Analysis of ‘Psycho’

Psycho is a psychological suspense/horror film produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1960.  It is based on the Robert Bloch novel of the same name, published the year before; the novel, in turn, was based on the Ed Gein murders.

Ed Gein was a serial killer in Wisconsin in the 1950s.  A ‘mama’s boy,’ Gein was devastated by the death of his mother in 1945, and felt all alone in the world; when she was alive, she was a domineering, prudish woman, teaching him that all women were sexually promiscuous instruments of the devil.

Soon after her death, Ed began making a “woman suit” so he could “be” his mother by crawling into a woman’s skin.  For this purpose, he tanned the skins of women.  He also admitted to robbing nine graves.  Body parts were found all over his house as ghoulish works of art.  These macabre crimes were the inspiration not only for Psycho, but also The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the Buffalo Bill character in Silence of the Lambs, and numerous other horror movies.

Psycho is considered the first slasher film; and while it had received only mixed reviews on its release, it is now considered one of Hitchcock’s best films, and one of the greatest films of all time.  The Ed Gein of the movie, Norman Bates (played by Anthony Perkins), was ranked the second greatest movie villain of all time by the American Film Institute (AFI), after Hannibal Lecter and before Darth Vader.  The first of the following two quotes was ranked by the AFI as #56 of the greatest movie quotes of all time; the second was nominated for the list.

1. “A boy’s best friend is his mother.” –Norman Bates

2. “We all go a little mad sometimes.” –Norman Bates

A few motifs in Psycho are birds, showers (those in the bathtub, and of rain), and mirrors (including reflections in glass).  These all have specific symbolic meanings.

The bird motif is generally of motionless birds, those in pictures–trapped, as it were, inside frames–or stuffed birds.  Normally, we think of free birds, those free to fly anywhere they wish; but the birds in Psycho are very much trapped and immobile.

Marion Crane (Mary in the novel) is a ‘bird’ in a kind of “private trap.”  She wants to marry her boyfriend, Sam Loomis, but he has debts and alimony to pay, thus making marriage with him not very feasible.  By stealing $40,000, she tries to her escape her trap, the trap of Phoenix, Arizona.  She tries rising like a phoenix from the ashes, so to speak, of her dead-end life there, but a suspecting policeman (along with the suspicions of a used car salesman) begins a pursuit of her that ensures that Crane cannot escape the trap she’s put herself in.  The phoenix can’t rise out of Phoenix.

Norman’s stuffing of birds, as well as the stuffing of another ‘bird’ (British slang for a sexually desirable woman), his mother (for whom he has an unresolved Oedipal fixation, something discussed in Chapter One of Bloch’s novel), represents the trap he is in.  “We scratch and claw” (my emphasis), Norman says, but we can’t get out of our “private traps.”

He kills Marion Crane in the shower–he knocks off that bird–but he’s still in his trap, and he knows it.  Hence his shock at the sight of her body lying over the side of the bathtub, causing him to jerk his body around, hit the wall outside the entrance to the bathroom, and cause the picture of a bird to fall to the floor.  He’s knocked off another bird.  Just like all those birds, Norman Bates is forever trapped.

Showers symbolize purification and redemption, or at least an attempt at it.  The rain that showers on Marion’s car at night, just before she reaches the Bates Motel, happens at a point when she has been thinking about all the trouble she’s gotten herself into.  She realizes that she has aroused not only the suspicion of a cop who saw her in a nervous hurry, and of a used car salesman whom she’s given $700 in cash for a rushed trade of cars, but also of her boss, who saw her nervously drive out of Phoenix when she was supposed to be sleeping off a headache.  With the cleansing rain comes her realization that she must return to Phoenix and take responsibility for what she’s done.

She’s only a little wet from the rain when honking her car horn to get Norman’s attention from up in his house.  During her conversation with him in the parlour room, she admits that she must get out of the private trap she’s put herself in.  Then she takes a shower, whose purifying water washes away the rest of her guilt, refreshing her and putting a smile on her face.  The birds of this movie, however, are always trapped, and we all know what happens next…

We catch people’s reflections many times in this film, either from windows or from mirrors.  These reflected images represent psychological projectionPsycho is very much a psychoanalytic movie, for Hitchcock was heavily influenced by Freud (another notably Freudian film of his was 1945’s Spellbound, with Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck).

An early example of projection is when Marion imagines the angry reaction of the rich man after she has stolen his $40,000: she imagines him saying that she was “flirting with [him]” when he laid the money before her, when we all know he was flirting with her.  Of course, her imagining him saying that is her projecting back at him.

Another example of projection, directly symbolized by mirror reflections, is when Lila Crane is looking around in Mrs. Bates’s bedroom.  She sees her reflection in a large mirror, but forgets that another mirror is behind her; for a second, she thinks–as do we, the audience–that a woman (Mrs. Bates?) is behind her, but it’s actually just another mirror reflection of Lila.  She has projected her intrusion into the Bates family’s private space onto Mrs. Bates, briefly imagining Norman’s mother is intruding into Lila’s personal space.  (The theme of intrusion will be dealt with later here.)

The crowning example of projection, however, is that of Norman Bates onto his mother…and of the mother personality projecting back onto Norman.  When talking to Marion in the parlour, he speaks of how Mother “goes a little mad sometimes.”  (See also Quote #2 above.)  He is clearly projecting his own insanity onto her, and onto the rest of the world, as is seen in the second quote above.  As the psychiatrist explains at the end of the movie, Norman’s mother was “a clinging, demanding woman,” but she wasn’t mad.  Norman, on the other hand, had been “dangerously disturbed…ever since his father died.”

Norman himself, in a powerful moment of dramatic irony, admits that his mother is “as harmless as one those stuffed birds.”  The mother personality, just after musing over Norman’s guilt at the film’s end, and projecting her guilt back onto him, says that she can’t allow everyone to believe she’d “killed those girls, and that man,” when all she could do was “sit and stare, like one of his stuffed birds.”  The fact that Norman had actually practiced his hobby of taxidermy on her corpse illustrates perfectly, and eerily, the irony of ‘Mother’s’ words.

Norman’s mother, like Ed Gein’s, has a puritanical attitude towards sex, and considers all women to be whores.  When she met a man, however, and had a sexual relationship with him ten years before the story’s beginning, Norman–with his Oedipal fixation–went insane with jealousy and murdered her and her lover with strychnine.  As the psychiatrist points out, “because he was so pathologically jealous of her, he assumed that she was as jealous of him,” and “the mother side of him would go wild” if she ever discovered him to be attracted to another woman; hence Marion’s murder, and those of two other (presumably attractive) girls.  Norman has projected his insane jealousy onto the mother personality.

A particularly important theme that runs throughout this movie is that of intrusion, penetration, or the invasion of privacy.  Hitchcock’s camera has us invade Marion’s and Sam’s privacy in their hotel room at the very beginning of the film, with him bare chested and her in her bra on the bed.

Later, when Marion is in the office at work, the rich man, Tom Cassidy, comes in with her boss; Cassidy begins ogling the beautiful young woman, even sitting on her desk as his eyes are going up and down her body.  He’s had a few drinks, so someone who’s probably normally a gentleman seems to have an excuse not to be now.  Again, we have intruding on someone’s personal space.

After driving out of Phoenix with the $40,000 she’s embezzled, Marion gets tired at night and pulls over to the side of the road to rest.  She’s slept there all night, though, and wakes up to the knocking sound of a policeman tapping on her car window the next day.  Looking through the window and wearing sunglasses that threateningly hide the expression in his eyes, the cop is invading her personal space.

He continues nosing in on her personal business by following her to a used car lot and parking across the road.  Leaning against his car, he’s watching her; and after she’s traded in her car for a new one, he’s in the parking lot, noting the new licence plate.

When she comes to the Bates Motel, she’s now in Norman’s private world, a motel doing bad business because a new highway has made the road to his motel rarely used; hence, he is all alone in his “private trap” with “Mother.”

As he chats with Marion in the parlour room, he shows his sensitivity to private matters by saying, “I didn’t mean to pry,” after asking where she is going.  The prudish young man can’t even say “bathroom” in front of beautiful Marion (for the things done there are so extremely private); and later, when Detective Arbogast asks if Norman spent the night with Marion, he, offended, says, “No!”

Norman is similarly offended when Marion suggests putting “Mother” in an institution, with all those “cruel eyes studying [her],” invading ‘her’ privacy.  Of course, the man his mother had a relationship with also invaded Norman’s private world, and he was so offended with that intrusion that he killed them both.

After the conversation between Norman and Marion in the parlour, he invades her privacy by watching her undress through a peephole in the wall shared by the parlour room and her cabin.

Of course, the shower scene is the ultimate invasion of privacy.  I can imagine this scene being particularly frightening to women, for that phallic knife invading a naked woman’s body is more that a murder: symbolically, it’s a rape.  In Bloch’s novel, she’s decapitated; but a penetrating knife is more symbolically appropriate for the film.

When Lila is talking to Sam in his hardware store about Marion’s disappearance, Detective Arbogast sticks his nose into their personal business by eavesdropping, at the ajar front door, on the conversation, then by interrupting it.  Later, the detective comes into Norman’s private world by asking about Marion, then about his mother, something that especially agitates Norman.

Finally, Arbogast walks right into Norman’s house without any permission to enter, and snoops around, going upstairs.  ‘Mother’s’ knife then invades his personal space, slashing his face and stabbing into him: he who lives by intrusion shall die by intrusion.  After that, the sheriff and police snoop around Norman’s house, forcing him to hide ‘Mother’ in the fruit cellar.

Leading up to the movie’s climax, Sam and Lila intrude on Norman’s private world by pretending to be a married couple looking for a room in the motel.

Sam keeps Norman occupied at the registration desk by chatting with him while Lila goes up to the house.  Sam’s questions get more and more intrusive, aggressive, and accusing, agitating Norman to the point of him telling them just to leave.  Meanwhile, Lila has been snooping in ‘Mother’s’ and Norman’s bedrooms.  In his room, she sees his stuffed toy rabbit, an odd sleeping companion for a grown man, and a book whose inner contents make her shudder.  (In Bloch’s novel, it’s pornography.)

