Dramaturgies of Reciprocity in Romeo and Juliet

Par Jonas Kellermann
Publication en ligne le 08 décembre 2019

Résumé

In his ground-breaking essay “Defying the Stars: Tragic Love as the Struggle for Freedom in Romeo and Juliet” (2012), Paul A. Kottman has challenged traditional readings of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy as a pathetic story of two passive victims whose love is thwarted by overwhelming external forces. Rather, Kottman contends, the protagonists seek freedom by mutually recognising themselves as lover and beloved and eventually even deconstructing mortality as the ultimate horizon of human liberty. Kottman’s argument compliments Laurie Maguire’s reading of Romeo and Juliet as a tragedy of names, in which the lovers constitute their relationship through “acts of linguistic reciprocity” and manifest their love by learning to speak their beloved’s metaphorical language. While the duological construction of the protagonists’ relationship is indelibly tied to Shakespeare’s poeticized language, the play’s emphasis on mutuality and reciprocity as key dramaturgical factors renders the story particularly adaptable for art forms beyond that of spoken drama. This article will therefore argue that Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is marked by a dramaturgy of reciprocity which makes it well suited for musical and choreographical adaptation. It will offer close readings of the aubade in 3.5 of Shakespeare’s play, the Scène d’amour in Hector Berlioz’s dramatic symphony Roméo et Juliette, and Sasha Waltz’s balletic interpretation of the Berlioz piece as a Pas de deux in her 2007 production with the Paris Opéra Ballet. The article will trace the creation and re-creation of a dramaturgy of reciprocity across three different art forms, proposing that while each case interprets the story using the particular aesthetics of the respective medium, their totality suggests a transverbal dramaturgical pattern beyond Shakespeare’s language – a dramaturgy which forms a crucial element of the iconicity of Romeo and Juliet as the quintessential amorous pairing in Western culture.

Dans son article novateur intitulé “Defying the Stars : Tragic Love as the Struggle for Freedom in Romeo and Juliet” (2012), Paul A. Kottman récuse les interprétations traditionnelles qui font de la tragédie romantique shakespearienne une histoire déchirante entre deux victimes passives dont l’amour est contrarié par des forces extérieures dominantes. Paul Kottman, lui, affirme que les protagonistes recherchent la liberté en se reconnaissant mutuellement comme amant et aimé, et finissent par même déconstruire la mortalité qui devient l’horizon ultime de la liberté humaine. L’argument de Paul Kottman rend hommage à l’interprétation de Laurie Maguire qui considère Romeo and Juliet comme une tragédie de noms dans laquelle les amants forgent leur relation par « des actes de réciprocité linguistique » et manifestent leur amour en apprenant à parler le langage métaphorique de l’être aimé. Alors que la construction duologique de leur relation est liée intrinsèquement à la langue poétisée de Shakespeare, l’importance que la pièce accorde à la mutualité et à la réciprocité considérés comme des facteurs dramaturgiques majeurs rend l’histoire particulièrement adaptable à des formes artistiques qui sont au-delà du théâtre parlé. Ainsi, cet article considère que la pièce de Shakespeare se caractérise par une dramaturgie de la réciprocité qui la rend parfaitement adaptée à une interprétation musicale et chorégraphique. On procèdera à une analyse détaillée de trois moments de genre différents : l’aubade de la scène 5 de l’Acte III de la pièce de Shakespeare, la scène d’amour de la symphonie dramatique d’Hector Berlioz, Roméo et Juliette et, enfin, le ballet de Sasha Waltz qui fait de la musique de Berlioz un pas de deux qu’elle créa avec le corps des ballets de l’Opéra de Paris en 2007. Cet article suivra la création et la re-création d’une dramaturgie de la réciprocité à travers trois formes artistiques différentes, et avancera l’idée que, tandis que chaque exemple interprète l’intrigue dramatique en utilisant l’esthétique inhérente au médium donné, leur totalité suggère un schéma dramaturgique transverbal au-delà de la langue shakespearienne – dramaturgie qui compose un élément essentiel de l’iconicité de Romeo et de Juliet qui forment le couple amoureux exemplaire de la culture occidentale.

