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UC-NRLF



SB EVE M3M



THE HYSTERIA OF
LADY MACBETH



BY
ISADOR H. CORIAT, M.D.

AUTHOR OF " ABNORMAL PSYCHOLOGY,"
CO-AUTHOR OF "RELIGION AND MEDICINE," ETC.



NEW YORK
MOFFAT, YARD AND COMPANY

1912



Copyright 1912, by

MOFPAT, YARD AND COMPANY

NEW YORK



TO MY WIFE



459573



CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I. REPRESSION AND THE SUBCON-
SCIOUS 1

II. SOMNAMBULISM AND HYSTERIA . . 16

III. PSYCHO ANALYSIS AND LITERATURE 23

IV. THE PROBLEM OF LADY MACBETH . 28

V. THE PSYCHOANALYSIS OF LADY

MACBETH 36

BIBLIOGRAPHY . 93



THE HYSTERIA OF LADY
MACBETH

CHAPTER I

REPRESSION AND THE SUBCONSCIOUS

This > short contribution may be called
a study in applied abnormal psychology
and its object is to lay bare the fundamen-
tal mental mechanisms in one of the most
prominent and interesting of artistic lit-
erary creations. It notably differs from
the usual conceptions of Lady Macbeth,
since it does not interpret her behavior or
motives either as criminal or as obsessed
by ambition. If the tragedy be read
anew in the light of modern psychopath-
ology, the interpretation herein given will
be found the only adequate one, namely,
1



&;;; j ; /, 'THE HYSTERIA

that Lady Macbeth is an accurate exam-
ple of hysteria.

In speaking of Shakespeare as a dra-
matic artist, Taine, one of the most philo-
sophical and penetrating of literary crit-
ics, says: "Lofty words, eulogies, are all
used in vain; he needs no praise, but
comprehension merely; and he can only
be comprehended by the aid of science.
As the complicated revolutions of the
heavenly bodies become intelligible only
by the use of a superior calculus, as the
delicate transformations of vegetation
and life need for their explanation the in-
tervention of the most difficult chem-
ical formulas, so the great works of art
can be interpreted only by the most ad-
vanced psychological systems." Now it
so happens that modern psychopathology
is precisely one of those advanced psy-
chological systems which is to-day inter-
preting literature anew. It is the ana-



OF LADY MACBETH 3

lytic work of this individual psychology,
that is not only transforming the sub-
ject of psychoneuroses in medicine, but
is likewise illuminating literature and art.
While its methods are highly technical,
yet its results have been far reaching in
penetrating the hidden recesses of abnor-
mal mental states and the motives for the
varied activities of the creative imagina-
tion.

It is only within the last few years that
psychoanalysis has forged to the front as
an important branch of medical and psy-
chological science, and it is to Profes-
sor Sigmund Freud of Vienna that we
are indebted for the greatest advances in
these directions. The psychology of
Freud and his school has not only revolu-
tionized certain aspects of medical sci-
ence, such as the study of hysteria and
other psychoneuroses, but has penetrated
into different fields of human knowledge



4 THE HYSTERIA

and analyzed and interpreted them. The
psychology of childhood, the interpreta-
tions of artistic creations in literature and
painting, the analysis of myths and folk
lore, and of wit and humor, have all been
transfused with a new meaning through
these unique psychological theories. The
results have been valuable and stimulat-
ing and have unraveled the mental mech-
anisms through which poet and painter
work and by which mythology and folk
lore have evolved their symbolism. It
has been shown, for instance, that in cer-
tain psychoneuroses, and in the creation
of wit, dreams, poetry, painting, two men-
tal mechanisms are uniformly at work,
namely, either an imaginary wish fulfill-
ment or a tendency in that direction and
a repression of painful experiences and
memories into the unconscious.

Freud's activities and the fundamental
principles of his psychology have spread



OF LADY MACBETH 5

in several directions and a brief account
of his theories is necessary for a compre-
hension of the mental disease of Lady
Macbeth. In the first place, it has been
demonstrated that there is a rigid deter-
minism in the mental world and that
psychophysical processes are the absolute
result of a certain chain of causation,
either conscious or unconscious. That is
to say, mental processes are not arbitrary,
accidental or due to chance, but are
closely related to one another. This is
as true of dreams or of slips of the tongue
in everyday life as in the more complex
manifestations of hysteria. A certain
mental state or idea does not arise in a
haphazard fashion out of the conscious
or the unconscious, but is predetermined
by certain experiences or groups of ideas.
In the same way that physical events pos-
sess an unchangeable sequence of cause
and effect, so psychical events conform



6 THE HYSTERIA

to an identical mechanism. There is no
more room for chance in the mental world
than in the physical world. It is this
theory of determinism, so rigorous and
inflexible, which has been responsible for
the development of the technical methods
in the exploration of the conscious and
unconscious mental life, known as psycho-
analysis.