At the film’s climax, Lila hides by the stairs to the basement while Norman is running into the house.  Instead of running outside to safety once he’s gone upstairs, she decides to snoop some more and go down into the basement, which Slavoj Zizek, in The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, says represents Norman’s repressed id.  This is his most private place of all, and Lila’s invasion of that privacy allows us to learn the truth about ‘Mother.’

One last thing should be examined: the symbolism of hot and cold in the movie.  At the beginning, in Phoenix, it’s a hot day, first in the hotel with Sam and Marion after a sexual encounter, then in her office, which has no air conditioning, and where that rich lecher is leering at her.  The heat represents Freud’s concept of libido, or the sexual instincts.

Later, when the murders have been committed in the Fairvale area of California, we notice how people are colder.  Lila needs to get her coat before she and Sam go the sheriff’s house; in the police station at the end, the sheriff asks if she’s warm enough; and Norman “feels a slight chill,” and wants a blanket.  The cold represents the psychoanalytic concept of Thanatos, or the death drive.

Freud and Psychoanalysis

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was the father of psychoanalysis.  He was born in the Moravian town of Pribor, then part of the Austrian Empire, now part of the Czech Republic.  While he certainly didn’t invent the idea of the unconscious mind, he created a kind of road map, as it were, for navigating the unconscious; and the resulting insights have made him one of the most important psychiatric thinkers of the twentieth century, influencing art, literature, and film.

Here are some famous quotes of his:

“The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind.”  —The Interpretation of Dreams

“A person who feels pleasure in producing pain in someone else in a sexual relationship is also capable of enjoying as pleasure any pain which he may himself derive from sexual relations. A sadist is always at the same time a masochist.”  —Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality

“Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation, it cannot be classified as an illness.”  –Letter to an American mother’s plea to cure her son’s homosexuality (1935)

‘The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is “What does a woman want?” –said once to Marie Bonaparte; Sigmund Freud: Life and Work (Hogarth Press, 1953) by Ernest Jones, Vol. 2, Pt. 3, Ch. 16. In a footnote Jones gives the original German, “Was will das Weib?

“It is easy to see that the ego is that part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world.”  —The Ego and the Id

“What progress we are making. In the Middle Ages they would have burned me. Now they are content with burning my books.”  –Letter to Ernest Jones (1933), as quoted in The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations (1993) by Robert Andrews, p. 779

I: Early Years

Freud was immensely learned, being proficient in many languages, including German, Hebrew, classical Greek and Latin, English, Italian, Spanish, and French.  He could actually read Shakespeare in the original English…from a young age!  Indeed, Shakespeare’s insight into human nature influenced Freud, who interpreted much in Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, and other plays.  Other writers to have a strong influence on Freud were Dostoyevsky and Nietzsche.

He graduated with a medical degree, but never practiced internal medicine.  Instead, he studied cerebral anatomy, neurology, neuropathology (on which he was a lecturer from 1885 to the beginning years of the 20th century), cerebral palsy, and he even did investigations to find the location of the sexual organs of eels (!).

His research into neuropathology led to him trying to help patients with ‘nervous illness’ (neurosis).  He went to Paris to study and attend demonstrations of hypnosis by Jean-Martin Charcot.  Impressed by its apparent effectiveness in treating hysterical patients, Freud tried hypnosis on several hysterical patients of his during the 1880s, the most famous of whom was “Anna O,” who called Freud’s particular application of hypnosis, involving her speaking while hypnotized, the “talking cure.”  He published his Studies on Hysteria with his colleague of the time, Josef Breuer.

II: Free Association

He found, however, that hypnosis didn’t seem to effect a lasting cure for hysteria or neurosis, so he began to devise his own method called free association.  He could have the patient lie supine on a couch, thus relaxing the patient to the point of being in a state comparable to hypnosis, which would allow the patient’s unconscious mind to be open and accessible to the therapist.  Freud would then tell the patient to speak of anything on his or her mind.  There would be no rules at all: the patient just had to talk and talk.  There was no need to censor subject matter considered rude, sexually inappropriate, or in any way ‘irrelevant’; in fact, it would be necessary to include such talk, for this would give the therapist free flowing access to the patient’s unconscious mind.

As the patient continued talking and talking, however, he or she would sooner or later hit a wall, as it were, and stop talking.  Sometimes this was because the patient knew an anxiety-causing subject was coming dangerously close to being discussed; at other times, the patient simply didn’t know why no more subject matter could be thought of, to continue the chain of associations the therapist was writing down and linking together by way of recurring themes spotted.  In the latter case, Freud would assume that anxiety-producing subject matter was being repressed, deep down in the unconscious, so while the patient didn’t know why he or she couldn’t continue, Freud could link together the recurring themes of everything talked about, then speculate on what the cause of repression might be.

One early theory Freud had was called the seduction theory.  He found that a lot of his patients were describing sexual relationships with their parents, so he assumed they’d been sexually abused as children, and that this had caused their psychological problems.  As it turned out, the sheer proliferation of so many cases of apparent child sexual abuse, as well as his own self-analysis, caused Freud to change this theory into that of the Oedipus complex. Some think he fabricated this new theory to save his career and avoid dealing with the wrath of a mass of parents implicated as child molesters, but such speculations are far from proven.

III: Dreams

Another method Freud used in mapping out the unconscious mind was dream analysis.  Fortunately for the sake of his research, he had made a habit of recording his dreams in journals from childhood, so when he began analyzing himself, he had lots of dreams for material to work with.  From his research of his own dreams as well as those of his patients, he produced his first great work, The Interpretation of Dreams, published in 1899, but with the year 1900 printed on the title page, to usher in the twentieth century.  In this seminal book, he theorized that all dreams, without exception, even nightmares, were forms of wish-fulfillment.

Now, it is easy to see how having a dream about making love with an attractive partner, or about winning millions of dollars in the lottery, can be wish-fulfillment, but how can anxiety-causing dreams be?  Here, we must take into account conflict in Freudian psychology.  In our minds, part of us wants to do or have one thing, another part of us wants something contradictory to the first, and we mentally battle it out to see which instinctual drive wins out.  When these conflicts become too difficult to reconcile, anxiety results, and this unease can be reflected in the dream content.  Hence, nightmares can be an attempt at the fulfillment of contradictory–and anxiety-producing–wishes; they can thus simply be a failure of the dream to sustain sleep.

Let us imagine, for example, a young man who–though he sees himself as heterosexual, nonetheless has repressed homosexual feelings for his handsome male doctor.  His urges are so repressed that he isn’t even consciously aware of them, so shocking would they be if ever revealed.  Still, he has an odd habit of feeling so chronically ill that he must see his doctor for regular checkups.  Now, in his dreams, he probably wouldn’t see himself in bed with the doctor, for this would make him wake up bathed in sweat; for after all, the purpose of dreams is to ensure restful, uninterrupted sleep.

If, on the other hand, the young man dreamed of getting naked for his doctor in a physical examination, his wish fulfillment could thus be indirectly realized, by way of associative compromise; or he could symbolically fulfill his unconscious wish by dreaming of his handsome doctor putting a phallic tongue depressor in his mouth, or a shot from a needle in his behind.  There is much distortion of conflicting wishes in dreams, hence their strangeness; and the distortion can reconcile the conflict in a way that facilitates sleep.

But guilt and anxiety from such wishes, especially guilt imposed by an intolerant society, may require a ‘wish’ to be somehow punished or shamed for having these taboo desires.  Hence, in his dream, the naked young man, during his examination, may see the door to the examination room suddenly swing open, and all his family and friends outside see him.  Or the tongue depressor may be put too deep inside his mouth, causing him to gag or choke; or the shot from the needle may be especially painful.  Thus, an anxiety-causing dream fulfills taboo wishes–if only indirectly and symbolically–and also satisfies the wish to alleviate guilt by providing some form of punishment.  And the anxiety-causing nature of the ‘punishment’ results in a failure to sustain sleep–the dreamer wakes up from a nightmare.

Apart from Freud’s ideas about dreams as wish fulfillment, and the distortion of dreams, he also touched on such ideas as penis envy and the Oedipus complex.  This latter idea is dealt with in a special way, through his analysis of perhaps the two greatest tragedies in Western literature, Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, and Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  Why is any work of art considered great?  Because it communicates ideas we can all relate to in some way, and Freud believed these plays to fulfill a man’s deepest unconscious fantasy: to be rid of his father and to have his mother.

In Oedipus Rex, the title character has directly, if unwittingly, fulfilled this wish, and the tragedy of the play comes from his horror and shame in realizing he has murdered his father and married his mother.  In the case of Hamlet, the fantasy is fulfilled vicariously by Hamlet’s uncle Claudius, and Hamlet delays his revenge because he unconsciously understands that he is no better than Claudius.  So he can’t bring himself to kill his uncle.  Productions of Hamlet throughout the twentieth century portrayed the Danish prince as having a thing for his mother.

IV: Errors and Humour

Freud’s next book was The Psychopathology of Everyday Life.  In this book, he theorized about the psychology of errors.  Slips of the tongue or of the pen, or mistakes of any kind were, in Freud’s opinion, not mere accidents: they expressed unconscious wishes.  Again, conflicting instincts in the mind–part of us wants to do something, another part of us doesn’t want to do this thing–cause us to resolve them by ‘half doing’ things, or doing them incorrectly.  Particularly amusing slips of the tongue, ones whose unconscious meanings are obvious, and often sexual, are called “Freudian slips.”

Let me tell you an amusing story.

Back in about 1997, at the English cram school where I was teaching Taiwanese kids, I had a habit, well known among my coworkers, of eating late lunches at the local Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) before teaching my later afternoon and evening classes.  One afternoon, I was outside the school, about to get something to eat, and I was chatting with an attractive young female Taiwanese teaching assistant.  Her English was reasonably good, but she made errors in grammar here and there.  During our brief chat, we were being flirtatious.  Our chat ended, and I was about to leave.  She said, “So, are you going to FCK now?”

Speaking of humour, another book Freud wrote around this time (early 1900s) was Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious.  In this book, he wrote of how all the jokes we tell reflect unconscious desires.