Mots-Clés

Texte intégral

1When Romeo, still euphoric and love-drunk from his nightly conversation with Juliet, confesses his new-found feelings for the Capulet heiress to Friar Laurence and urges him to wed the two of them, the Friar finds that exuberant behaviour all too familiar. Accordingly, he chides Romeo for moving on from his previous infatuation with Rosaline so quickly, leaving unsaid that the same fate might befall Juliet. Romeo, unsurprisingly, vehemently opposes the Friar’s judgement and points out a key difference between his superficial “doting” for Rosaline and his now genuinely heart-felt loving for Juliet:

I pray thee, chide me not. Her I love now
Doth grace for grace and love for love allow;
The other did not so. (2.2.85-87)
1

2Reciprocity is proposed as one of the distinguishing factors of the amorous relationship between Romeo and Juliet. Whereas Rosaline never appears as a speaking role in Shakespeare’ text and is thus unable to reciprocate Romeo’s advances in any way, Juliet in their very first encounter in the pilgrim sonnet wilfully engages Romeo in a playful exchange of hands and metaphors that quickly intensifies into a meeting of lips in the kiss that concludes the sonnet.

Romeo O then dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
Juliet Saints do not move, though grant for prayer’s sake.
Romeo Then move not while my prayer’s effect I take.
He kisses her (1.4.216-219).

3From this first encounter, each subsequent meeting of the lovers furthers the notion that their amorous relationship is founded upon poetic and affective reciprocity – a tender negotiation between the self and the other that relies on mutuality and equality, rather than an (attempted) imposing of verbal and social dominance over the other. As a differentiating quality of the play’s main couple from Romeo’s earlier infatuation, the dramaturgical function of reciprocity in Romeo and Juliet extends far beyond the somewhat superficial observation that “Juliet is different from Rosaline only in saying ‘yes’ rather than ‘no’”.2 Instead, Shakespeare’s positioning of reciprocity as the affective core of the amorous coupling of Romeo and Juliet allows for what Paul Kottman has described as their mutual self-recognition as lover and beloved.3 This form of reciprocal recognition enables the lovers to gain freedom and agency in spite of the strictures of their social environment through their amorous commitment – an aspect which, I would argue, has contributed considerably to the myth of the star-crossed lovers and the Romanticist notion of love transcending the earthly boundaries of the here and now. This essay will therefore focus on Shakespeare’s dramaturgical conception of reciprocity with regards to the protagonists’ amorous relationship in Romeo and Juliet, making two broader arguments in the process. The first, drawing on the insightful readings by Paul Kottman as well as Laurie Maguire and David Schalkwyk, is that love is conceived of as a form of poetic reciprocity between lover and beloved. The second is that this poetic, i.e. linguistic, conceptualization of love makes the play paradoxically suitable for adaptations into non-verbal art forms, such as instrumental music or dance. This second claim will be substantiated by discussions of two renditions of the story that both emphasise the inherent linguistic reciprocity of the Shakespearean version in their generically particular, non-verbal ways: the Scène d’amour in Hector Berlioz’s dramatic symphony Roméo et Juliette (1839) as a dialogical synthesis of two musical gestures, and Sasha Waltz’s production of the Berlioz symphony with the Ballet de l’Opéra national de Paris (2007), specifically the lovers’ Pas de deux as a contact dance that relies on the mutual exchange and support of movement. Surveying the dramatization of love across three different art forms, amorous reciprocity will be read as both linguistically founded and simultaneously surpassing the boundaries of verbal language. It is this ‘trans-verbal’ and ‘trans-generic’ dramaturgic potentiality that marks a crucial element of the iconicity of Romeo and Juliet as the quintessential amorous pairing in Western culture.

4Considering the iconic standing of Romeo and Juliet as a dramatization of Romantic love,4 it is striking just how little time the protagonists actually are together on stage. Excluding the tomb scene – in which Romeo famously dies before Juliet regains consciousness – the two lovers only share a total of four scenes; out of those, only three feature the two in conversation with one another and without any witnesses overhearing the contents thereof: the pilgrim sonnet (1.4), the balcony scene (2.1), and the aubade (3.5). Concerning Shakespeare’s conceptualization of reciprocity, one can detect among these dialogues a gradual increase of the degree to which love is performatively constructed as a reciprocal exchange of speech acts. The sonnet in 1.4 marks the starting point in that trajectory as it is the first instance of the lovers finding their own voices through the voice of their respective interlocutor. Not only do they appropriate each other’s rhyme schemes in the structural composition of the sonnet, but they also establish a metaphorical connection between themselves that relies on the duality between the worshiper and the worshipped. Romeo becomes a pilgrim because he has a saint, Juliet, to worship. Juliet likewise becomes a saint because she is worshipped as such by a pilgrim, Romeo, to whom she eventually grants the fulfilment of his prayer, the kiss. The respective individualities of the two lovers are thus constructed through their metaphoric and quasi-religious reciprocity.

