Noonday Demon -or- Who Will Write the History of Depression?

To Be or Not to Be? -or- Literary Pleasures of Communicating

Shakespeare's "Hamlet" rhetorically asks; "To be, or not to be, that is the question", which is the perennial existential question of the melancholic who internally poetically struggles with the psychological conflicts of life and death. Much of this dramatic conflict is found in Hamlet's soliloquy where the "mise en scene" of his inner thoughts, motives, unconscious mind's desires  and "momento mori" are revealed to the audience. Hamlet finds himself in a psychological "double bind", where he feels there is no exit from depression, death and tragedy. 

In "Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression" by Andrew Solomon tells the reader that grief and depression; "can only be described in metaphor and allegory." Solomon's metaphor of the "noonday demon" is taken from Biblical Psalm 91:6. Far from being a Biblical interpretation of depression, Solomon's own soliloquy, much like Hamlet's reveals his own personal struggles with understanding the nature of chronic grief to his readers. Asked whether the writing the book was cathartic, he responds; "It was not." Solomon does state; "I hope it will be clear that the primary pleasure of this book is a literary pleasure of communication rather than the therapeutic release of self-expression." 

The section below is written in a similar hope, to enlighten from a psychodynamic perspective, those millions who are suffering from depression. Dreams provide an entrance, a door, a window to see and begin to understand the nature of the history of depression, and perhaps a way to finally find an exit from it. 

Anatomy of Melancholia: An Atlas of Weltschmerz in the Global Village 

Robert Burton's "Anatomy of Melancholia" served as an in-depth 17th century medical, philosophical and literary discussion of what is now known as "clinical depression". The dream interpretations below discuss the variety of aspects of melancholia and what Jean Paul called "Weltschmerz" (world weariness), a sadness when thinking about the social evils in the world. Many people living in the global village today, live in cruel social environments that closely resembles Harlow's "pit of despair".

Here are some of the dreams that speak of the psycho-dramatic theatre of cruelty (read interpretation "Theatre of Cruelty"), grief, sadness, and depression;  


Further Reading: 

  • Marjorie B. Garber, "The Dream in Shakespeare: From Metaphor to Metamorphosis"
  • Julia Kristeva, "Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia"


All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.