V: Stages of Psychosexual Development

Now, one of Freud’s most controversial ideas, particularly shocking during the prudish Victorian era, were his theories about childhood sexuality.  These ideas were dealt with in such writings as the Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality and “The Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex,” among others.

The stages of psychosexual development have a child going through polymorphous perversity, when a child can be aroused by virtually anything, or have anything be an object to satisfy his libido, no matter how bizarre, since so young a person hasn’t yet been taught by society to focus his or her sexual energies on ‘acceptable’ objects.

The first of these psychosexual stages is the oral stage, during which an infant or child gains pleasure from sucking or biting on things.  Obviously, it is connected with the years when a baby is breast-fed.  If a person, however, is fixated on the oral stage later in life, he or she may express this fixation through such habits as smoking.  In light of Freud’s insight into such matters, it is astonishing how he, a lifelong smoker of cigars (which eventually gave him cancer of the jaw), wouldn’t give up his habit.

The next stage is the anal stage, when a child derives pleasure from defecating.  This is linked to a child’s potty training.  If one is fixated at this stage, and becomes anal retentive, one might develop the following personality traits: excessive cleanliness, parsimony, fastidiousness, stubbornness, and a need to be in control.  As Freud theorized in his paper, “Character and Anal Erotism,” one opposite may shift to the other (i.e., from filthy defecation to neat and tidy cleanliness and fastidiousness, through reaction formation); or preoccupation with this unclean state may be expressed associatively (i.e., filthy feces symbolized by a love for filthy lucre, hence, parsimony).

Next comes the particularly controversial phallic stage, when little boys and girls discover a certain anatomical difference between them, resulting in the castration complex.  Imagine, for example, a five-year-old boy and his four-year-old sister taking a bath together for the first time.  Their mother is getting the bath ready, and the boy and girl, naked, are facing each other, noting the difference between them.

Now imagine the boy’s reaction when he sees his sister, without a penis, but a slit in that place instead.  The slit seems to be a wound: has she been castrated?  Since the boy, with his Oedipal longing for Mommy and wish to dispose of Daddy, the young lad imagines his sister’s ‘castration’ has been her punishment for trying to take Mom away from jealous Dad.  Now, the boy realizes Dad may want to castrate him, too, for having the same Oedipal urges.  The fear that the boy has is called castration anxiety.

Castration anxiety has a profound effect on a boy’s psychological development, according to Freud.  It finds symbolic expression in a man’s fear of being humiliated, especially if this involves, for example, losing an argument with a woman.  After all, if women are just ‘castrated men’ in his eyes, then he will often have “an enduringly low opinion of the other sex [i.e., women],” as Freud said in a footnote, added in 1920, to the second of his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality.  Here, Freud is merely commenting on the reality of sexism: for what seems to be his agreement with sexism, read on…

For the girl’s version of the castration complex, the idea especially detested by feminists, Freud called it penis envy.  Imagine again the naked boy and girl in the bathroom.  When she sees the dangling members on him that she lacks, she feels “unfairly treated,” as Freud argued in his essay, “On the Sexual Theories of Children” (1908).  Why is she deprived of what he has?

Her resulting resentment–coming after a period of denial during which she, for example, attempts urinating while standing (her brother, too, at first denies her ‘castration,’ imagining her ‘penis’ is just really small, and will grow larger later)–causes her to feel a generalized jealousy, which he, in his 1925 essay “Some Psychical Consequences of the Anatomical Distinction Between the Sexes,” called a “displaced penis-envy.”  Some of this, Freud believed, resulted in feminism.  It also results, apparently, in women having, on average, relatively weak superegos.

Here, Freud’s sexism reached a particularly low point, since even though, in the aforementioned 1925 essay, he would “willingly agree” that most men fall far short of the masculine ideal, and that there is much psychic bisexuality in the personality traits of both sexes, and thus pure maleness and femaleness are socially constructed ideas “of uncertain content,” the historical, worldwide male denunciations of women’s inferior moral sense are, it seems, justified (!).

For feminist defenses of Freud, one can look to the writings of Juliet Mitchell (in particular, her 1974 book Psychoanalysis and Feminism: Freud, Reich, Laing, and Women) and Camille Paglia (she brings up Freud, the unconscious, and the danger of ignoring these ideas about 15 minutes into this video.  Here’s another, around 6:30 into it.)

Now, with the bringing on of the castration complex, another difference between the sexes arises: the boy’s Oedipus complex ends–or is, at least, repressed–out of the fear of the father’s retribution, replaced by identification with him; and the girl’s original Oedipal love for her mother, out of a belief that Mom castrated her, switches to a new Oedipus complex, hers being a love for her father and a hatred for her mother. Carl Gustav Jung called this the Electra complex (a term Freud scoffed at), also based on Greek myth; for Electra hated her mother, Clytemnestra, for plotting with her lover, Aegisthus, to murder Agamemmnon, Electra’s beloved father.

With this new Oedipal attachment, girls apparently long to possess their father’s penis, and as they grow up, this desire to have that “little one” gets displaced, and the desire to have another “little one,” a baby, is supposed to come about in womanhood.  This verbal relationship between penis and baby, both called “das Kleine,” or “little one,” is described in Freud’s 1917 essay “On Transformations of Instinct as Exemplified in Anal Erotism.”

When the phallic stage is over, a period of lack of interest in sexual matters, the latency period, occurs from roughly the age of five or six until the onset of adolescence.  Then the sexual instincts reawaken, and if no fixation during any of the earlier stages has occurred, teenagers should have attained the genital stage, in which they derive pleasure from the genitals, a state of affairs considered normal and mature.  Along with this notion of sexual maturity, Freud insisted that a woman’s orgasms should be vaginally based; orgasms based on the clitoris, apparently, are sexually immature (!).

VI: The Theory of the Personality

According to Freud, we all begin with the id (Das Es, ‘It’).  This ‘thing,’ this primitive, selfish, savage animal inside us is on an endless quest for gratification.  It operates on the pleasure principle, which, put bluntly, says, “If it makes you feel good, do it.”  It is like a naughty, bratty, spoiled child, constantly demanding the satisfaction of its urges.

Imagine a little boy who hasn’t developed a sense of restraint yet.  The cookie jar in the kitchen is within his reach.  Without even a second’s consideration of the consequences, he impulsively grabs all the cookies he can eat and munches away.  Then Mom catches him, and he gets a spanking.

Having learned his lesson, the boy begins to develop an ego (Das Ich, “I”).  His id is pushed somewhat into his unconscious, and his ego operates on the reality principle, which is a modification of the pleasure principle, saying, “If it makes you feel good, do it, but only if it’s safe.”  Now if he wants to steal from the cookie jar, he must make sure neither Mom nor Dad catches him; if both are totally distracted by the TV in the living room, and if he doesn’t eat so many cookies that his parents know some are missing, he should get away with his act of petty larceny.  If his parents suspect that some cookies are unaccountably missing, perhaps he can blame the theft on a younger sibling!

So far, our boy still hasn’t learned about morality, but he will, from all the authority figures in his life: his parents, teachers, religious leaders, etc.  When he has learned about right and wrong, he has a superego (Das Uberich, “Over-I”), which demands that all his thoughts and behaviour conform to an ego ideal, or perfect standard of morality.  Now, whenever he is tempted to take a cookie or two from the cookie jar, not only does he have to avoid being caught, he has to wrestle with the guilt of knowing he is selfish and inconsiderate to his family.  Perhaps he is fearful of God watching down from heaven with a disapproving frown!

His id has now been repressed deep down into his unconscious; parts of his ego and superego, like an iceberg, are submerged down there, too; part of those two are also in the preconscious, which is just under the surface, and whose thoughts are accessible to the conscious mind.  And now the ego must act as mediator, managing the conflicting demands of libido, reality, and morality.  How can the ego do this?

VII: Ego Defence Mechanisms

Fortunately, the ego has a number of defence mechanisms, which aim to reduce anxiety and guilt.  We have already encountered a few of these, including these two: repression, which pushes unacceptable urges deep into the unconscious, so one doesn’t even know one has such feelings; and displacement, which moves one’s instincts from an unacceptable object to an acceptable one.

Imagine a man being yelled at by his boss in a manner that’s left him feeling humiliated.  He cannot direct his rage at his boss, of course; so when he goes home, fuming inside, he looks for an excuse to blow up at his wife (bad cooking, nagging at him, etc.) or at his kids (playing too loudly, not doing their homework, etc.).

A special kind of displacement is called transference, which involves, for example, displacement of a patient’s feelings (romantic love, hostility, etc.) onto his or her therapist.  When some of Freud’s female patients began falling in love with him, at first he found the transference a discomfiting distraction from the psychoanalytic task at hand; later, he found it useful to work with the transference as part of the journey to find a cure for the patient’s neuroses.

Along with transference comes countertransference, when the therapist develops feelings for the patient.  Freud recoiled at this returning of feelings, fearing that an emotional involvement with the patient was unprofessional and damaging to the cool, scientific rigour of psychoanalytic investigation; but later analysts, such as those involved in object relations theory, found good uses for countertransference, feeling that it could simulate, and thus regenerate, relationships stifled in their patients’ childhood, a stifling caused by bad parenting.

Other ego defence mechanisms include suppression, a restraining of instincts, but allowing them to remain conscious.  Also, there is denial, whose guilt-relieving mechanism is self-explanatory; and projection, where one throws one’s anxiety-causing instincts onto others, blaming them instead of oneself for the fault.  For example, I could accuse others of being rejecting of me, when actually it is I who am being rejecting of them.  Rationalization, using excuses to justify unacceptable acts or desires, is another defence mechanism.

Yet another ego defence mechanism is reaction formation, where one creates a contrived reaction that represents the opposite attitude to one’s real, and guilt-causing instinct.  A perfect example is in the movie American Beauty, in which a retired marine (played by Chris Cooper) expresses the most hateful bigotry against homosexuals throughout the film; but near the end, he reveals that he himself has suppressed homosexual feelings when he kisses the protagonist (played by Kevin Spacey) on the lips.

One particularly interesting ego defence mechanism is sublimation.  Instead of the more usual, hypocritical defences, this one is actually quite positive in nature, for it redirects unacceptable impulses into creative outlets.  Homosexual Michelangelo’s paintings and sculptures of muscular naked men are a case in point.