5This interplay of rhymes and metaphors is expanded in the balcony scene into a broader stylistic exchange between Juliet’s pragmatism and Romeo’s Petrarchan exuberance, allowing both characters to transfer some of their respective poetic features onto their beloved’s language. Romeo begins to gradually shed his reliance on Petrarchan conceits since he is offered an alternative point of view by Juliet. The linguistic disparities between the lovers are a foundation of, not an impediment to their relationship since they “confirm both that Romeo has something to learn about language from Juliet, and that he can go beyond just the form of love”.5 Likewise, Juliet grows more metaphorically daring and exuberant as the dialogue progresses, employing images that match Romeo’s earlier excessiveness.

My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite. (2.1.176-178)

6Corresponding to Juliet’s increasing use of metaphor, Romeo adjusts himself to her more pragmatic tones, mirroring the grammatical and lexical simplicity of her earlier speech acts.

Romeo O wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?
Juliet What satisfaction canst though have tonight?
Romeo Th’exchange of thy love’s faithful vow for mine.
Juliet I gave thee mine before thou didst request it:
And yet I would it were to give again.
Romeo Wouldst thou withdraw it? For what purpose, love?
Juliet But to be frank and give it thee again, (2.1.168-174)

7His tone grows “simple, unpretentious, and has the ring of truthfulness” and thus “establishes the spirit of mutuality that has been absent from their interaction in the orchard so far”.6 Fuelled by the mutual linguistically facilitated recognition that they will not be rejected by their respective beloved, the lovers overcome the poetic distance between their different voices through stylistic negotiation.

8The lovers’ growing poetic reciprocity culminates in the dawn song, or aubade, that they perform the morning after their wedding night in 3.5. The duet consists of thirty-six lines split into five stanzas, delivered by the lovers in alternation, and a concluding single line spoken by Romeo. The focal point is the question of whether morning has arrived and the by now exiled Romeo has thus to leave for Mantua. Therefore, the aubade is not only divided structurally by having two speakers, but also thematically by having one speaker arguing the case for night and the other for day. Throughout this argumentative exchange – whether in acceptance or defiance of reality – both speakers adhere to the same contradictory images which they fluently interchange between their respective stanzas: nightingale and lark, night and day, darkness and light, moon and sun. Laurie Maguire has read this mutual re-appropriation of images not only as an exchange of arguments, but as an exchange of and mediation between altogether different metaphoric languages:

Romeo and Juliet agree to speak each other’s language. Although Romeo knows it is the lark that sings, he is ‘content’ to change languages, identifying the bird as the nightingale, whereupon Juliet reciprocally adopts her husband’s language. As each cedes to the other, they provide an example of linguistic reciprocity. Thus the motif that began as nominalism (or anti-nominalism) in the garden scene (2.1) of Romeo and Juliet develops into something closer to foreign-language leaming or translation in 3.5.7

9Shakespeare thus presents Romeo and Juliet as a metaphorically bilingual couple whose communication relies on linguistic reciprocity, specifically the mutual open-mindedness to embrace the linguistic otherness of the beloved and the willingness to learn this foreign language for oneself. The lovers may speak different languages, and yet still they partake in the same amorous discourse through their linguistic reciprocity. One may therefore add to Bridget Escolme’s assertion that “love is un-selfish because it undoes the self”8 that love is un-selfish because it undoes the self for the sake of the other. The aubade shows Romeo and Juliet as willing to undo themselves linguistically, abandoning however briefly their own metaphoric language to take up the language of the beloved as an act of love. If “to speak is to feel and to master feeling” as Gary Taylor has subsumed,9 then to assimilate the language of the beloved also means to feel and master the feelings of the other and to assimilate their feelings into one’s own affective repertoire. The act of assimilation – first of Juliet’s initial images into Romeo’s, and then of Romeo’s initial images into Juliet’s – becomes an instance of empathising with the respective other linguistically. Juliet’s feelings become Romeo’s, just as her language also becomes his, and vice versa. The reciprocal assimilation of amorous language thus becomes a poetic means of recognizing the other as one’s beloved, affirming Paul Kottman’s reading of Romeo and Juliet as “the story of two individuals who actively claim their separate individuality, their own freedom, in the only way they can – through one another”.10

