Shop  |  Calendar  |  Join  |  Buy Tickets  |  Hamnet  |  Site Rental  |  Press Room  
About UsWhat's OnUse the CollectionDiscover ShakespeareTeach & LearnFolger InstituteSupport Us
• Shakespeare Quarterly

   Sign up for E-news!
   Printer Friendly

Defying the Stars: Tragic Love as the Struggle for Freedom in Romeo and Juliet


This essay aims to replace our paradigmatic interpretation of Romeo and Juliet with an understanding of love as the struggle for freedom, and to present Shakespeare’s drama as a vision of our “tragic” subjectivity. Kottman argues that, in order to plausibly account for the play’s outcome and the lovers’ own actions, we must first depart from our paradigmatic interpretation of the myth, which sees a dialectical tension between the lovers’ desires and the demands of society or nature. Contesting the notion that modern subjectivity is rooted in a conflict between individual desires and the reigning demands of family, civic, and social norms shaping those desires, he contends that Shakespeare’s play shows how Romeo and Juliet become who they are through acts of mutual self-recognition that mute such conflicts. The tragic core of our self-realization springs not from our personal struggles with external social or natural necessities but from the realization that nothing, not even mortality, separates or individuates us absolutely. Romeo and Juliet claim their lives as their own because they actualize their separateness for themselves, through one another. Their love affair is not the story of two individuals whose desire to be together is thwarted by “a greater power than we can contradict” (5.3.153). It is the story of two individuals who actively claim their individuation in the only way that they can—through one another. Their separateness is not an imposed, external necessity, but the operation of their freedom and self-realization. On this, they will stake their lives.

Bookmark and Share   
     Copyright & Policies   |   Sitemap   |   Contact Us   |   About This Site
201 East Capitol Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Get directions »

Federal Tax ID #04-2103542
PublicReading Room
10am to 5pm, Monday through Saturday8:45am to 4:45pm, Monday through Friday
12pm to 5pm, Sunday9am to noon and 1pm to 4:30pm, Saturday
Main: 202 544 4600
Box Office: 202 544 7077
Fax: 202 544 4623