نوع مطلب :مطالب مفید درسی و مقالات ،
Psychoanalytic criticism and its application in "The Tempest" (part one)
By: F. Farshchian M. A.
June, 2005, Updated: Oct. 2010
Applying Freudian and Lacanian Concepts to the Tempest:
It is the text which manifests anxieties, immaturities or neuroses. Literature has been described as doing the dreaming of the culture, and as Freud observed, psychic work takes place in dreams, helping to sort out and to express that which is not repressed from the unconscious mind. Thus my reading of The Tempest (below) is not interested in any psychic investment Shakespeare may have had in 'his' text, nor in the characters as such, except as they represent aspects of text's subjectivity.
Desire / the Law of the Father
That which opposes the subject's initial desire is the Law of the Father, which is similar to the Other. The Tempest involves one of the most comprehensive analyses of desire imaginable. Every character in the play is in a condition of having lost a desired object, or of being actively in search of one, and all are under the control of the massive paternalistic authority of Prospero, who creates the world which they inhabit and within which the power of their desire is used to manipulate them. For these reasons, and also because he in the teacher of Miranda and Caliban, Prospero functions as the Law of the Father and so is the source of all language and meaning on the Island. Even he, however, has a history of deprivation and loss which constructs him (in his term) as a desiring subject.
Zizek sees that one implication of what he calls 'the lack in the Other' is that an unnamable (and so extra-structural) transcendent term disrupts the apparently closed structure outlines by Lacan's three orders. Discovering such a lack depends on using the 'Other' flexibly, as a subject in its own right, as well as a force outside the subject. One might follow Zizek by seeing Prospero as the lacking/desiring Other when he seeks and is satisfied by his revenge. But if his brother Alonso's repentance can supply the 'lack in the Other', has it not also named that lack, and so reclaimed it for the structures of analysis? Paradoxes like this make psychoanalysis both tricky and satisfying. In a more complex way, prospero seems to desire Ariel's constant presence and approval- a state he achieves by naming and seeming endlessly deferring Ariel's desire for freedom.
Character's Sense of Lack/ the Imaginary world/symbolic order:
The entry of the (masculine) subject into the symbolic order involves a sight of the female as absence (as a lack), in terms of the absence of the phallus. Often it seems that, for Lacan, difference within the subject is precisely difference between man and woman, and subjectivity depends on locating the woman as other (the object of desire) but also within the Other (the true giver). Lacan uses discourse which does not locate itself in relation to gender: which, in implicitly believing itself in relation to gender, ignores its own assumptions of authority and masculinity. Heath clarifies how Lacan's most significant perceptions, locate the important area of difference within language, where the subject is constituted. Here the subject's lack is enacted, not in relation to biological detail, but in relation to the idea of a plentitude of meaning which language (and the Other) appear to promise but cannot supply.
Insofar as The Tempest considers all characters to be both lacking (and so desiring), it places lack indiscriminately within both the masculine and feminine domains. If the island, the Imaginary world, is a location of lack but also of the free play creativity, it may be read as having strongly feminine aspects. That lability in turn is masked by Prospero's apparent control of all the apparitions through spells and physical violence, and therefore through the Symbolic order, subservient to the Law of the Father.
Caliban as the Abjected Other:
If the other as loss is the same as the abjected other, we are driven to associate that with Caliban, who is reviled on racial, sexual and class grounds and described as having lost his chance of humanity. Prospero also denies him the opportunity to become a father (cal. would it had been done! Thou didst prevent me; I had peopled else this isle with Calibans.T. I. ii, 349-51), effectively castrating him. The more firmly one can repudiate an 'other', finding it disguising or monstrous, the more strongly one's sense of self in reassured. We must ask then, what it is in Prospero that needs to keep this abjected other always in his presence, always carrying the weight of Prospero's contempt as he carries the weight of firewood. Linguistically, Caliban's curse and lewd suggestions rebound language back at Prospero, reformed with a power which is not his, and which he cannot silence (as a symbolic castration). Caliban is screening Prospero's psychic conflicts, as the abjected other screens the desire of the Father/Other.