10The aubade is particularly significant for this development as it showcases that the lovers’ freedom is built upon the agency to part from the beloved irrespective of external circumstances. As Paul Kottman notes, “there is no resigned tearful acceptance of the necessity of saying goodbye” at the beginning of the scene but instead “a bald-faced denial of the external demands that they supposedly face”. Day becomes night, the lark becomes the nightingale, and the rising sun becomes a meteor across the night sky. Thus, the lovers do not have to part unless by their own free choice. If they are to be discovered and Romeo put to death, it is only because they wilfully allow themselves to be discovered. The reality which the lovers come to face is not that of Romeo’s banishment which had devastated them separately a few scenes earlier, but the realization “that no external power separates them absolutely” if they do not allow that power to do so.11 It is this self-assumed agency to act by their own free choice – even to the extent of taking leave from their beloved – which individuates them as free subjects and which the lovers only achieve through their mutually recognized relationship. Therefore, their separation does not deconstruct, but in fact further and solidify their amorous connectedness as lover and beloved.

The relationship is not over, but the lovers are coming to grips with their freedom with one another as their capacity for active separation, with the fact that claiming this separateness, even in its sorrowful effects, is the essential happiness of their individual lives. Neither wants the other to truly die; Juliet is not saying that she wants “to see Romeo dead in the bottom of a tomb.” Romeo’s “real” death would indeed be incompatible with the happiness of her newfound freedom. Rather, she expresses something of the inverse; because Romeo did not have to die to accomplish their separation — as in the traditional marriage vow, “until death do us part” — they can claim the separation, this little death, as their own doing.12

11Separation becomes something that is not forced upon them by the unyielding dominance of mortality, but something which they actively choose through an agency granted to them by their very own amorous mutuality. Reciprocity thus functions as the underlying dramaturgical thread of the titular romance in Romeo and Juliet, from its tender beginnings in the pilgrim sonnet as a “dialogue of embodied and requited love that moves beyond Petrarchan desire”13 to the most radical enactment of that dialogue in the mutual suicides at the end.

12While the dramaturgical emphasis on reciprocity in Romeo and Juliet mainly manifests itself in the linguistic exchanges of the lovers’ speech acts, this emphasis nevertheless also suggests a gestural trajectory that exceeds the verbal dimensions of spoken drama. This dramaturgical potential is evidenced by renditions of the story in art forms that function primarily without spoken word. One such example is Hector Berlioz’s dramatic symphony Roméo et Juliette (1839), a generically hybridized 7-movement mixture of opera and symphony. Heavily inspired by Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (1824), the first major case at the time of a symphony to feature choral elements, the work can be described as “a symphony in F major embedded within an opera in B minor/major”.14 Significantly, the lovers themselves do not appear as vocal parts, but are depicted instrumentally, i.e. non-verbally, by the orchestra – a creative decision that Berlioz justified with what he considered to be the expressive limitations and inadequacy of the “sung word” to represent the sublimity of the lovers’ relationship.15 Berlioz’s most overt attempt at representing that sublimity is the instrumental Scène d’amour in the third movement, the structural and emotional centrepiece of the score which according to Julian Rushton “eludes analytical categories more completely than anything Berlioz wrote”.16 While the published score denotes the piece para-textually as a musical adaptation of the balcony scene – by far the longest of the lovers’ dialogues in the Shakespearean text – Daniel Albright has argued that it can also be interpreted as a programmatically abstract amalgamation of all love duets in the Shakespearean play into one instrumental piece.17 Such an approach offers the advantage of reading the Scène within its programmatic context without having to identify strict musical-dramatic correlations between Shakespeare and Berlioz of the kind that Ian Kemp has sought.18 Instead, this approach acknowledges that the movement translates “the ‘idea of dialogue’ from the verbal into the musical medium through a structural equivalence” in which “[t]he resemblance does not concern the content of ideas (or the subjects of conversation) of the dialogue”, or, more blatantly put, ‘who says what’, but instead “manifests itself in the ‘dialogue style’ of communication”.19 It is this idea of dialogue in which the poetic reciprocity of Shakespeare’s lovers reverberates musically.