Freud’s daughter Anna would develop and see more importance in ego defence mechanisms in her work, especially in her classic work, Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence (1936).  The significance of the unconscious portion of the ego means that in therapy much ego defence is unconscious, so the analyst mustn’t focus only on bringing out id impulses.  Hence, the origin of ego psychology.

VIII: Life and Death Instincts

For much of Freud’s career, he felt that the instinctual drives were all pleasure-based (libido), and sexual in nature.  This life instinct is called Eros.

After the horrors of the First World War, however, his thinking about human nature took a darker turn, and would remain essentially thus for the rest of his life (the excruciating pain of his cancer wouldn’t help lighten things up much).  In Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Freud discussed the more destructive side of human nature, and postulated a death instinct (Thanatos would be the word used, though not by him).  This would explain our aggressive and self-destructive sides, as well as our tendency to do the same irrational things over and over again (“the compulsion to repeat“).

All forms of pleasure, whether sexual or death-oriented, involve putting the body into a state of rest.  The cliche of a man and woman in bed after great sex, with him rolled over and fast asleep, and her smoking a cigarette, show how Eros leads to a restful state.  As for Thanatos, there is no more absolute a state of rest than death.  As Hamlet said, “To die, to sleep–/No more; and by a sleep, to say we end/The heartache and the thousand natural shocks/That flesh is heir to, –’tis a consummation/Devoutly to be wished.  To die, to sleep…”  So here, the achievement of self-destruction in a nightmare can be seen as an exception to the idea of all dreams as pleasure-causing wish-fulfillment.

IX: Religion

Freud was born a Jew, but was also an atheist.  He believed that God represents the psychological need many of us have for a father figure.  His two major writings on religion, generally discredited since anthropology was not a field he specialized in, were Totem and Taboo, and Moses and Monotheism.  The former dealt with primitive taboos against incest, as well as with Freud’s belief that the killing and ritual eating of the primal father was common in primitive tribes; and in the latter, Freud theorized that Moses was an Egyptian adopted by the ancient Hebrews, who later killed him (this being a reiteration of his theories in Totem and Taboo), then by way of reaction formation assuaged their guilt by revering him as the founding father of their religion.

X: Post-Freud

As previously mentioned, his daughter Anna carried on the torch, with her focus on ego defence mechanisms.  Along with her among the Ego Psychologists was Heinz Hartmann, who focused on how the mind adapts in an evolutionary sense, rather than merely from psychic conflict and frustration.  Given the right environment, a child’s intrinsic potential for adaptation will help it adjust to the demands of the real world, an adaptive development that needn’t be conflictual.

Then there was object relations theory, which explains how problems in adult relationships can be traced to problems in the parent/child relationship.  Famous thinkers in this school include D.W. Winnicott, W.R.D. Fairbairn, and Melanie Klein, with her concepts of the good breast, which nourishes and brings out love, and the bad breast, which doesn’t feed or do any good for the infant, causing it to feel hostility instead.  Her ideas about projective identification expand on Freudian projection to show how a patient can make his projections become real in other people.  Her ideas were quite a break from Freud, though she considered them perfectly consistent with him.

Heinz Kohut, with his conceiving and development of self psychology, did much research and gained much insight into narcissism and NPD.

Jacques Lacan also saw himself at one with, even returning to, Freud, though his postmodernist notions, such as how the subconscious is like a language, seem quite different.  His ideas have greatly influenced postmodernism, poststructuralism, critical theory, feminist theory, and such contemporary thinkers as Slavoj Zizek.

Detailed Synopsis of ‘Othello’

Act One: Iago and Roderigo are outside the house of Brabantio, Desdemona’s father, one night on a street in Venice.  Roderigo expresses his displeasure at his (justified) belief that Iago has been dishonest with him.  Iago insists that he hates Othello for having promoted Michael Cassio to Lieutenant, when Iago, remaining merely the Moor’s ensign, feels he’s much more deserving of the promotion, since he has the military experience Cassio lacks.  Still, Roderigo doesn’t understand why Iago works for a man he hates; Iago explains that he’s only pretending to be Othello’s loyal servant, and when the opportunity comes, he will have his revenge on the Moor.  (See Quote #1 of my Analysis of ‘Othello’.)

Since Roderigo wishes to have Othello’s woman, Iago tells him to join him in shouting by her father’s window, to wake him up and tell him that Othello has eloped with Desdemona (which he has).  So both Iago and Roderigo shout at the top of their lungs to wake Brabantio up.  Her father is angry to see Roderigo there waking him up, and reminds the dissolute suitor that he has rejected his suit for Desdemona.  Roderigo and Iago tell him that Desdemona is not in bed where she should be; Iago uses particularly crude language to describe Othello’s enjoying of her (See Quotes #2 and 3 of my Analysis).  While Brabantio is even further annoyed with Iago’s foul mouth, Roderigo insists they can prove the truth of what they say, if the old man would come with Roderigo.  Iago tells Roderigo he must join Othello, pretending to be his friend, while Roderigo takes Brabantio with him to arrest the Moor.  Iago leaves, then Brabantio joins Roderigo in looking for Othello.

Iago meets with Othello and Cassio; the Moor has married Desdemona.  Cassio tells Othello that the Duke of Venice wishes to speak with him about a problem in Cyprus.  Roderigo and Brabantio come with officers to arrest Othello for using “magic” to win her heart, since Brabantio cannot imagine his daughter willingly going to “the sooty bosom/Of such a thing” as Othello.  The Moor is taken away by the officers.

The Duke of Venice, with a group of senators, discusses the imminent invasion of Cyprus, a Venetian territory, by the Turks.  They need Othello to lead their navy to repel the invaders.  Othello enters with Brabantio, Roderigo, Iago, and the officers.  Brabantio, with a broken heart, accuses the Moor of using witchcraft on Desdemona.

Othello defends himself in a long, eloquent speech (see Quote #4), telling of how he and Brabantio had been good friends, and Othello was often invited to Brabantio’s home.  Othello would tell stories of all the times he had fought in wars, been caught by the enemy and sold into slavery, and then escaped to freedom.  Othello speaks of how he has encountered many strange peoples in his travels, including cannibals and people whose heads were under their shoulders.

Desdemona loved to hear these stories, wishing not to miss a single word.  She pitied how he’d suffered, and he loved her for so pitying him.  She indirectly expressed her love for him by saying that if a man should ever want to win her love, telling such stories would win her to his heart.  Taking this hint, Othello pursued her, and they fell in love.  This is the only witchcraft that Othello has used on her.

The duke is so impressed with this story that he imagines his own daughter could be won by such a story.  Desdemona has been sent for to confirm the Moor’s story.  She arrives, and her father asks her to whom she owes her duty and obedience.  She says that while she owes duty to Brabantio for raising her, Othello is now her husband.

The duke tells Othello to get the navy ready to fight the Turks.  The Moor must hurry off to Cyprus.  Desdemona wishes to join him, so he will tell Iago, who is also to go to Cyprus, to bring his wife Emilia to attend on her.  Cassio will also go.

The marriage being thus confirmed, Brabantio must grudgingly accept it.  His last words to Othello are a warning that she may one day show deceitfulness to him, having already done so to her father (see Quote #5).  He leaves, as does everyone else except Iago and Roderigo.

This latter, despondent over losing Desdemona, wishes to drown himself.  Iago scoffs at Roderigo’s “silliness,” as he himself calls it, but he doesn’t know what else to do.  Iago advises him to collect all his money and join them on the boats to Cyprus.  Iago says that Desdemona will eventually tire of the Moor, then Roderigo will have his chance to woo her.  He should continue giving gifts to Desdemona, money or jewels, and Iago will (supposedly) continue delivering them for him.  This plan revives the hopes of gullible Roderigo, who will now sell all his land.

After Roderigo leaves, Iago speaks of how he’ll use this fool’s hopes for his own “sport and profit,” since cheating him of his money is Iago’s only reason for spending time with him (Quote #6).

Iago now gives the real reason for his, indeed, most virulent hatred for Othello, mentioning a rumour he’s heard that the Moor has slept with his wife, Emilia.  Iago doesn’t have proof of this adultery, but he’ll assume the story is true and act on this assumption.  He’ll take advantage of Othello’s trust of him, and weave Cassio into his schemes, knowing the lieutenant has a way with the ladies.  Since Othello “is of a free and open nature,” Iago can easily manipulate him.  The ensign now has the germ of a plan to destroy the Moor, his wife Desdemona, and Cassio.

Act Two: In Cyprus, Cassio, Montano, and the other Venetians wait as Othello’s ship sails on the stormy seas; everyone hopes the ship will arrive safely.

Desdemona, Iago, and Emilia arrive.  Cassio kisses Desdemona’s hand; Iago notes this innocent show of affection, and plans to make it seem much more than that.

The Moor arrives, and he will relieve Montano of the duties of governing Cyprus; he also has good news–the Turkish fleet perished in the storm, so there will be no invasion!  Everyone is to celebrate that night.  Cassio is commanded by Othello to watch over the city that night and ensure that the revelry doesn’t get out of hand.

Roderigo appears.  Iago tells Roderigo that Cassio’s kissing of her hand is proof that she is looking for new lovers.  Roderigo doesn’t believe this, thinking (correctly) that Cassio was only showing gentlemanly courtesy; but Iago insists that the kiss was an expression of lust.  He then tells Roderigo to pick a fight with Cassio that night, during the festivities, when the lieutenant is drunk.

When the celebrations begin, and everyone has had some wine, Cassio insists he’s had enough, and he must begin his work, watching over the town.  Iago asks him to have some more wine, but Cassio says he mustn’t have any more, since he cannot handle it well.  Iago insists, though, so Cassio reluctantly drinks some more.

Later on, after some singing and rowdiness, Cassio decides he must begin his work.  He is very drunk, but he refuses to admit it, his pride piqued at anyone even thinking he’s drunk.  He leaves to begin his night watch.

Iago speaks with Montano about Cassio, lying that the lieutenant regularly drinks to excess.  Montano finds it worrying that Othello would give such a man a position of such responsibility.

