The King and the Adulteress brings together two essays that propose radically revisionary readings of two of the most important literary works in the Western canon, Flaubert's Madame Bovary and Shakespeare's King Lear.
In offering a new understanding of a deeply sadomasochistic relationship and of an authoritarian pathology, renowned psychoanalyst Roberto Speziale-Bagliacca combines psychoanalysis with literary studies to challenge the conventional judgments of readers and the stereotyped interpretations of literary critics to these masterpieces. Approaching the characters in Bovary and Lear from both an analytic and a critical viewpoint, Speziale-Bagliacca reinterprets many issues and events that involve archetypal figures of modern literary mythology.
In fact, he reverses much of the received opinion about them.
Charles Bovary, for example, far from being a victim of his wife's neurotic restlessness or the epitome of a passive imbecile, is a masochist of the highest order who makes a decisive contribution to Emma's miserable end.
Lear, rather than a tragedy involving the sweet Cordelia, noble Kent, and the Fool as good and loyal supporters of an old king driven to madness by his overbearing evil daughters, is precisely the opposite.
The sympathetic understanding of the reader should go, Speziale-Bagliacca suggests, also to Regan, Goneril, and Edmund, while the king, whose crisis is interpreted in the light of psychoanalytic findings on depression, finally becomes the true unbeloved "bastard" of the play.
Roberto Speziale-Bagliacca is a psychoanalyst and Professor of Psychotherapy at the Medical School of the University of Genoa.
He is the author of On the Shoulders of Freud and many other works.