The King and the Adulteress

A Psychoanalytic and Literary Reinterpretation of Madame Bovary and King Lear

The King and the Adulteress

Book Pages: 184 Illustrations: Published: March 1998

Author: Roberto Speziale-Bagliacca

Editor: Colin Rice

Translator: Aina Pavolini Taylor

Contributor: Frank Kermode

Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism, Theory and Philosophy > Psychoanalytic Theory

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.


The King and the Adultress is a well researched, well written and fascinating study. . . . Not only does [Speziale-Bagliacca] question conventional interpretations, but he turns them on their ear. His thesis is plausible, well defended, and actually, so obvious and convincing that one wonders why no one had thought of it before; it is certain to influence future readings of Madame Bovary and King Lear. — L. Suzanne Hayman , Dalhousie French Studies

"A remarkable study of King Lear . . . an extremely interesting and, I think, tenable thesis . . . at least as tenable as Ernest Jones’s study of Hamlet’s oedipal fixation." — Anthony Burgess

"I was truly fascinated by this book, which introduces a totally unexpected, though perfectly plausible and, in a sense, obvious, reading of Madame Bovary. From now on, it will be impossible to ignore this work whenever a study of Flaubert’s novel is undertaken." — Jean-Pierre Richard

praise for the Italian edition:
"I read this book with passion from beginning to end." — Pierre Bourdieu


Availability: In stock
Price: $54.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Roberto Speziale-Bagliacca is a psychoanalyst and Professor of Psychotherapy at the Medical School of the University of Genova. He is the author of numerous works including On the Shoulders of Freud.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Foreword / Frank Kermode vii

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xv

Charbovari: An Essay on Madame Bovary 1

Not Merely an Imbecile 1

But He Is Fast Asleep! 13

The Art of Irritating 18

How to Avoid Gangrene 26

Blindness 39

A Matter of Fate 46

A Wholly Fictitious Story 54

Les Imbéciles! 59

Insatiability 64

Justin and Justine 67

Oedipus and Orestes 72

The Barbarous Scythian: An Essay on King Lear 81

Neither Letters nor Words 81

Commonplaces 82

Cordelia the Favorite 84

The Fool and Melancholy 93

The Fool's Techniques 98

The Coxcomb 101

The Barbarous Scythian 106

The Egg and the Two Crowns 108

Noble Kent 112

Dissonance 122

The Two Monsters of Ingratitute 124

Text or Performance? 129

The Bastard 133

Notes 137

Index 159
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2075-3
Publicity material