Suddenly, Cassio returns angrily after having fought with Roderigo.  When Montano tries to calm Cassio, he threatens to knock him over the head.  Montano says he’s drunk, provoking him.  Swords drawn, the two men fight briefly, and chaos ensues.  Montano is wounded by Cassio, and Othello arrives, demanding that everyone immediately stop fighting.  He demands an explanation: Montano cannot answer, since he’s badly hurt; the lieutenant is too ashamed to speak.  Othello then turns to Iago, and demands to know who started the fight.

Iago pretends to be reluctant about giving an answer to Othello’s question, acting as though he is loath to blame Cassio.  Othello insists that Iago speak.  Iago speaks in a manner as if only vaguely to justify Cassio’s aggression.  Othello responds in the manner Iago was aiming for: the Moor assumes his ensign is mincing matters to protect Cassio from judgement, but he punishes Cassio by stripping him of his rank of lieutenant.  He gives the responsibility of watching over the town to Iago.  Cassio is crushed.

Desdemona arrives, asking what the matter is; Othello expresses his annoyance that the brawl has woken her up.  He takes her and Montano away with him, since he will bandage Montano’s wound.  Everyone else leaves, except Cassio and Iago.

Cassio complains of how he has “lost [his] reputation,” and blames wine for bringing out the devil in him.  Iago says there is nothing wrong with wine when drunk in moderation.  He also tells Cassio that if he wishes to get his reputation back, he should plead his case to Desdemona, for the “General’s wife is now the General.”  She in turn will plead for Cassio’s sake, asking Othello to forgive him and reinstate him as lieutenant.  This gives Cassio hope, and he leaves.

Alone now, Iago insists he is being no villain for offering such good advice to Cassio (Quote # 7); and yet, it is Iago’s plan to make Othello believe that Cassio and Desdemona are having an affair.  With every appeal she makes to Cassio’s virtues, she will all the more arouse the Moor’s suspicions of her infidelity.  Thus will Iago turn her white virtue pitch black.

Roderigo appears, complaining to Iago about the beating he’s got from Cassio, and of how he’s spent almost all his money (given in gifts to Iago to give to Desdemona, but of course Iago keeps the gifts for himself).  Iago gives the foolish suitor more dubious encouragement by saying that the fight he provoked in Cassio caused him to lose his rank of lieutenant.  This loss of status should make Cassio unattractive to Desdemona, and then Roderigo can have his chance to win her love.  Cheered up, Roderigo leaves.

Act Three: In the garden of the citadel in Cyprus the next day, Cassio asks Emilia if he can speak with Desdemona: she takes him to her.  He asks Desdemona to beg forgiveness of the Moor, and she promises to help him.  He, grateful, says he is her “true servant.”  As they continue talking, Othello and Iago arrive: while the Moor thinks nothing of his wife talking with Cassio, Iago says he doesn’t like what he sees.  Cassio leaves, and Iago characterizes his going as guilty-looking.

Desdemona approaches Othello, asking him to forgive Cassio.  He says they can discuss that at another time, with her at first importuning him when.  She obediently leaves at his request, satisfied that they will resume the discussion of reinstating Cassio.  The Moor expresses his love for Desdemona (Quote #8).

Iago asks Othello about how he began to woo her.  He says Cassio already knew of his wooing of her, and was very diligent in going between Othello and Desdemona.  Iago says, “Indeed,” in a way insinuating bad intentions in Cassio.  Othello begins to wonder what Iago is implying; the Moor recalls when Iago said he didn’t like seeing Cassio guiltily chatting with Desdemona.  He presses the seemingly reluctant Iago to speak his mind.

Using reverse psychology, Iago speaks of how wrong it is to harm someone’s reputation by slandering it, all the while making Othello more and more suspicious of Cassio and Desdemona.  Iago continues to be evasive, pretending Othello shouldn’t think too much of the matter.

Iago climaxes his manipulative words with a warning to Othello about giving in to jealousy (Quote #9), saying it’s better to be a cuckold who is blissfully ignorant of his wife’s infidelities than to suspect an innocent wife of such disloyalty and to torment himself with such suspicion.

Now, ironically, the Moor is fully enmeshed in the net of jealousy, though he denies it.  Knowing this, Iago advises him to watch Desdemona when she is with Cassio.  He reminds Othello of how she’s deceived her father, but still tells him not to worry about this suspicion until better proof is available.  Iago leaves.

Othello ponders what Iago has said, imagining that Desdemona may not find him so attractive because of his dark complexion.  She returns, and seeing he is not well, she tries to wrap around his brow a handkerchief, one designed with a distinct strawberry motif.  He pushes it away, causing it to fall on the ground; the distracted wife follows him as he storms away, forgetting to pick the handkerchief up.

Emilia enters, finding it on the ground.  She picks it up, speaks of wishing to have the pretty thing copied, and remembers how her husband has wanted her to steal it for some unrevealed purpose of his.  He returns, and she tells him she has the handkerchief; she tells Iago that she hasn’t stolen it, but Desdemona left it on the ground “by negligence.”  He takes it from Emilia, but she worries about Desdemona not getting it back, since she will be in a terribly distressed state if she loses it, a special gift from Othello.  Iago tells Emilia to go away; she does.

Iago speaks of how jealous people will consider the most trivial of things to be firm proof of their suspicions.  He will leave the handkerchief with Cassio’s things, knowing this will aid him in his vindictive purposes.  Iago gloats as he sees returning Othello, who is increasingly coming undone.

The Moor angrily demands that Iago produce proof that Desdemona is a whore.  Iago speaks of how regretful he is of his “honesty” being so ill-appreciated.  Othello says he is torn between believing his ensign and trusting Desdemona, and that his vague, unproven suspicions are tormenting him; he must have proof.

Iago says it would be nearly impossible to arrange a viewing of her in bed with Cassio, something the Moor recoils at, saying, “Death and damnation!”  But if some kind of circumstantial evidence were provided, perhaps that would be sufficient for Othello.  He will indeed accept such evidence.

Iago speaks of a night when he and Cassio were sleeping side by side: Cassio, apparently, was talking out loud in his sleep, speaking of how he and Desdemona must hide their love from the Moor.  Then Cassio wrapped his leg around Iago and began kissing him, imagining in his dream that Iago was Desdemona.  Othello grows all the more unsettled by this revelation.

To make matters worse, Iago tells him of a handkerchief, “spotted with strawberries,” that he’s seen Cassio wipe his beard with: Othello knows this to be his gift to his wife, and he is going insane with jealousy now.  He makes Iago his lieutenant; Iago says, “I am your own for ever.”

Before the citadel, Desdemona is going mad herself wondering where her handkerchief is.  She tells Emilia she would rather lose her “purse full of crusadoes” than lose Othello’s dear gift to her.

He enters, finding it difficult to hide his jealousy; she says Cassio will come and speak with him, hoping to bring about a reconciliation between the two men.  This, of course, inflames his jealous rage further.

He asks her to wipe his brow with her handkerchief, but she can only do so with another handkerchief she’s using as a temporary replacement.  Having tested Iago’s story, and dismayed to see it so seemingly confirmed, Othello demands that she produce the strawberry-patterned handkerchief.  She says she cannot find it at the moment.

He tells her that the handkerchief was a magical gift an Egyptian gave to his mother.  As long as his mother had it, his father would continue loving her; but if she were to lose it, she would lose his father’s love.  The implications of the story for Othello’s love for Desdemona frighten her.

He demands again that she find it.  She says she’ll get it later, for now she sees it as a distraction from her suit to get him to reinstate Cassio.  He keeps demanding the handkerchief while she pleads for Cassio; he curses and leaves the room.  Emilia wonders if he is jealous, while Desdemona insists he’s never been that way.  Emilia says men are all stomachs, and women their food to be belched when the eaters are sated.

Cassio gives the handkerchief to Bianca, a girl he’s been seeing; he wants her to have it copied.  She jealously suspects he’s got it from another woman.

Act Four: Iago tells Othello of a time he heard Cassio speaking of lying in bed with Desdemona; Othello gets so upset that he has an epileptic seizure.  Iago gloats to watch Othello coming so unhinged.

After the Moor has swooned and fallen on the ground, Cassio comes by, and wonders what’s wrong with Othello.  Iago tells him the Moor has “fall’n into an epilepsy.”  Cassio suggests rubbing him on the temples, but Iago insists that the epilepsy must be allowed to follow its course.  Iago asks Cassio to leave, but would have him return soon, for he has something important to talk about with Cassio.  Cassio leaves.

The Moor comes out of it, and Iago says Cassio will return; while Othello is hiding, he can eavesdrop on a conversation between Iago and Cassio, one that will confirm the latter’s guilt.  Othello hides, and Cassio returns.

First, Iago speaks of Desdemona with Cassio, and of his hopes that Othello will forgive him.  Then Iago deftly changes the subject to that of Bianca, and in a way that makes Othello think the woman being discussed is still Desdemona.  Cassio laughs, speaking of how she (Bianca, or Desdemona?) is in love with him.  Othello is snarling as he listens to this.

Then, in a turn of fortune better than Iago could have devised, Bianca suddenly appears, showing off the handkerchief so Othello can see it, and complaining jealously that Cassio is seeing another woman, the handkerchief being proof of his two-timing.  She leaves angrily.  Cassio follows after her.

Othello emerges, asking Iago how he should kill Desdemona, now that he has apparent proof of her infidelity.  Iago suggests killing her in her bed, the one she has “contaminated.”  Othello considers this a just punishment.  Iago then offers to kill Cassio.

Lodovico, Desdemona’s cousin, has arrived in Cyprus to tell Othello he is to return to Venice.  The Moor is visibly upset as he reads the letter from the Duke of Venice with his orders to return, and for Cassio to be the new governor of Cyprus.

Lodovico wonders what is troubling him; Desdemona speaks of the friction between her husband and Cassio, a problem she wishes would end, for all the love she bears to Cassio.  Othello is especially offended to hear her dare to say that in front of him, and he slaps her in front of everyone!

She knows she doesn’t deserve such abuse.  Lodovico is shocked at what he’s seen, imagining no one in Venice would believe Othello could behave in such a way.  Surely his reputation as unflappable is in question.

