Freud being a legend in psychoanalysis has provided the world of literature a powerful tool in terms of his theories which mainly deal with the mind in depth. This interesting tool known as psychoanalysis gives opportunity of reading and interpreting texts in a very complex level. However it is this complexity which prevents us from doing a skim reading of the text concerned. In fact the theories provided by Freud make us see those things which maybe had not captured our attention before or had been put aside due to our conventional beliefs. Application of Freud’s works in important Shakespearean plays like “King Lear”, surely offers a new vision, ironically showing how at that time which was supposed to be quite orthodox and yet these kinds of thoughts did prevail. “King Lear” happens to be a tragedy where a king who abdicates from his kingdom and ends up being mad clearly shows how the play is about negotiation of repression. In order to show this terms like repression should be properly explained and this brings us to our first argument regarding the factors which are the cause behind it.
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Repression can be defined as the defense mechanism, in other words it is the act of repelling one’s own uncomfortable thoughts or desires. Throughout this analysis it is going to be shown how Freud’s famous  Eros, Thanatos (death drive),”  Lear complex” and other factors lead to repression and how it is compromised by the characters. Firstly in psychoanalysis, we already have a term which is totally based on Lear himself, namely Lear’s complex. In fact “in psychoanalytic theory it means a father’s libidinous fixation on a daughter”, in which he eliminates his wife and marries his daughter. This is seen in the opening of the play where Lear asks his three daughters verbal proofs of their love. Initially this scene appears like a normal one where a father is considered becoming senile due to old age and thus behaving like a child. However if a “microscopic psychoanalysis test” is carried out on this scene then one can see clear emergence of Oedipus complex and Lear complex. Lear is feeling something more than fatherly love for Cordelia; she has become a source of narcissistic feeling for Lear in the sense that Lear used to look at her as a self object by which
To be more precise, Cordelia is a reflection of motherly love and having her for himself wholly, Lear gets the self reassurance each time he sees her. Lear surely knows he cannot have her wholly since she has to get married. This is where repression is seen taking birth, however Lear’s clever negotiation in repression is seen in the way he asks his daughters to verbally say how much they love him. In other words he creates the atmosphere where Cordelia is expected to say that she loves him more than even her husband. Therefore Lear very wittingly uses the atmosphere of father asking daughter how much she loves him into the same atmosphere where in the church the priest asks the bride before the wedding. His aim is to make Cordelia bound by this oath of his before she marries someone else so that she will always have to give her father’s oath priority. Lear has moreover already planned to give Cordelia part of his kingdom where he knows she’ll have to stay back with her husband and govern.
However this does not happen as Lear wished and this is why he becomes angry. All this is to clearly depict how Lear shows sign of repression for the maternal love he is seeking in Cordelia. Since Cordelia has always been tender to him and also his favourite, he might be seeing the image of his late wife and mother in her. Thus to negotiate with these feelings, he develops strategies to make her become in way in which she will still be the mirror of Lears’ self assurance. All this is happening in Lear’s unconscious which repress the traumatic events. Even this instance seems traumatic as it is as if the snatching of Cordelia from Lear which might resemble the death of his wife or mother which seemingly affected himself a lot. Lear’s rage and the way he banishes Cordelia might be interpreted as the results of old age and his arrogance and if interpreted otherwise through psychoanalysis, all this is just a veil to the Oedipus complex arising in Lear. Lear’s unconscious is something he cannot see clearly and subconscious is something what he can almost see clearly and his conscious is finally what he can see clearly. Thus what can be said is that it is his unconscious which gives rise to Lear’s particular actions and words. He is at the point where Cordelia is being snatched from him and he gets defensive and in other words we see the re enactment of Lear’s psyche’s unmastered traumas, things which he has repressed in his unconscious. When he Lear sees the separation of himself and Cordelia coming, anxiety of the event is aroused without even arousing the memory i.e. Lear does not remember the vents in the past which are making him behave like this. It is through the repetition of these particular traumas but in different context that Lear will return to the “metaphoric womb of the mother” where he will return back to an organic state.
This brings us to Thanatos also known as the death drive and also the narcissistic scar. Also known as an inexplicable force in human nature, the death drive functions against the pleasure principle, it is also the driving force of the Id. This is to be contrasted with Eros which gives us opportunity to unite with others and thus continue living our life. Both Eros and Thanatos are applicable specifically in a sadomasochistic relationship for e.g. that of Cordelia and Lear when we see the Oedipus complex. Lear’s and Edmund’s repetitive negative behavior can be linked to the repression they had since childhood. While for king Lear it might have been for maternal love, for Edmund also it might have been the regret of not being the legitimate child. As both of them grew up, they may have realized that desires cannot always be fulfilled. In other words they are subjected to reality principle. This realization is quite upsetting for them which leave behind the narcissistic scar. This brings them to always subject themselves to inferiority. Even as adults, they will have a tendency to place themselves in situations where they will be more likely to adopt harmful behaviors. The experiences of the child will act as a subconscious template which will come to form all future experiences. This is why maybe Edmund seduces both Goneril and Regan since he knows how loyal his father, Gloucester has been to Lear. He used Lear’s daughters to somehow take revenge from Gloucester for having made him illegitimate.
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This narcissistic scar gradually pushes the person in question towards the death drive through the repercussion of his actions. Gloucester, Lear, Edmund or even Cordelia orient themselves towards the death drive without really knowing it. Lear’s childish behavior mostly results of his Id and Ego is bound to become deserted finally. The powerful force (death drive) makes Gloucester Cordelia, Edmund and Lear react in this way so that finally their repression ends up like this. Cordelia ironically when moving towards the death drive returns back to the nothingness she brought forward in the beginning of the play. All of them through their actions return back to nothingness, it is through this nothingness that everything was animated and it is in this nothingness that everything dissolves. Seeing the stage at the end of the play nothing is left showing us how repression has led to narcissistic scar and which in turn has resulted to the death drive.
The application of Freud’s complex theories to King Lear has efficiently shown how texts can be re read and re interpreted under the light of different liberal ideologies. Freud psychoanalysis makes us plunge inside the minds of the characters as well as makes us question about their past. In this way readers are left to make the link between past memories and actual behavior as we have seen in Edmund’s case. Freud’s concept of Oedipus and Electra complex has enabled critics to cast aside their conventional views and to really penetrate each character’s psyche. This becomes more interesting since it deals with the mind, repression and its consequences and how it is negotiated with. Finally through psychoanalysis, we have been presented with a Lear whom we have known in depth in terms of character. Analysis of repression in this text has successfully shown how things like conscious, subconscious, unconscious, Id, Ego Superego amongst others play a significant role in the development of a person. Furthermore it also depicts the fact that it is not astonishing seeing repression in the unconscious re surfacing back after many years with repetitive actions but in different context.
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