). Poison, Play and Duel: A Study in doi
  101. (1972). Principles of the Philosophy of the Future', in The Fiery Book: Selected Writings of Ludwig Feuerbach, trans. Zawar Hanfi,
  102. (1911). Psychoanalytic Notes on an Autobiographical Account of a Case of Paranoia (Dementia Paranoides)', doi
  103. Psychopathic Characters on the Stage', doi
  104. (1984). Radical Tragedy: Religion, doi
  105. (1986). Reading Greek Tragedy, Cambridge: doi
  106. (1998). Reading the Riddles of Oedipus Rex,
  107. (2000). Readings: Acts of Close Reading doi
  108. (1914). Remembering, Repeating, Working-Through (Further Recommendations on the Technique of Psycho-Analysis II)', doi
  109. (1994). Rephrasing the Freudian Unconscious: Lyotard's Affect-Phrase', doi
  110. (1985). Representing Ophelia: Women, Madness and the Responsibilities of Feminist Criticism',
  111. (1996). Revenge Tragedy: Aeschylus to Armageddon, doi
  112. Samuel Taylor (1808-19), Coleridge on Shakespeare, doi
  113. Seduction, Persecution, Revelation', in Laplanche (1999A). 317 ---(1999B) `Sublimation et/ou inspiration', in Entre seduction et inspiration: l 'komme, Paris: Quadrige/Presses Universitaires de France.
  114. (1972). Seminar on "The Purloined Letter', doi
  115. (1995). Shakespeare 's Festive Tragedy: The Ritual Foundations of Genre, London and doi
  116. (1992). Shakespeare and Classical Tragedy: The Influence of Seneca, doi
  117. (1998). Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, London: Fourth Estate Ltd.
  118. (1989). Shakespeare's Erotic Word Usage: the Body, its Parts, Analogues and Images, A Lexicon,
  119. (1987). Shakespeare's Ghost Writers: Literature as Uncanny Causality, doi
  120. (1973). Shakespeare's Pagan World, doi
  121. (1983). Shakespeare's Rome, Cambridge: doi
  122. (1977). Shakespearean Representation: Mimesis and Modernity in Elizabethan Tragedy, doi
  123. (1982). Sign and Symbol in Hegel's Aesthetics, doi
  124. (1975). Sir John (1599), Nosce Teipsum, doi
  125. (1989). Socrates in the Apology: An Essay in Plato's Apology of Socrates, Indianapolis/Cambridge: doi
  126. (1979). Sophocles, trans. Hazel Harvey and David Harvey, doi
  127. (1995). Sophocles' Tragic World: Divinity, Nature, Society, Cambridge: doi
  128. (1994). Speaking Daggers:
  129. (1957). The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious', in Lacan
  130. (1954). The Apology in The Last Days of Socrates, trans. Hugh Tredennick and Harold doi
  131. (1992). The Argonauts and Herakles,
  132. (1984). The Assault on Truth: Freud's Suppression of the Seduction Theory, doi
  133. (1980). The Chorus in Sophocles' Tragedies,
  134. (1993). The Culture of Violence: Essays on Tragedy and History, Manchester: doi
  135. (1985). The Ear of the Other: Otobiography, Transference, Translation: Texts and Discussions with doi
  136. (1970). The Eating of the Gods: An Interpretation of Greek Tragedy, doi
  137. (1946). The Elizabethan Conception of the Tyrant', doi
  138. (1965). The Elizabethan Dumb Show: The History of a Dramatic Convention, doi
  139. (1985). The English Elegy: Studies in the Genre from Spenser to Yeats, Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins doi
  140. (1979). The Fate of the Dead: A Study doi
  141. (1964). The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis,
  142. (1955). The Freudian Thing, or the Meaning of the Return to Freud in Psychoanalysis', in Lacan
  143. (1953). The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis',
  144. (1988). The Great Eclipse', in Signs Taken for Wonders: Essays in the Sociology of Literary Forms, trans. Susan Fischer, David Forgacs and doi
  145. (1951). The Greeks and the Irrational, doi
  146. (1925). The Iliad, trans. doi
  147. (1948). The Influence of Seneca and Machiavelli on the Elizabethan Tyrant, doi
  148. (1900). The Interpretation of Dreams, doi
  149. (1998). The Knotted Subject: Hysteria and its Discontents, doi
  150. (1967). The Language of Psychoanalysis, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith, London: Karnac Books and the Institute of Psychoanalysis,
  151. (2000). The Language of Sophocles: Communality, Communication and Involvement, Cambridge: doi
  152. (1979). The Law of Genre,
  153. (1997). The Library of Greek Mythology, trans. Robin Hard,
  154. (1958). The Meaning of the Phallus', doi
  155. (1949). The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience', in Lacan
  156. (1919). The Odyssey, doi
  157. The Oedipus Tyrannus of Sophocles, trans. Richard Jebb, Cambridge: doi
  158. (1966). The Oresteia, trans. Robert Fagles, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 4th ed.
  159. (1977). The Origins of Shakespeare, doi
  160. (1993). The Plural Event: Descartes, doi
  161. (1958). The Poetry of Greek Tragedy, doi
  162. (1906). The Pre-Shakespearean Ghost', doi
  163. (1955). The Problem of Julius Caesar', doi
  164. (1901). The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, doi
  165. (1955). The Republic, trans. Desmond
  166. (1974). The Spanish Tragedy,
  167. (1985). The Subject of Tragedy: Identity and Difference in Renaissance Drama, London and doi
  168. (1923). The Task of the Translator: An Introduction to the Translation of Baudelaire's Tableaux parisiens', in Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn,
  169. (1979). The Tragic Effect: The Oedipus Complex in Tragedy, trans. Alan Sheridan, Cambridge, doi
  170. (1957). The Twelve Caesars, trans. Robert Graves, revised with an Introduction by Michael Grant,
  171. The Uncanny',
  172. (1915). The Unconscious', doi
  173. (1994). The very cunning of the scene": Claudius and the Mousetrap'. doi
  174. (1930). The Wheel of Fire, doi
  175. (1977). Theatricum Analyticum', doi
  176. (1991). Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, doi
  177. (1983). To Be and Not To Be: Negation and Metadrama in doi
  178. (1990). Tragedies of Tyrants, doi
  179. (1981). Tragedy and Civilisation: An Interpretation of Sophocles, doi
  180. (1987). Tragedy: Shakespeare and the Greek Example,
  181. (1988). Tragic Drama and the Family: Psychoanalytic Studies from Aeschylus to Beckett, New Haven and London: doi
  182. (1997). Tragic Seneca: An Essay in the Theatrical Tradition, London and doi
  183. (1992). Translating Origins: Psychoanalysis and Philosophy',
  184. Tyrannus, in Sophocles: doi
  185. (1967). Une interpretation philosophique de Freud', doi
  186. V: le baquet: transcendence du transfert,
  187. (1977). Violence and the Sacred, trans. Patrick Gregory, doi
  188. (1917). Vorlesungen zur Einführung in die Psychanalyse,
  189. (1935). What Happens in Hamlet, Cambridge: doi
  190. (1995). Whom Gods Destroy: Elements of Greek and Tragic Madness, doi
  191. (1953). Why Oedipus Killed Laius: A Note on the Complementary Oedipus Complex in Greek Drama',
  192. (2001). Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass,
  193. (1990). Writing From History: The Rhetoric of Exemplarity in Renaissance Literature, doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.