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Psychological Approach to Shakespeare and his Works

What is Psychological Criticism?

"Writing is revelation of unconscious mind."

So any book that you read is a storehouse of unconscious and of course conscious thoughts of an author. Psychological criticism inspects the mind of author as well as of characters of any book. It states why the book is written and how the mind of characters force them to behave in a particular manner.

Sigmund Freud is known as the father of psychoanalytic criticism. He has given many theories regarding mind and its role in making personality. Some of his theories are-

1.Structure of Human Mind-

- Id


- Super ego

2. Psycho-sexual Stages of Development

-Oral Stage

- Anal Stag

- Phallic Stage (Oedipus Complex)

- Latency Stage

- Genital Stage

3. Talk Therapy

4. Personality Driving Force Therapy

5. Dream Analysis

6. Defense Mechanism

These theories play pivotal role in literature. Although his some theories are not out-rightly rejected by modern theorist and psychoanalysts, but still they are the foundation of Psychological criticism.

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare does not need any introduction. Everyone knows him. He is known as the father of English drama. He wrote around 38 dramas including tragedy, comedy, tragi-comedy and historical drama. He was fantastic dramatist in all the types of drama, but he is most famous for tragedy. His four most famous tragedies are- Hamlet, King Lear, Othello and Macbeth. His tragedies are one man show and in fact the hero has only one flaw that causes hero's death in the end of the drama. For example Hamlet is always in dilemma 'to do or not to do' Macbeth was over-ambitious.

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Shakespeare: A Psychological Approach

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.

Hamlet: The most evaluated psychoanalytic Text

Hamlet is the one of the famous tragedies of English literature. This text is base book of Shakespeare for psychoanalytic critics. They apply Oedipus complex to the character of Hamlet. They assure that this is the only cause behind Hamlets' delay in taking revenge of the murder of his father King Hamlet. Even some critics compare prince hamlet to the modern men who always take more than required time in taking any decision.

Oedipus Complex

Check your Knowledge

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Shakespeare born on-
    • 22 December 1516
    • 23 April 1564
  2. Macbeth is a tragedy of-
    • love
    • Over-ambition
  3. Shakespeare's comedies are known as ;
    • A play without hero
    • tragi-comedy

Answer Key

  1. 23 April 1564
  2. Over-ambition
  3. A play without hero

Famous Quotes of Shakespeare

1. All that litter is not gold.

2. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten these little hands.

3. Life is a tale told by an idiot.

4. Fair is foul; and foul is fair

5. We know what we are, but know not what we may be.

6.All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players.

7. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.
8. Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.
9. If music be the food of love, play on.

10. False face must hide what the false heart doth know.


Avneeka on April 07, 2020:

Great hub

IntegrityYes on November 17, 2012:

That is another powerful one and I voted up for sure.

vansh121 from India on October 02, 2011:

great hub. I love to read criticism on Shakespeare.

epigramman on October 01, 2011:

...great thoughts and point of view here - you make me sit up and take notice of the world around me in both an educational and entertaining way .......your mind is a wonderful, deep and powerful entity indeed!

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archana srivastav on September 27, 2011:

I have read so many dramas of Shakespeare. Your approach is quite new. Interesting. I vote it up.

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