Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Marguerite Tassi

Committee Members

Susan Honeyman, Krista Forrest, Amanda Sladek




In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet is a passionate figure who expresses her “willingness to surrender the conscious self to the impersonal forces that stir within it . . . [as] a kind of ontological trust in sexual experience and the world which opens with its relinquishments” (Snow 175). Juliet’s resistance of Verona’s patriarchal system is fueled by her rebellious desire for selfhood which enmeshes erotic and physical death. She violently emerges from childhood to womanhood. My research applies Julia Kristeva’s psychoanalytic and feminist theories of abjection and “malady of ideality.” Kristeva situates the maternal figure as the site of desire and death where the mother must be replaced with a proper sexual love object. This adolescent process of transference is explained by Dorothy Tennov’s theory of limerence. Once Juliet’s passion is awakened, she becomes the most dangerous character of the play. Juliet’s desire for separation and selfhood manifests in a preoccupation with Romeo’s death which marks her as a feminine monstrosity. In their adolescence, “passion lends them power” (Prologue.13) to temporarily subvert their external realities. Examining their spatialized gendered inversions reveals the power of their private world which inspires them to “take their lives” (Prologue.6) when external realities impose. I conclude by examining western popular culture representations of Juliet by Franco Zeffirelli (1968), Baz Luhrmann (1996), and Simon Goodwin (2021). These films present a Juliet far from Shakespeare’s character. Where Verona memorializes Juliet within a golden statue, examining other modern experiences of Juliet outside the bounds of Shakespeare’s play finds a similar golden warning against female rebellion. The realization of her as the constellation of Shakespeare’s play memorializes her resistance to Verona’s system and locates her power, not within the subterranean space of the earth, but within what I call a “meta-maternal” sphere of the stars.



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