Later, Othello questions Emilia if she has ever seen her mistress with Cassio in an intimate situation; Emilia, of course, hasn’t, for she has never left Desdemona’s company, not even briefly to get a fan or anything.  Emilia, not believed, is told to fetch Desdemona.  The Moor insists that his wife is “a subtle whore.”  Desdemona, frightened, returns with Emilia, and must defend herself against accusations of being a whore.

Othello leaves, and Desdemona complains of her troubles with teary eyes to Emilia and Iago.  They cannot imagine why Othello would slander her so.  Emilia insists some villain has told Othello slanderous lies about his wife, then Emilia recalls how someone similarly calumniated her to Iago about having had an affair with Othello, a vicious rumour that drove Iago to near madness.  Her husband dismisses the story angrily.

Desdemona, in her sweetness, cannot even say the word “whore,” let alone be one.  Iago reasons that Othello is simply annoyed at having to return to Venice, and is thus taking his frustrations out on Desdemona.  Dinner is about to be served, and Iago tries to cheer her up with that, and with hopes that all will soon be resolved.  The women leave.

Alone, Iago is accosted by a furious Roderigo, who demands satisfaction for having been duped by Iago all this time.  Roderigo has spent all his money in his foolish, futile suit for Desdemona, having given gifts to Iago to give to Desdemona, but Roderigo has gotten no desirable results at all.  Correctly assuming that Iago has been cheating him, Roderigo demands compensation and threatens Iago if he isn’t satisfied.

Quick-thinking Iago praises Roderigo for showing his manhood, and suggests that he use his apparent strength in a fight against Cassio.  Iago will help, it seems; then when Cassio is removed, Roderigo can have Desdemona.  Gullible Roderigo agrees to this plan.

After dinner with Lodovico, Othello tells Desdemona to go to bed alone, and to dismiss Emilia as soon as she has finished getting her ready for bed.  This command is surprising both to Desdemona and to Emilia when she hears it.

In Desdemona’s bedroom, as Emilia is getting her ready for bed, Desdemona remembers a maid from Barbary whose lover went mad and abandoned her.  The maid sang a sad song called ‘Willow,’ which Desdemona then sings.

She asks Emilia if there are any wives anywhere who commit adultery; Emilia says there surely are at least a few; for women have their ways of getting revenge on the wrongs their husbands inflict on them.  Emilia is sure that some women would gladly make their husbands cuckolds if doing so might make their men kings.  (Is she implying here that she, indeed, slept with Othello in the hopes that the Moor would, in return, make Iago his lieutenant?)  Desdemona, ever sweet and innocent, still cannot imagine any wife to be unfaithful to her man.  Emilia leaves her, and she goes to bed.

Act Five: Outside on a street at night, Iago and Roderigo are waiting for Cassio to leave Bianca’s home so they can assault him.  Iago realizes that this altercation will be crucial, for both men must die if Iago is to succeed in his plans.  This night will either make him, or undo him.  Iago and Roderigo are hiding in the shadows.

Cassio appears, and Roderigo attacks him.  Swords drawn, they fight, and Cassio wounds Roderigo.  Then Iago sneaks up behind Cassio with his rapier and stabs him in the leg.  Not knowing who has attacked him, Cassio calls out for help.

Othello watches from his window, and hearing the commotion on the street (as do Lodovico and Gratiano), assumes Iago has killed Cassio.  Satisfied with the achievement of this part of his supposed revenge, Othello heads for Desdemona’s bedroom.

On the street, Lodovico and Gratiano come to help Cassio.  Iago reappears from the shadows, pretending he’s only just arrived and knows nothing of what has happened.  Cassio says his wounded attacker is back somewhere in the shadows.  Iago goes over and mortally wounds Roderigo, who curses him before dying.  Then Iago yells for help.  He binds Cassio’s wound with his shirt.

Outside, Emilia and Bianca come to help Cassio.  Bianca is hysterical with grief over her lover’s hurt, but Emilia and Iago dismiss her as a tramp, implying Cassio’s injury to have been her fault, which she denies.  Cassio is taken away to be treated for his wound.

In Desdemona’s bedroom, Othello gazes on her sleeping body, his heart full of grief over the murder he feels he must commit, for the sake of honour.  He speaks of how he won’t shed her blood, or wound her beautiful skin, as “smooth as monumental alabaster.”

Extinguishing candles by her bed, he speaks sorrowfully of extinguishing the fire of her life (Quote #10), already imagining his regret over killing her, and knowing that, while one can light a candle again after wishing one hasn’t put the fire out, one cannot resurrect the victim one rues having killed.

He reaches over and kisses her several times, the last kiss waking her up.  He asks her if she has said her prayers for the night; she has.  He is glad of this, for he doesn’t wish, in killing her, to send her soul to hell.  She asks why he has murder on his mind, and he accuses her of having an affair with Cassio, who had the handkerchief.

She vehemently denies this adultery, asking to have Cassio summoned to corroborate her story.  Othello says her alleged lover cannot attest to her denial, for he has been killed.  She weeps for Cassio’s sake, infuriating the Moor.

He approaches her to commit the murder, but she begs him to banish her instead. He picks up a pillow and smothers her with it.  There is knocking on the door; Emilia comes in, telling him of Cassio’s injury.  Othello is annoyed to know he is still alive.

Emilia, however, is shocked to see Desdemona murdered; actually, she isn’t quite dead, but her last words are ones of love for Othello.  Then she dies.

When Othello justifies his murder by saying she was unfaithful to him, Emilia refuses to believe him.  He says Iago informed him of the adultery: too horrified to imagine her husband so wicked, she asks of Iago repeatedly to make sure, causing Othello to wonder why she needs to make this “iterance”.  She insists that if Iago really accused Desdemona of infidelity, he is a liar.  Sure of Iago’s reputation for honesty, Othello cannot believe that he lied.  Emilia cries out of the bedroom for help.  “The Moor hath kill’d my mistress!  Murder!  Murder!”

Montano, Iago, Gratiano, and others come into the bedroom.  She asks Iago if he told Othello that Desdemona had had an affair with Cassio: her husband admits that he said so.  Emilia is heartbroken that Iago could tell such “a wicked lie.”  He barks at her to go home; she refuses to, insisting that she have a chance to speak.

When Othello mentions her handkerchief in Cassio’s possession, Emilia is all the more horrified, now knowing Iago’s real purpose in having it stolen.  Emilia refuses to obey her husband’s command to be quiet and go home, for she must tell all.  Iago tries to attack Emilia with a sword, but is stopped by Gratiano, who is shocked he’d try to stab a woman.

When she tells Othello she stole the handkerchief to give to Iago, the Moor finally realizes how wrong and rash he was to murder his wife.  She carries on about how foolish Othello has been, murdering such a sweet and innocent wife.  He is already agonizing over his mistake.  Iago stabs his wife, then flees the room; he is pursued.

She lies beside Desdemona, weakly singing, “Willow, willow, willow,” before dying.  Othello continues grieving over Desdemona.

Iago has been apprehended and is brought back with Lodovico, Montano, and Cassio (who is carried in a chair), and officers.   Othello takes a knife and wounds Iago, who maliciously smiles at him and says the stab isn’t fatal; the Moor, preferring death to life, is glad to let Iago live.  Othello’s sword has been taken from him.

Cassio protests his innocence to Othello, who sadly acknowledges this and apologizes to him.  Othello wants to know why Iago has thus ruined him, but the villain refuses to say any more.

Othello is to be arrested for murder, but he wants a moment to speak, since he’s done some service to Venice.  He asks the people of Venice to speak truthfully “Of one that lov’d not wisely, but too well” (Quote #11).  At the end of his speech, he produces a hidden dagger and stabs himself.  He kisses Desdemona and dies (Quote #12).

Lodovico execrates Iago for his villainy, and demands the harshest punishments for him.  Lodovico must now return to Venice and tell this sad story with a heavy heart.

Analysis of ‘Othello’

Othello, the Moor of Venice, is a tragedy Shakespeare is believed to have written in about 1603.  It is based on the Cinthio short story Un Capitano Moro (‘A Moorish Captain’), and it is one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, dealing with such themes as jealousy, envy, undeserved reputations, gossip, and the issue of racial prejudice.

On this last issue, it is necessary to examine the unclear racial background of Othello the Moor.  He is referred to as, and calls himself, “black” several times in the play.  What is meant by black is open to interpretation.  Is he meant to be a sub-Saharan African, or a swarthy, dark-complexioned north African?  Both interpretations are possible, based on the vague way the people of Renaissance England used the word black to describe people.  One possible piece of evidence to suggest black, and not merely swarthy, is Roderigo’s pejorative description of Othello (in Act One, Scene i) as “the thick-lips,” but this is far from conclusive.

However Shakespeare meant the Moor to be, he was historically portrayed by white actors in blackface.  Some notable exceptions to this include the first black actor to play Othello, Ira Aldridge, in 1833; later, there was Paul Robeson’s Othello, with Uta Hagen as Desdemona in the hit Broadway run in 1943.  This use of blackface on white actors for the Othello role was finally starting to be faded out by the 1970s and 1980s: one of the last of these notable conservative productions being the BBC TV one with Anthony Hopkins in the title role.  Ever since then, black actors have usually been used; one noteworthy exception to this, however, was an inverted 1997 production with Patrick Stewart as Othello without blackface, and with a black cast playing everyone else.

Here are some famous quotes:

1. I am not what I am.  –Iago, Act One, scene i, line 66

2. Even now, now, very now, an old black ram /Is tupping your white ewe.  –Iago, Act One, scene i, lines 89-90

3. Your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.  –Iago, I, i, 117-118

4.  Most potent, grave, and reverend signiors,
My very noble and approved good masters,
That I have ta’en away this old man’s daughter,
It is most true; true, I have married her:
The very head and front of my offending
Hath this extent, no more. Rude am I in my speech,
And little bless’d with the soft phrase of peace:
For since these arms of mine had seven years’ pith,
Till now some nine moons wasted, they have used
Their dearest action in the tented field,
And little of this great world can I speak,
More than pertains to feats of broil and battle,
And therefore little shall I grace my cause
In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,
I will a round unvarnish’d tale deliver
Of my whole course of love; what drugs, what charms,
What conjuration and what mighty magic,
For such proceeding I am charged withal,
I won his daughter.  –Othello, I, iii, 76-94

5. Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see:
She has deceived her father, and may thee.  –Brabantio, I, iii, 292-293

6.

