Psychoanalytical criticism is a form of literary critique, which uses some of the techniques of psychoanalysis in the interpretation of literature. The focus of this essay is to use Psychoanalytical criticism while analyzing Lady Macbeth’s character in William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. However, before I begin my examination of Lady Macbeth’s character, I feel that concept of psychoanalytical theory needs some introduction.
One of the more prevalent Psychoanalytical theorists after Freud was Jacques Lacan. Cristina Leon Alfar’s essay "'Blood Will Have Blood': Power, Performance, and Lady Macbeth's Gender Trouble," provides a meticulous analysis of Lacan’s psychoanalytical theory. Alfar asserts that the idea of both sexes is based on the male “having” and the female “being” the phallus. These two differences determine the relations between the sexes and the phallus governs the male/female cultural roles. Alfar adds that males have power and she states that: “Male dominance and female obedience and passivity become naturalized through this symbolic bifurcation” (183). Consequently, according to Lacanian theory, the phallus for males represent power, authority, and desire while for females the phallus signifies lack of power and agency (Alfar 182).
Another important text to refer while exploring psychoanalytical theory is Lacan’s “The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious or Reason since Freud.” In this text, Lacan created three different categories to explain the transformation from infant to adulthood, namely need, demand, and desire and labeled these three psychoanalytic orders, as the imaginary, the symbolic and the real stage. Lacan explains that one facet of the symbolic stage consists of the concept of the “Other,” and the female gender is structured into a reflection of the desire of the Other (Alfar 183). For Lacan, it is in order to be the phallus, that is, the signifier of the desire of the Other, that the woman will reject an essential part of her femininity, namely, all her attributes in the masquerade (Butler 61). Consequently, Lacan’s theory of the Other requires that femininity compels women’s rejection of her own desires, based on cultural mandates, in favor of the desires of the Other—the male subject (Alfar 183).
Lacan then turns his focus to that of the unconscious and the use and structure of language. He claims that the unconscious influences our behavior, actions, identities, and desires. According to Lacanian theory, the dialectic of one’s desire is based on one object symbolizing another, which is only a substitute for another. Lacan argues that the unconscious is shaped like the structure of language and language does not shape our identities and desire so much as our identities and desires are acquired from language (Richter1021, 1046). Lacan also explores the use of metonymy, and he describes this concept as mode of symbolization in which one word or phrase is signified by another that is associated with the...