Mental states are never at rest, but are
active and dynamic, and unceasingly
grouping and ungrouping themselves,
excepting perhaps in the deepest sleep
and in anaesthesia. This grouping of
mental states and ideas has also its ana-
logue in the biological world, for an iden-
tical mechanism takes place in all the
activities of the individual cell or collec-
tion of cells. Every mental process or
experience and every external stimulus
leaves its traces or marks upon the nerv-
ous system. Of the exact nature of this



OF LADY MACBETH 7

trace nothing is known. The fact that
such traces do occur, however, explains
all the phenomena of memory, particu-
larly the storing up or conservation of
experiences and their later voluntary or
involuntary revival or reproduction.
We are, however, not completely aware
of all these active mental processes.
Some of these only appear in dreams, oth-
ers can be revived only through various
artificial devices, such as hypnosis. For
those mental states which exist in an active
but latent form in consciousness, but of
which we are not aware, the term subcon-
scious or unconscious is applied.

It is these subconscious mental proc-
esses, together with certain other mental
mechanisms, which are of particular value
in the interpretation of the mental state
of the subject of this study. These ad-
ditional mechanisms are repression, men-



8 THE HYSTERIA

tal or intrapsychical conflicts and mental
dissociation.

When a painful experience occurs, the
natural tendency of the personality is to
strive to banish it and thus put it out of
action. The experience although ban-
ished is not really dead or rendered com-
pletely quiescent, but remains active al-
though latent, and may suddenly appear
in consciousness or in the actions of the
subject under certain conditions, such as
in absentmindedness, sleep or dreams.
When it again becomes manifest under
these circumstances, it reappears either as
a literal rehearsal of the original experi-
ence or in a disguised or symbolized form.
The technical method which enables one
to trace the transformed and symbolized
experiences back to their original content
is known as psychoanalysis. In any
event, the subconscious or unconscious ex-
perience, does not lose its activity or vivid-



OF LADY MACBETH 9

ness, but retains all the intensity of the
original experience. This mental mech-
anism of voluntary banishment is known
as repression. Its effect is to prevent
any experience or group of experiences,
technically known as a "complex," from
entering consciousness. It is this repres-
sion which is responsible for many psy-
choneurotic disturbances, particularly
hysteria. Thus hysteria is essentially an
inadequate biological reaction, rather than
a mere functional disorder.

A "complex" therefore, may be defined
as a system of ideas possessing a certain
emotional tone or value. In the psychi-
cal sphere, complexes have an action re-
sembling that of energy in the physical
sphere. A complex may remain latent
or inactive for a long time, and may only
become active when stimulated in a cer-
tain manner. This stimulation of the
complex occurs when one or more of its



10 THE HYSTERIA

ideas or elements is aroused to activity,
either by some external event or through
some association arising in consciousness
itself. If the complex is unconscious or
subconscious as the result of disease or of
training or education in certain directions,
the individual may be absolutely unaware
of the fact that his thoughts and actions
are caused and predetermined by these
unconscious complexes. We all are the
victims of our complexes and our re-
ligious or political or moral views of life,
which we think are the result of free will
and an incontrovertible logic, are in a
large part determined by the educational
complexes stored up during the earlier
years of our lives. If two or more an-
tagonistic complexes are present in the
mind and act simultaneously, they pro-
duce what is known as a mental conflict.
An emotional tension thereby takes place
and may produce those various types of



OF LADY MACBETH 11

mental distress or anxiety which are so
familiar in everyday life or in some cases,
may even lead to the development of
hysteria or an anxiety neurosis. Under
certain conditions also, when a complex
leads to a mental conflict and is avoided
by repression because of its unpleasant
emotional tone, this avoidance or repres-
sion may produce hysteria and the re-
pressed complex may find its outlet in
various ways, such as hysterical paralysis
or aphonia or some other clinical manifes-
tation of the disorder. When the resist-
ance or inhibition to the complex is
weakened, such as in sleep, the complexes
may reappear and manifest themselves in
various ways, for example in dreams or
somnambulism.