Thus do I ever make my fool my purse:
For I mine own gain’d knowledge should profane,
If I would time expend with such a snipe.
But for my sport and profit. I hate the Moor:
And it is thought abroad, that ‘twixt my sheets
He has done my office: I know not if’t be true;
But I, for mere suspicion in that kind,
Will do as if for surety. He holds me well;
The better shall my purpose work on him.
Cassio’s a proper man: let me see now:
To get his place and to plume up my will
In double knavery–How, how? Let’s see:–
After some time, to abuse Othello’s ear
That he is too familiar with his wife.
He hath a person and a smooth dispose
To be suspected, framed to make women false.
The Moor is of a free and open nature,
That thinks men honest that but seem to be so,
And will as tenderly be led by the nose
As asses are.
I have’t. It is engender’d. Hell and night
Must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light.  –Iago, I, iii, 377-398

7.

And what’s he then that says I play the villain?
When this advice is free I give and honest,
Probal to thinking and indeed the course
To win the Moor again? For ’tis most easy
The inclining Desdemona to subdue
In any honest suit: she’s framed as fruitful
As the free elements. And then for her
To win the Moor–were’t to renounce his baptism,
All seals and symbols of redeemed sin,
His soul is so enfetter’d to her love,
That she may make, unmake, do what she list,
Even as her appetite shall play the god
With his weak function. How am I then a villain
To counsel Cassio to this parallel course,
Directly to his good? Divinity of hell!
When devils will the blackest sins put on,
They do suggest at first with heavenly shows,
As I do now: for whiles this honest fool
Plies Desdemona to repair his fortunes
And she for him pleads strongly to the Moor,
I’ll pour this pestilence into his ear,
That she repeals him for her body’s lust;
And by how much she strives to do him good,
She shall undo her credit with the Moor.
So will I turn her virtue into pitch,
And out of her own goodness make the net
That shall enmesh them all.  –Iago, II, iii, 325-351

8.

Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul,
But I do love thee! and when I love thee not,
Chaos is come again.  –Othello, III, iii, 91-93

9. O!  Beware, my lord, of jealousy;/It is the green-ey’d monster which doth mock/The meat it feeds on. –Iago, III, iii, 169-171

10.

It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul,–
Let me not name it to you, you chaste stars!–
It is the cause. Yet I’ll not shed her blood;
Nor scar that whiter skin of hers than snow,
And smooth as monumental alabaster.
Yet she must die, else she’ll betray more men.
Put out the light, and then put out the light:
If I quench thee, thou flaming minister,
I can again thy former light restore,
Should I repent me: but once put out thy light,
Thou cunning’st pattern of excelling nature,
I know not where is that Promethean heat
That can thy light relume. When I have pluck’d the rose,
I cannot give it vital growth again.
It must needs wither: I’ll smell it on the tree. –Othello, V, ii, 1-15

11.

Soft you; a word or two before you go.
I have done the state some service, and they know’t.
No more of that. I pray you, in your letters,
When you shall these unlucky deeds relate,
Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,
Nor set down aught in malice: then must you speak
Of one that loved not wisely but too well;
Of one not easily jealous, but being wrought
Perplex’d in the extreme; of one whose hand,
Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away
Richer than all his tribe; of one whose subdued eyes,
Albeit unused to the melting mood,
Drop tears as fast as the Arabian trees
Their medicinal gum. Set you down this;
And say besides, that in Aleppo once,
Where a malignant and a turban’d Turk
Beat a Venetian and traduced the state,
I took by the throat the circumcised dog,
And smote him, thus.  –Othello, V, ii, 341-359

12. I kissed thee ere I killed thee, no way but this,/Killing myself, to die upon a kiss.  –Othello, V, ii, 361-362

Particularly obvious themes in Othello are those of jealousy and envy, but it is useful to distinguish between these two similar words.  Jealousy is usually used to describe someone who is afraid of losing a lover to a rival, whereas envy involves unhappiness or resentment over already not having what another has, and wanting to destroy the envied person.  Envy comes from the Latin invidia, which refers to looking at people with an evil eye, in other words, with a feeling of malice and hatred towards the envied one.  Iago, of course, perfectly personifies envy in Othello.

Iago envies Michael Cassio for getting the promotion to lieutenant that Iago feels he deserved.  Instead, Iago, a much more experienced soldier than Cassio, must remain merely Othello’s ensign (or ‘ancient,’ as he is called in the play).  Because Othello judged Cassio the better man for the promotion, the Moor must suffer; since Cassio got the promotion Iago should have been given, Cassio must suffer.

Though Othello suffers racial prejudice as a dark-complexioned Moor in Venice and Cyprus, both places dominated by whites, he is valiant, noble, and well-spoken; he only becomes violent when manipulated by Iago, the real beast of the story.  And for all of Iago’s reputation for being honest and good, he gives all the indications of his own bestial nature, right from his first appearance in the play.  Indeed, his first word is a blasphemy: “‘Sblood,” he says to Roderigo.  Soon afterwards in the same scene, he says, “Zounds”, and he speaks crudely of Othello’s seduction of Desdemona (Quotes #2 and 3 above).  Also, he constantly uses the imagery of beasts in his choice of words: ram, ewe, Barbary horse, baboon, cats, puppies, snipe, asses, “the green-ey’d monster,” etc.  All these word choices of his set the tone of his evil character: wild, and immoral.

Othello’s jealousy over Desdemona’s supposed affair with Cassio isn’t the only instance of jealousy in the play.  Roderigo is jealous of Othello’s marriage to her, hoping foolishly that she will get bored with the Moor (according to the lie Iago tells Roderigo), and then the buffoonish suitor will supposedly get his chance to have her.

Iago also grapples with jealousy when he has heard a rumour that Othello has slept with his wife, Emilia (see Quote #6).  This, given during a soliloquy, seems to be the greater reason for Iago to want revenge.  “And nothing can or shall content my soul/Till I am evened with him, wife for wife.” (II, i, 223-224)

Apart from these jealousies, there is also Bianca’s jealousy when she finds Desdemona’s handkerchief, “spotted with strawberries” (as Iago has earlier described it) among Cassio’s things, and assumes her lover has been seeing another woman.  Significantly, Othello has been secretly watching this altercation, and is himself even more inflamed with jealousy, assuming Cassio’s rumoured affair with his wife has been incontrovertibly proven.

Many reputations in this play are unjustly acquired.  Iago, a most heinous liar throughout the play, is honoured as “honest Iago” right up to Emilia’s accusation of him lying to Othello.  Iago feels Cassio doesn’t deserve the good name associated with being lieutenant, and easily engineers proof that, with a few cups of wine, Cassio can demonstrate his unworthiness of the rank.  Othello has a reputation for being unshakeable in the face of war and death, yet the mere suggestion that his wife could be having an affair makes him fall so to pieces that he strikes her in public, in front of Lodovico, her cousin!

Ultimately, the most undeserved of reputations is that of Desdemona as “whore”.  So guiltless is she that not only can’t she even say the word “whore” without difficulty, but she can’t even imagine any other married woman being unfaithful to her husband, as she says to Emilia on the night she is to be murdered.  Indeed, she keeps a perfectly Christian attitude right to the end, expressing her love and loyalty to the Moor by saying, “Commend me to my kind lord: O, farewell!”  Then she dies, after having been smothered by a pillow held in Othello’s hands.

It is her very sweetness that makes her unjust murder so especially horrific.

‘Vamps’, Chapter Seven: Twice Bitten, So Sly

The following night, I found the CNT Club; like the POUM, it was shrouded in a forest, but to the northeast of town, whereas the POUM Club was to the southeast of town, almost along the same longitude as the CNT.  Also like the POUM, the CNT Club had male vamps protecting it from Christian vampire hunters.  The original sign over the front door, Tramps, hadn’t been taken down: a red V was spray painted over the Tr, but later, CUNT, in black lettering, was spray painted over all the original letters; then the C, N, and T were spray painted again, but in white, presumably to distract one from the obscenity of the black lettering.  I went in.

Amid the loud techno music and flashes of strobe lights that coloured up and dotted the darkness, I saw the by-now-typical, perfectly curvy strippers, either half naked or fully so, giving table- or lap-dances.  One of them, a buxom blonde goddess in a white lace bra and thong, with matching fishnet stockings and high heels, approached me.  Her vamp fangs were hidden in an overbite, behind full lips with lush, dark red lipstick.

“Hi,” she sighed in a thick Slavic accent, her hand held out to shake mine.  “My name is Anna Petrovich.  Are you looking for a job here?”  We shook hands.

“Well, I’m stripping in the POUMTANG Club right now,” I said, “but if I like it better here, I might consider asking you for work.”

“We’re always looking for new blood,” she said.

“Oh, I know that,” I said.

“How many times have you been bitten?  I’d say once, from the slight mark on your neck.”

Since the mark was now practically invisible, especially in the darkness of the bar, I figured she must have psychically sensed its presence.  “That’s right, I’ve only been bitten once; but I’m eager for my second and third bites.”

“We can help you with that, if you’ll be willing to help us.”

“Speaking of help, do you know of a vamp traitor who’s telling the vampire hunters in town where you girls are sleeping?” I asked.

“We were hoping you could help us with the same thing,” Anna said.  “We’ve had three of our vamps destroyed, exposed to the hellish sun.”

“Awful,” I sighed.  “I heard it was only one.”

“Two more were destroyed today.  That’s why I was hoping you could strip for us.  We don’t have enough girls here.”

“That’s too bad.  I hate the bigotry against vamps here.  We’re not the Satanic beasts the Church says we are.”

“And the Church isn’t the pantheon of saints it pretends to be.”

Same scholarly vamp vocabulary, I thought.  So odd to hear such erudition in strippers, particularly in uneducated me, yet so cool, too.  I’m sick of men always thinking we’re all just a bunch of dummies.  “How can I help?”

“First,” she asked, looking me straight in the eyes with that hypnotic fire in hers, and stroking my hair.  “Do you trust me?”

“I don’t see…why not,” I said, my vision already blurring and my head swimming.  “I don’t trust…the Catholics here.”

