Although Sigmund Freud was the first to provide a systematic analysis of the Oedipal relationship, this instinct has been a part of the human unconscious from the earliest beginnings of humans as social animals. The establishment of the taboo against a son’s murdering his father and having sexual relationships with his mother was, one may argue, an initial step in the creation of civilization, because, according to Freud, this psychic drive lies deep in every man’s subconscious, or id, as a reservoir of anarchistic energy. If a male fails to acknowledge this biological compulsion and to incorporate its prohibition into his own ego, he invites annihilation: specifically, in the form of castration by the father; generally, in the loss of freedom and power.
One of the earliest and best-known dramatizations of this drive is Sophocles’ play, Oedipus Tyrannus (c. 429 b.c.e.; Oedipus Tyrannus, 1715). Without foreknowledge and culpable guilt, Oedipus murders his father and marries his mother. Since he has transgressed, however, he must be punished; he blinds himself, a form of castration. William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (pr. c. 1600-1601, pb. 1603) has also been explored and explicated, most notably by Ernest Jones, as a reenactment of the Oedipal myth. Sons and Lovers, based directly on D. H. Lawrence’s own childhood experiences, is the most significant post-Freudian...
(The entire section is 972 words.)
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