Copyright (c) 1999 University of Wisconsin Law School
Wisconsin Law Review
ARTICLE: THE MIDAS TOUCH: THE LETHAL EFFECT OF WEALTH MAXIMIZATION
1999 Wis. L. Rev. 687
Jeanne L. Schroeder *
I. Introduction: The Golden Touch
In The Metamorphoses, 1 Ovid related two myths about King Midas that on first reading seem quite diverse. Lacanian psychoanalysis explains their hidden connection.
The first myth is Midas Aureus - literally Golden Midas, but more commonly known as the Golden or Midas Touch. This tale is so familiar that it has led to a common English expression. As is so often the case, however, the cliche represses the myth's original, and true, meaning. When someone is said to have "the Midas touch," we intend to express admiration for or envy of the person who seemingly profits through an uncanny combination of business acumen and good luck. Yet according to Ovid, no man was ever so foolish and unfortunate as poor Midas.
Midas was king of Phrygia. One day he came upon an obese satyr incapacitated by alcohol. Midas brought the satyr home to the royal palace where he "recuperated" by spending several more days in drunken revels, amusing the king with fantastic anecdotes about a continent across the Atlantic Ocean "where splendid cities abound ... [with] a remarkable legal system." 2 It turned out that the satyr was none other than Silenus - Falstaff to Dionysus's Prince Hal. In gratitude for the king's hospitality toward his old friend, Dionysus, god of wine and ecstasy, granted Midas one wish. 3
His avarice having been whetted by Silenus's tales, Midas asked that everything he touched be turned to gold. Dionysus pleaded with Midas to reconsider his ...
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