Freud’s Study

With Verdi I imagine the Pleiades through Otello’s eyes. They are setting in the dawn, as he and Desdemona embrace. An end and a beginning. Vien… Venere splende! Did Shakespeare really never see that radiant planet from the Venice that he was to imagine as Othello’s home? If I were to indulge in the game of who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays, I would suggest a Scot who survived a duel in Mantua in 1582 and cloaked himself in the identity of Will Shakespeare on returning to England. Later he would scribble: ‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.’ Names are interesting things. Sometimes they can indeed be shrugged on or off like an old shirt. But more often they are very specific, as though branded into flesh. One must, perhaps, always deny or over-embellish such a name until one has some idea of its significance. The tale of Oedipus is about one such name. It depends on absence and puzzlement. ‘Why is my name “swollen foot?” Was I born with swollen feet? They seem elegant enough now that I am a young prince of Corinth at the height of my physical powers. Although I admit there is a substantial scarring, as though I had been crucified at birth, or hung upside down in a tree with my feet stapled together; and sometimes some hidden memory scars my dreams.’ Or something like that. And thus we arrive at Freud’s study. A framed print of Ingres’ Oedipus and the Sphinx is to the right of the desk. Accessible at a glance. Freud came into being not so much to be read and believed, but to draw attention to the fact that we have, in general, neither looked nor read enough. For Freud, see Sophocles. For Sophocles, grasp the wider tale of the young man with the swollen feet. His destiny was to know himself, at whatever cost for in the end he found that he did not have the everyday luxury of denial. What happened was this: on a narrow road a chariot wheel bruised his foot. And from there things developed. Killing first. Then riddle solving. Then fucking. Then truth in all its inconvenience. But love? Perhaps that was Antigone’s gift to him. Love, the great irony. The height and the depth.

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