For the first time Freud publicly expounds his concept of an 'Oedipus complex' at the root of all neurotic disturbance in adult life. The early sexual feelings for parents which he claimed to have discovered in most or all of his patients were at first seen as repressed memories of actual abuse. Here Freud turns that 'seduction theory' on its head, arguing that the child projects its sexual fantasies onto the world rather than receiving them from it. He casts 5th century BC playwright Sophocles as anticipating his own work, reading his drama Oedipus the King as a direct representation of those fantasies brought to fruition. Oedipus' supposed 'tragedy' is in fact a wish-fulfilment, leaving him guiltless as fate conspires to grant him those dark desires Freud ascribes to each member of the audience.
The legend provided him with personal as well as professional inspiration: Freud seems to have identified with that earlier, triumphant Oedipus who, by solving the monstrous Sphinx's riddle, saved the people of Thebes and became their king. Years later his disciples presented him with a bronze medallion depicting the episode, engraved with the Greek quotation: "Who divined the famous riddle and was a man most mighty".
Online edition of Sophocles' 'Oedipus the King', as translated by Gilbert Murray, (1911)
Online collection of myth and literature regarding the Sphinx and Oedipus at Theoi.com
Oedipus Rex by Tom Lehrer
A reference to German polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship (1795-96). Several of Shakespeare's plays feature heavily in the novel, reflecting their huge popularity in Germany at the time. The passage Freud refers to is from Book IV Chapter Thirteen, in which Wilhelm describes Hamlet as possessing a "most moral nature, without the strength of nerve which forms a hero", his indecision causing him to "all but lose his purpose from his thoughts".
Online edition of 'Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship', as translated by Thomas Carlyle, (1824)
Freud refers to William Shakespeare's Timon of Athens, in which a nobelman is driven to despise all human society by his friends' betrayal. In Act IV Scene 3, Timon lavishes gold on two prostitutes, urging them with colourfully obscene language to resist redemption at all costs, spreading corruption and disease throughout the land:
That your activity may defeat and quell
The source of all erection. There's more gold:
Do you damn others, and let this damn you,
And ditches grave you all!
Online text of the play at 'MaximumEdge.com'
According to a mixture of legend and historical record accumulated over centuries, Solon was the 7th century BC statesman who repealed the rule of brutal 'Draconian' legislation, and first brought democratic law to ancient Athens. Almost all the laws and sayings for which he is famous come to us through the accounts of scholars writing centuries after his death.
Online edition of Solon's entry in Diogenes Laertius' 'The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers', as translated by C.D. Yonge, (circa 3rd-century AD)
Freud likens the apparently meaningless images in dreams to those used in a rebus – a form of picture-puzzle popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, which relies on the same interpretive 'reading' as some forms of ancient hieroglyphics.
From Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's metaphysical drama Faust: Part I. Like most of Freud's many quotations from the play the lines are spoken by Mephistopheles, a demon who acts and speaks on behalf of Satan.
Online text of Part I
Reference to a work by French novelist Alphonse Daudet, a popular novelist of his day now largely forgotten. The novel chronicles the downfall of a young man due to his love affair with an artist's model – in the scene Freud references, Jean comes to feel that his prospective lover is "no longer a woman...but something heavy, ghastly, which suffocated him, and which he was momentarily tempted to drop".
The adulterous Daudet's later years were afflicted by crippling syphilis, and Sappho acts as a cautionary tale of the dangers of women, dedicated thus: "For my sons when they are twenty years old".
Online edition of Daudet's 'Sappho', translated by George Burnham Ives, (1884)
The quotation Freud's patient recalls is from German poet Ludwig Uhland's ode to nature Einkehr ('Stop-over').
From 'The Songs and Ballads of Uhland', as translated by W. W. Skeat (original 1815)
A kind and gentle host was he
With whom I stayed but now;
His sign a golden apple was
That dangled from a bough.
Yea! 'twas a goodly apple-tree
With whom I late did rest;
With pleasant food and juices fresh
My parching mouth he blest.
There entered in his house so green
Full many a light-winged guest;
They gaily frisked and feasted well
And blithely sang their best.
I found a couch for sweet repose
Of yielding verdure made;
The host himself, he o'er me spread
His cool and grateful shade.
Then asked I what I had to pay,
Whereat his head he shook;
blest be he for evermore
From root to topmost nook!
From Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's metaphysical drama Faust. Faust's flirtatious conversation with an attractive witch echoes Freud's earlier connecting of Adam and Eve's fall from Eden with the awakening of sexuality in the mind of a child.
Online text of Faust: Part I
A rural novel by English author Mary Ann Evans, pen-name George Eliot, exploring the tangled web of social relationships leading up to the death of an infant. Like many of her novels, it illustrates the tendency of people to judge others purely by their surface appearance, blind to the true character beneath and the dire consequences of that blindness.
The lines are from Act I, Scene 3 of Mozart's The Magic Flute (1791), spoken by the lord Sarastro to his captive and elusive love-object Pamina.
The Magic Flute by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Online text of the libretto, by Emanuel Schikaneder (1751-1812)