Psychoanalysis and theatre revisited: the function of character in mediating unconscious processing in spectatorship
Turri, Maria Grazia
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This paper invites the reader to revisit some of the most productive encounters between psychoanalysis and theatre, taking the relationship between character, actor and the spectator’s response as its thread. It starts with the discovery of the Oedipus complex and Freud’s proposition that theatre reveals our unconscious through the means of characters. Freud leaps from Oedipus to Hamlet in one breath. Hamlet himself, or rather Shakespeare through the words of Hamlet, has a lot to say about the power of theatre to speak not only about, but also to the spectator’s unconscious. On the basis of such proposition Hamlet sets up the famous ‘play within the play’ and in the process remains fulgurated by the dedication of the actor to the interpretation of his character. In Six Characters in Search of an Author, the device of the play within the play is instead employed to question the legitimacy of any actor’s interpretation, foregrounding the complexities implied by the relationship between actor and character. Returning to Freud’s reflections on the value of spectatorship, the paper concludes by suggesting how psychoanalysis as a process of interpretation offers precious insights into the function of character as a means of interpretation of the spectator’s unconscious.