Sometimes the complex may show it-
self in a literal manner, but in most dis-
eases, particularly in hysteria and also in
dreams, it becomes distorted and symbol-



12 THE HYSTERIA

ized and the genuine, underlying complex
can only be determined through a psycho-
analysis. Thus a complex appearing in
dreams or in pathological symptoms, may
be symbolized, condensed or displaced, or
it may reveal itself in a form diametrically
opposite from the genuine complex, for
instance, Lady Macbeth's apparent brav-
ery which in reality is an unconscious
cowardice.

Fixed ideas or complexes occurring
during the waking state may bring on
attacks of sleep and when they occur dur-
ing sleep, they may produce somnambu-
lism. In whatever form the complex be-
comes manifest during somnambulism,
its revival becomes exceedingly vivid.
We speak of this increased intensity of
images in somnambulism as hypermnesia.
This increased strength of images is only
apparent, however, as the subject has no
memory; for the somnambulistic attack



OF LADY MACBETH 13

on resuming the normal state. An amne-
sia has taken place, due to a dissociation
or splitting off of the complex. The
memories involved in the period covered
by the amnesia may however be revived
through certain appropriate psycholog-
ical methods.

After the repression of an experience,
it may remain active and cannot merge
into consciousness without meeting resist-
ance, at least in the waking life. This
resistance, therefore, is a mental mechan-
ism diametrically opposed to the sup-
pressed complex and to this resistance has
been given the name of "censor."

This censor is continually active, par-
ticularly when exerting its force against
a painful complex. Under certain con-
ditions however, the censor either parti-
ally or completely loses its force and be-
comes relaxed. This relaxation or in-
hibition of the censor is particularly liable



14 THE HYSTERIA

to take place in dreams or in sleep.
Dreams are the result of antecedent ex-
periences or complexes and may appear
either in a literal or in a distorted or sym-
bolized form. Thus dreams furnish a
very valuable and convenient means of
exploring the repressed experiences of
mental life and through their analysis it
is possible to uncover the unconscious
complexes which the subject is either un-
willing to reveal or is actually prevented
from doing so through the activity of the
censor. The same mechanism takes
place in sleep-walking or somnambulism,
for here again, as will be later demon-
stated, somnambulism is not synonymous
with unconsciousness, but arises out of
sleep ; it may terminate in sleep again and
is essentially the reaction of the mind to
a suppressed painful experience or group
of experiences. Sometimes the resist-
ance offered by the censor or complex is



OF LADY MACBETH 15

so great that it produces a dissociation or
splitting of consciousness, as will be
clearly demonstrated in the cases to be
later cited in detail, in the course of this
essay. The same mechanism of relax-
ation of the censor has also been found
in certain cases of multiple personality,
for instance in Dr. Morton Prince's
case, the appearance of the irrepressible
"Sally" during the sleep of Miss Beau-
. champ.

Thus in repression, two opposing men-
tal mechanisms are at work viz.: the
process which causes the repression of the
complex and the antagonistic action of
the censor in attempting to prevent this
repressed complex from entering con-
sciousness. Consequently a mental or
intrapsychical conflict arises and this con-
flict leads to partial or complete dissocia-
tion of consciousness, dependent upon
whether or not the mental conflict is mild



16 THE HYSTERIA

or intense in its nature. Sometimes again
during the waking condition, the censor is
only partially successful in preventing the
complexes from entering consciousness,
and the mind of the subject becomes tor-
tured by one or a group of abnormal ideas,
termed fixed ideas or obsessions.

CHAPTER II
SOMNAMBULISM AND HYSTERIA

While Freud has penetrated deepest
into the mechanism of psychical repres-
sions, it is to the new psychology of the
French school that we are indebted for
the clearest analyses of the various types
of the mental dissociation of somnambu-
lism or sleep-walking. It has been re-
peatedly demonstrated that the resistance
offered by the memory of a harrowing
emotional experience may sometimes be
so great that it produces a dissociation or



OF LADY MACBETH 17

splitting of consciousness. It is in the
psychological analyses of these mental
dissociations that the new psychology has
been pre-eminent, particularly concern-
ing the part played by the emotions in
the production of these abnormal mental
states.