“Then we must love each other.”  She kissed me on the lips.  “But first, come get to know some of us.  Come with me.”

Anna led me through the bar, and I passed by the stage, where a short, tanned stripper with slight muscle tone was doing her third song, “It’s Alright (Baby’s Coming Back),” by the Eurythmics.

Anna and I sat at a table close to the stage.  We chatted as the nude girl onstage carried on with her floorshow.  Apart from her awe-inspiring, curvy body, she had an unusually large clitoris.  Crawling about barefoot with her legs spread wide apart and her ass pushed out, she had everything proudly on display for her rapt male audience at the tip rail.

“Who is that hot-looking girl?” I asked.

“Oh, that’s Francine Tremblay, or ‘Franny’, as we all call her,” Anna said.

“She’s the sister of Fanny in POUM,” a short, petite stripper with black hair said in a Spanish accent.  She was wearing a dark red bikini and matching high heels.  She sat beside me.

“Really?” I said.  “They’re sisters?”

“Yes,” Anna said.  “It’s a small world, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” I said.  “Franny sure resembles Fanny.  Their similar names are appropriate.  I’m Erica,” I said to the Latina girl, holding out my hand to shake hers.

“Maria Gonzalez,” she said, shaking my hand.  Her fangs were showing without inhibition.

“Nice to meet you,” I said.

The song was over, and Franny got off stage without even bothering to put her clothes back on.  Not that she needed to: her nakedness was a glory to see, even for those not sexually attracted to women.

“Hi, I’m Franny.  You must be the new girl in POUM,” she said in a French Canadian accent.  We shook hands.

“Yes,” I said.  “I’m Erica George.  Nice to meet you.  You looked really beautiful onstage.”

“Thank you,” she said.  I looked over at Anna, who I already envied and admired. Being a vamp had given her an inscrutable, beautiful calm and confidence.  I wanted that coolness so badly.  “So, where are you from, Anna?”

“Russia,” she said.

“Your English is amazingly good,” I said.

“It wasn’t always,” she said almost sadly.  I assumed correctly that her vamp powers were responsible for the perfection of her grammar.

“What brought you to Canada?” I asked.

“A job opportunity here,” she said with a frown, looking away.

“Why not strip in Russia?” I asked.

“Because I thought the job would be in social work,” she said, still frowning and looking away.  Her confidence was obviously also something she’d only acquired as a vamp.  Her life before becoming a vamp had suddenly become all the more fascinating, as I could easily empathize with those lacking in self-assurance.

“Oh?  The job offer was a lie?” I asked.

“Yes.  About a year ago, these three strip-clubs were a front for human trafficking,” Maria said.  “We all got tricked into coming here, thinking we’d get good jobs.  Instead, we were made into prostitutes against our will.  Then the Vampire Revolution liberated us.”

“Yes,” Anna said.  “A vamp named Leona Trotta bit me one night after I escaped.  She made me a vamp, I returned, bit the other girls, and we killed the whole mafia family who had been holding us against our will.  Now, the strip club is our own.”

“Awesome!” I said.  “These three strip clubs are the first ones I’ve ever seen where the strippers are actually the ones in the saddle. It’s awful, though, that you were all sex slaves before.”

“I had been hoping for a good job to make money for my poor family in Mexico,” Maria said, a tear running down her cheek.  “Because of my being a slave here, I couldn’t send any money home.  My sick mother died because I couldn’t give her any money to pay for medical help.”  She began sobbing, and Anna put her arm around her.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I said.  With my blossoming psychic powers, I could feel Maria’s pain quite acutely.  I almost wanted to cry, too, as if her mother had been my own.  Of course, my own mother’s death made it even easier for me to sympathize with poor Maria.

“My sister, Fantine, has an illegitimate daughter for whom she was hoping to earn money with the stripping job here,” Franny added, snarling.  “We were able to get our family in Chicoutimi to take care of the little girl, thank Empusa, but Fantine, an unpaid slave, was so distraught at not even being able to see her.  Those mafia bastards!  I’m so glad we sucked them all dry.”

“I’m glad I never had to meet them,” I said, feeling Franny’s anger.

“Well, I have to go onstage,” Maria said.  “It was nice to meet you, Erica.”  We shook hands again, then she turned around and walked toward the stage.

“Bye,” I said.

A man approached Franny.  “Can I have a lap dance?” he asked her.

“Sure,” she said, smirking, licking her lips, and contemplating all that delicious blood in him.  She went with him to a VIP Room, never bothering to put on any of her clothes.

Two more strippers approached Anna and me, one of them a golden blonde and the other a dirty blonde.  They smiled suggestively at me.

“Let’s go upstairs now,” Anna said to me.  We got up and went with the two strippers to a staircase leading up to the second floor.

“So, what does CUNT stand for?” I asked.  “I understand the Caledonia strip clubs’ names are all acronyms.”

“It stands for the Collective Union of Nudists and Transwomen,” Anna said as we began ascending the stairs.  “We got rid of the word ‘Union’ not only because it was redundant, but because we were getting flak from the Catholic community here for the acronym’s ‘obscenity’.”

“So there are transwomen here who want bites to make them physically female, too, eh?” I asked.  “Just like in POUM?”

“Yes,” she said.  “Transgender people from all over flock here to have the bodies their souls desire.”  We reached the top of the stairs and went into a bedroom, one not unlike the one I’d been in with Andrea, Christina, and Meg.  The two other vamp strippers had entered first; having only worn bras, thongs, and high heels, they’d already stripped naked and were waiting for us on the bed.  There was no need to tell me about the ritual for my second biting: we all psychically communicated this intention.

Anna removed her bra, revealing the two most beautiful, natural breasts I’d ever seen.  Each of that soft pair of giant cake balls was topped with sweet berries for nipples.

Then she removed her thong, revealing her shaved pubic region.  Next to come off were her fishnets and shoes, and she was as nude as the two vamps on the bed.  I quickly got naked, eager for that bite (not to mention the hot sex), and Anna and I got on the bed.

“Erica, meet Celina Helmer and Josie Beverley Druitt,” Anna said.  “Celina and Josie, meet Erica, a once-bitten who just started working in POUM.”

“Hi,” I said to them.

“Hi,” Celina and Josie sighed in unison.

All three of them started caressing my arms, legs, and breasts as I lay on my back on the bed.  Anna put those delicious breasts of hers on either side of my face and gently pressed them on my cheeks.  Oh, their softness and smoothness!  I was really coming to like lesbian love.

After she tickled my lips with her erect nipples, I asked, “When you…bite me, will I…Oh!…lose my will…completely?”

“Not quite,” Anna said, gently kissing my left cheek and neck.  “Only if…you’d been bitten…twice by…the same vamp…would your will…be all hers.”  She squeezed my right breast, pinching the nipple.

“Ah!” I moaned.

Josie, who also had lovely large breasts, began rubbing them against my belly as she sucked on my right breast.  Celina, with smaller, perkier breasts but ones no less tasty, had buried her face between my legs and was making my vulva as wet as her saliva-soaked mouth.

My sighs and squeals were getting higher and louder.  As I got hornier and hornier, I feared the pain of that second bite, as well as the possibility that Anna wasn’t being honest about how much control she would have over me after the bite.  Would I completely lose my will, and be made her slave for an indefinite amount of time…maybe forever?

Still, the vamps’ expert lovemaking kept me more and more excited, and that pleasure relaxed any worries I had…though in the back of my mind, it occurred to me that such a relaxation would be a perfect way for me to surrender my will to them completely.

My fear of the pain of the second bite, and of possibly losing all my will, didn’t distract me from the pleasure, though: actually, that fear increased my excitement.  My body was tensing up and shaking with anticipation of my nearing orgasm…and new vamp powers!

Finally, I let out a scream, with my eyes squished shut, and I orgasmed; with perfect timing, Anna bit me the very second of my climax.

Again, I felt the numbing daze as of one on drugs, my perception blurrier and blurrier as I felt my blood being sucked out.  I felt my will become more that of the vamps’ Blood Collective than of my own.  I just lay on my back, my head spinning.

“How do you feel?” Anna asked.

“High,” I moaned.

“No marijuana or ecstasy ever made you feel stoned like that, eh?” Celina asked, grinning.

“No,” I sighed.  “Not like this.”

“Celina has a wicked tongue, hasn’t she?” Josie asked.

“No,” I said.  “She has a…very good tongue.”

Celina laughed, always proud of her abilities.

“Do you feel more connected with us?” Anna asked.

“Yeah,” I said.

“That’s because your blood is merged with that of the Collective,” Josie said.

“More and more, you’re becoming one of us,” Celina said, licking her lips and proudly baring her beautiful fangs with a sinful grin.

“You’ll care more and more about our needs, and we’ll care more and more about yours,” Anna said.

“We vamps all love each other,” Josie said.

“In mind…and body,” Celina said, kissing my belly several times.

“How do I look?” I asked, getting off the bed on the left side.  As with the first bite, my initial stupor was abating somewhat.  “That bite didn’t…hurt as much…as last time.”

“The second and third bites hurt less and less,” Celina said.  “Your third will hardly hurt at all.”

“Then you’ll be impervious to pain,” Josie said.

“A mirror is over there,” Anna said, pointing to the wall to the right of the bed.

I went around the foot of the bed and approached the mirror, which went from the floor up to a few inches taller than I.  I gazed on my frontal nudity, waiting for my blurry vision to focus.

What a difference!  I was grinning in narcissistic adoration.  My teeth, those four fangs, were sharper; my skin was whiter, but creamier and more delectable; my breasts were again larger, rounder, and firmer, like a perfect silicone job, only without silicone; and my curves were snake-like!

“How do you like yourself?” Celina asked.

“I think I’m in love with my body,” I said.

“I think I am, too,” Celina said with a lustful glint in her eye.

My eyes were welling with tears.  Vamps rule!  I thought.  Wait till Hal sees me!  He won’t be able to resist me.  I just hope…for his sake…that his love for me isn’t only skin deep.  “When do I get my third bite?” I asked.  “I don’t think I want to wait.”

“After you’ve looked around the PSUC Club for us,” Anna said.  “When you’re a thrice-bitten, you’ll fully know the danger we’re all in.”