Psychoanalytic reflections on Macbeth: Fear and loathing in Dunsinane

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Organised by:

Melanie Klein Trust

02 October 2021

Time: 16:00 - 17:30

Price: Free

Location: online


Join us for the first in a new series of online events, at which David Bell will present a paper exploring Shakespeare’s Macbeth from a psychoanalytic perspective. He will be joined in discussion for part of the event by Shakespeare scholar Professor Kiernan Ryan, and there will be an opportunity for audience questions at the end.

Macbeth has been described as Shakespeare’s descent into hell. In this online event, Kleinian psychoanalyst David Bell will provide a synopsis of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy, a play suffused with terror, dread and loathing, whose violent narrative unfolds in a benighted world of ever-shifting boundaries. His overview of the compelling plot will be followed by an exploration of the different psychological states that Macbeth exhibits, as he rushes from wish-fulfilling excitement to the agony of doubt, to exhilaration in tyranny and, lastly, collapse into despair.

David Bell is a Training Analyst and former President of the British Psychoanalytical Society. He recently retired from the Tavistock where he was Consultant Psychiatrist in Psychotherapy and led a specialist unit, the Fitzjohns Unit for Complex/Severe disturbance. He has lectured and published on a wide range of subjects, and has, throughout his career, been involved in interdisciplinary work exploring the relation between psychoanalysis and literature, philosophy and socio-political theory.

Professor Kiernan Ryan is Emeritus Fellow at Murray Edwards College, Cambridge, Emeritus Professor of English Literature, Royal Holloway, University of London, and Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford. Professor Ryan has published many papers and books on Shakespeare, with a particular focus on his tragedies.

The event will be chaired by psychoanalyst Susan Lawrence.

As part of his presentation, David Bell will show some clips of a BBC4 film version of Macbeth from 2010, starring Patrick Stewart and Kate Fleetwood, and directed by Rupert Goold. The film is available from various online stores to buy on DVD or in downloadable format, for anyone interested in watching this version in full.

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