REVIEW
Kristeva, Julia. "Romeo and Juliet: Love-Hatred in
the Couple." Tales of Love. Trans. Leon S. Roudiez. Columbia UP, 1987. 209-233. Rptd. in Shakespearean Tragedy. Ed. John Drakakis. New York: Longman, 1992. 296-315.

Thesis: Kristeva uses Romeo and Juliet as an illustration of her psychoanalytic theories. The general idea seems to be that love is really hate, that every marriage is an unsatisfactory substitute for union with the Mother, and that Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet in order to deny these "facts" of his psyche.

A Scene from Kristeva's Fantasyland:

If there is romance, and it is there indeed, it is guaranteed by secrecy and sanctioned by brevity. Let us imagine Romeo and Juliet liberated, living according to different customs, little concerned over the animosity between their kin -- and surviving. Or what if, within the same Shakespearean framework, a mediocre dramatist made them survive; Friar John, for instance, might have been able to warn Romeo in time about that most peculiar sleep Friar Laurence induced in Juliet, and the beautiful bride might have awakened in Romeo's arms. What if they had escaped their persecutors, and once the clans' hatred had been appeased they experienced the normal existence of married couples. There would then only be two borderline situations, with obvious combinations and variations possible between the two. Either time's alchemy transforms the criminal, secret passion of the outlaw lovers into the banal, humdrum, lackluster lassitude of a tired and cynical collusion: that is the normal marriage. Or else the married couple continues to be a passionate couple, but covering the entire gamut of sadomasochism that the two partners already heralded in the yet relatively quiet version of the Shakespearean text. Each acting out both sexes in turn they thus create a foursome that feeds on itself through repeated aggression and merging, castration and gratification, resurrection and death. And who, at passionate moments, have recourse to stimulants -- temporary partners, sincerely loved but victims still, whom the monstrous couple grinds in its passion of faithfulness to itself, supporting itself by means of its unfaithfulness to others.   (302-303).

Bottom Line: Psychobabble.


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   Author: Philip Weller
   Last Modified: 2 April 2002