For instance, it can be shown that
somnambulism is one of the most marked
forms of this splitting of consciousness,
and that it is most liable to occur in the
disease hysteria, which is in itself a form
of mental dissociation. Somnambulism
may assume various types, either the or-
dinary form of ' sleep-walking or it may
develop to such a high degree that the
subjects may wander about in strange
places for hours or days and lose the
memory of their real personality. Then
some chance occurrence takes place and
they suddenly resume their normal per-
sonality, apparently without any memory



18 THE HYSTERIA

for the lost period. Technically this gap
in the memory is known as amnesia.
The amnesia is not genuine, however, for
the memories are not actually lost, but
they are merely subconscious or dissoci-
ated and may, as I have repeatedly
demonstrated, be completely and perma-
nently restored through appropriate psy-
chological methods.

It is with the first or shorter type of
somnambulism with which we are partic-
ularly concerned. As a rule it is caused
by one or more emotional experiences,
and is termed monoideic somnambulism.

Monoideic somnambulism may there-
fore be defined as a psychical state con-
sisting of a detachment of a small group
of ideas from the greater stream of con-
sciousness, this system of ideas becoming
for the time being dominant. With the
return to normal consciousness this dis-
sociated system is forgotten and an am-



OF LADY MACBETH 19

nesia results. These subconscious fixed
ideas may cause various pathological men-
tal states, such as symbolic dreams, hal-
lucinatory phenomena, peculiar attacks
and crises, the various types of somnam-
bulism, automatic writing, crystal visions,
etc. In the somnambulistic crises, there
is a rehearsal of all the emotional experi-
ences which originally caused the mental
dissociation. This rehearsal is a literal
one, all words, gestures, sounds, scenes,
being faithfully reproduced and acted
out in a most dramatic manner. Nothing
in psychopathology is so startling and
sensational as a somnambulistic crisis.
The condition usually arises in sleep and
may terminate in sleep or awakening.
Each crisis exactly resembles the preced-
ing one. In any case, the somnambulism
itself is not genuine sleep but a form of
mental dissociation which is produced
during sleep. The most prominent phe-



20 THE HYSTERIA

nomenon of this somnambulistic state is
the amnesia or loss of memory for the
attack, after the subject has awakened
from it. A given somnambulistic state
in the same subject always develops in an
identical manner, and although the re-
hearsal of the emotional experience which
produced the somnambulism is a literal
one, yet often it is markedly exaggerated.
Hallucinations of the various senses
often take place and the subject speaks
to imaginary persons, hears imaginary
voices, does imaginary acts, as if the
voices, persons, actions, were real and
actually present. Even hallucinations
of the sense of smell, as in Lady Mac-
beth's sleep-walking scene ("Here's the
smell of blood still") may arise. When
the somnambulism is ended and the sub-
ject returns to normal consciousness, the
former mental attitude and relation to
surroundings is assumed, as if nothing



OF LADY MACBETH 21

had occurred. The name and age of the
subject are then clearly remembered, he
resumes his normal characteristics and
personality and the memory is to all in-
tents and purposes absolutely unimpaired.
But if careful inquiry be made, a gap will
be found in the memory and this gap is
the period occupied by the somnambulis-
tic attack. As Janet very clearly ex-
presses it: "There are two chief psycho-
logical characteristics that come out in
somnambulism. During the crisis itself,
two opposite characteristics manifest
themselves: first, a huge unfolding of all
the phenomena connected with a certain
delirium ; second, an absence of every sen-
sation and every memory that is con-
nected with that delirium. After the
crisis, during the state that appears as
normal, two other characteristics appear,
opposite to all appearance; the return to
consciousness of sensations and normal



22 THE HYSTERIA

memory and the entire forgetfulness of
all that is connected with the somnambu-
lism. The ideas which trouble the mind
present themselves in an exaggerated and
often dramatic manner during states of
abnormal consciousness. These types of
crises have been called somnambulism."

Therefore the chief psychological char-
acteristic of somnambulism may be thus
briefly summarized.

1. In the somnambulistic state, the
images are clearly represented and the
subject seems to see and hear everything.

2. There is a marked regularity of
development. In each somnambulistic
state the subject repeats the same words
and makes the same gestures as in the
original emotional experience which was
responsible for the cause of the somnam-
bulistic state.