Symptom: Characters' Language:
Freudian psychoanalysis sees such symptoms as supporting and confirming its own theoretical structures. Woman is thus not constructed as a speaking subject, except when producing the kinds of meaning that psychoanalysis as a dominant discourse has empowered itself to hear and to 'cure': the very meanings that it sees as direct access to the unconscious. Hysteria can be seen as a refusal to take up that position of the not male. In those terms, Caliban is in the position of hysteric- using wild language that defies the Father and refusing to accept his construction in abjection.
Mirror phase: misrecognition:
The Imaginary for James Mellard is made up of the distinctive misrecognition of the mirror phase: the fantasized sense of wholeness, whose completion takes place through an acceptance of loss/prohibition – in other words, of the Law of the Father. This is characteristic of Prospero's view of himself as absolutely powerful at the beginning of the play, achieved by accepting banishment from Milan. Mellard explicitly places the Imaginary and the Mirror Phase together in the field of undifferentiated self and the power of the mother, the Imaginary union between infant and (m)Other flourishing pre-linguistically. Prospero's devotion to his magic involves a belief that these nurturing forces are his own, as a garment is, to be put away and taken up at will. He is thus in a state of Mirror Phase misrecognition.
Prospero's hesitations, however, reveal that the projection of wholeness is onto an other that is already divided and doubting- unwillingly setting up fissures even within the Imaginary which clamour to be interpreted: his postponement of Ariel's freedom is one such, and his forgetfulness over the Caliban plot is another. Only at the close of the play does he begin to consider his own statue as a social and moral being, and discovers that his use of magic arts has involved him in balancing act between the Symbolic and Imaginary, which are out of his control.
The idea of subjectivity in the text can be taken further, using the entire text as a model of the psychic structures of the subject, such that the characters in it are metaphoric divisions within the subject. Thus in this version, Prospero is 'the Other' and the Father of the Symbolic order within the text's psychic structure, with the Is; and inhabitants representing the extra-Symbolic, otherwise known as Imaginary, or as the female/the lack. At the same time, however the characters are open to treatment as 'subjects' in their own right. We can turn to use Prospero as a subject within whose structure Ariel functions as objet petit a (a substitute object of desire), thus elucidating the multidirectionality of Lacan's phrase 'the desire of the Other'.
Perhaps the most difficult part of psychoanalytic criticism to come to terms with is its view of the text as having subjectivity in its own right. As such, the 'voice' of the text consists of multiple voices of all the characters in the text, each seen as an aspect of the self. Peter Greenway's film, Prospero's Books, gives an insight into this approach, while also helps to explain why the Prospero figure is so compelling. Greenway achieves that in three phases: In the first phase we see an author, writing the text of the play at the same time as its events take place. 'The author' and 'Prospero' are clearly different characters, and are dressed differently. More striking, however, is the fact that Gielgud also speaks all the other lines as well as Prospero's. Many of the voices are accompanied: 'Miranda' consists of Gielgud's voice and the actress's voice in chorus, sustaining the multiple impressions that Shakespeare has written every part, that Prospero controls every detail, and that all the characters are part of a single complex psyche.
In the second section, there is a moment when the author of the text is dressed no longer as himself, but as Prospero: suddenly, and very subtly, the two are no longer distinct. These techniques together impart a unified subjectivity to the text and display unequivocally that each of these characters/voices is neither more nor less than a part of a single, complex psyche. At this point, we are offered an island that is genuinely magic, where Shakespeare's and Prospero's arts are equivalent. The third section (the Epilogue) gives us Gielgud as a dispossessed man standing in front of a theatre curtain. He is not writing, and not 'acting' as Prospero. We see in him. To borrow a phrase from King Lear, 'Unaccommodated man': a human being without any power or artifice, who is dependent on the audience's approval for his survival. In a highly moving way, we are offered Gielgud as himself. It is puzzling to think why this is so moving- and proposing explanation for puzzling is the stuff of criticism. Gielgud at this point images each of us to ourselves- as helpless and as irrevocably social beings.
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