3. In spite of all the natural acts of
the subject and the avoidance of obsta-



OF LADY MACBETH 23

cles, yet the subject does not seem to per-
ceive or at least to notice the objects or
persons round about. He is apparently
oblivious to surroundings. This phase
is very clearly expressed in the conversa-
tion between the doctor and the gentle-
woman, as they observe the sleep-walking
of Lady Macbeth.

Doctor. You see, her eyes are open.
Gent. Aye, but their sense is shut (V. 1).

4. When the attack is over, there is a
return to the normal personality, but the
attack has left a gap in consciousness.



CHAPTER III

PSYCHOANALYSIS AND LITERATURE

The value of the analytic method lies
in the fact that by it, one is able to dis-
cover suppressed material and thus
establish a definite psychological connec-



24 THE HYSTERIA

tion between symptoms and repressed
experiences, a real continuity in the psy-
chic series. The entire psj r chical com-
plex may thus be reconstructed through
the data furnished by psychoanalysis,
and all the apparently heterogeneous
symptoms thus assume a certain law and
order.

The first contribution in which the psy-
choanalytic method was directed to liter-
ature was Freud's analysis of W.
Jensen's symbolic novel, "Gradiva."
Here he applied his theory of dreams to
a definite fantastic literary creation and
pointed out that every psychoanalytic
method was a search for repressed men-
tal processes. It was later shown from
the standpoint of comparative mythol-
ogy, that the laws of the formation of
myths and fairy tales were identical with
the laws by which dreams were produced,
for instance, in the story of CEdipus and



OF LADY MACBETH 25

in the conflict between Uranus and the
Titans. The myth is a representation of
the infantile mental life of man. The
dream is the myth of the individual and
like the myth, it is symbolic.

More recently Freud has published a
psychoanalytic study of the childhood
memories of Leonardo da Vinci, with
particular reference to the symbolism of
Leonardo's famous portrait of Mona
Lisa. The attempt is certainly a bold
one and with the few meager facts of
Leonardo's childhood at hand, Freud has
succeeded in clothing his study with a rea-
sonable degree of plausibility. Recent
Freudian literature has busied itself in
those directions. We can only briefly
mention such a study as Graf's analysis
of Wagner's "Flying Dutchman," in
which, similar to the theme in Leonardo,
it was shown that some of Wagner's
greatest work sprang from his childhood



26 THE HYSTERIA

experiences and fancies. The main mo-
tive in all these studies is the tracing out
of artistic creations to conflicts or repres-
sions of various complexes, principally
sexual, which have become transformed
or sublimated into higher artistic crea-
tions, or even to the various symbolic ex-
pressions which are found in myths and
folk lore.

One of the more interesting of recent
attempts in this direction and in fact the
first application of the psychoanalytic
method to Shakespeare is the study of
Hamlet by Ernest Jones. Whatever
one may think of the multitude of theories
as explanatory of Hamlet's mental state
and his course of action, it must be said
that here is the first clear and adequate
scientific attempt to apply the principles
of psychoanalysis to the ever-baffling
Hamlet-problem. The mental condition



OF LADY MACBETH 27

of Hamlet is here analyzed on the basis
of Freud's well-known theories of mental
repression which were summarized ear-
lier in the course of this essay and concerns
the development of the attitude of son to
parent which plays so conspicuous a part
in the GEdipus Legend, particularly in
Sophocles' tragedy. The relation of the
mental status of Hamlet to the QEdipus
problem had been pointed out some years
previously by Freud in his study of
dreams (Traumdeutung) and it is here
further elaborated by Jones. Modern
criticism of Hamlet has shown that the
great difficulty in the way of the consum-
mation of his scheme and purpose of re-
venge lay in an internal resistance and
mental conflicts and not in any external
obstacles or circumstances. The expla-
nation given through psychoanalysis dem-
onstrates the real nature of the resistance,



28 THE HYSTERIA

namely, that the inhibition lay in the fact
that the repressed love for his mother was
more powerful than his hostilities.

CHAPTER IV

THE PROBLEM OF LADY MACBETH

When we approach the problem of
the somnambulism of Lady Macbeth, it
must be remembered that the sleep-walk-
ing scene does not stand isolated and
alone in the tragedy, but that it is the
definite and logical evolution of Lady
Macbeth's previous emotional experi-
ences and complexes. In other words,
she is not a criminal type or an ambitious


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