13Despite the aforementioned structural elusiveness of the Scène d’amour, the piece can generally be subdivided into three main parts: a first adagio section (mm.124-180), an allegro agiato section (mm. 181-242), and a second adagio section (mm. 243-389).20 Thematically, the Scène is informed by “the metamorphosis of a first idea into a second, and a first and second into a third”.21 A string theme is introduced in mm. 146-155 and repeated shortly afterwards in mm. 155-171, before the appearance of a woodwind theme in mm. 250-273. Material of both themes is then merged into a combined third theme, the modulation of which will then dominate the remainder of the Scène’s musical discourse. As Stephen Rodgers has observed, “[t]he gradual materialization of the love theme and its extended repetition and elaboration are the central actions of the movement”.22 While I have no intention of refuting this reading, I argue that it can be expanded even further by reconsidering the Scène in light of the reciprocal dramaturgy of Shakespeare’s play. The first step therein is to read the respective themes as musical gestures along the lines of musicologist Robert Hatten. He defines musical gesture as “movement (implied, virtual, actualized) interpretable as a sign, whether intentional or not” which “communicates information about the gesturer (or character, or persona the gesturer is impersonating or embodying)”. They are further “grounded in human affect and its communication – they are not merely the physical actions involved in producing a sound or series of sounds from a notated score, but the characteristic shaping that give those sounds expressive meaning”.23 Concerning Roméo et Juliette, there are several contexts, both intra- and extra-textual, that make the first two main themes in the Scène interpretable as signs. The first theme, for example, is introduced in part in the Prologue in mm. 91-96, accompanied by the words “Roméo, palpitant d’une joie inquiète / Se découvre à Juliette / Et de son cœur les feux éclatent à leur tour” – ‘Romeo, trembling with anxious joy, reveals himself to Juliet, and the ardour of his heart blazes in its turn’.24 Its instrumental reprisal and elaboration in the Scène thus functions as a “speaking melody” – an instance “when a musical phrase associated with certain words is used motivically [sic], but without the words being either uttered or sung”.25 The reprisal thus echoes back to the original programmatic meaning of the theme – Romeo confessing his love to Juliet – while simultaneously signalling emancipation from that meaning. “The notion of love has become a generalized musical topic”, as that notion no longer appears tied to verbal meaning or any one character.26 Likewise, the introduction of the second theme by the flutes and English horns, a woodwind instrument belonging to the oboe family, complies with 19th century ideas concerning the gendered connotations of woodwind instruments as feminine – a convention Berlioz reified himself five years after Roméo et Juliette in his Treatise on Instrumentation.27 In light of Berlioz’s entitling of the movement as a “scene”, thus as a performative interaction between different characters, it is not unreasonable to interpret the second theme as a musical gesture evocative of Juliet responding to the preceding gesture evocative of Romeo, both of them being positioned as dialogical to one another:

Dialogical gestures are those that appear to respond to each other, along the lines of a conversation among equals (Haydn quartets), a dialectical opposition of themes, or a textural opposition (concertato effects). […] In dialogical gestures part of the thematic signification emerges from the dramatic role played by the gesture.28

14The clearest sign of the dialogical connectedness of the two gestures can be found in their merging into the combined theme three – what Hatten in his model refers to as the synthesis or troping of gestures.29 This synthesis is significant not only for providing a degree of structural development and closure to the thematic trajectory of the Scène as a whole. More specifically, it allows Berlioz to enact Shakespeare’s concept of poetic reciprocity in non-verbal, musical terms. In the combined theme three, the preceding two gestures are both synthesized and individuated at the same time; the individual materials that Berlioz imports from them are still discernible – with mm. 274-276 being taken from theme two, and mm. 277-280 from theme one – yet the remainder of the movement makes it irrevocably clear that they now function as a union. More abstractly, the individual gestures remain themselves, while at the same time becoming a part of something greater than themselves – in unison with the other. In merging with the other, the musical gestures adopt material from their respective other, just like Shakespeare’s lovers increasingly take on the poetic qualities of the beloved in their dialogues. Berlioz thus manages to solidify the connotation of Romeo and Juliet as a mythical amorous couple whose relationship is constituted by reciprocity and mutuality, without resorting to the verbal medium that originated that connotation in the first place.

15Even though Romeo and Juliet do not appear as singing roles in Berlioz’s dramatic symphony as afore mentioned, the thematic trajectory in the Scène d’amour is nevertheless implicit of two aesthetic entities in gestural and ontological dialogue with one another. While Berlioz did not compose Roméo et Juliette with the intention of balletic adaptation, the piece has received several choreographic interpretations over the years, including ones by Maurice Béjart (1966) and Thierry Malandain (2010). In 2007, German choreographer Sasha Waltz staged a large-scale co-production of Roméo et Juliette with the Paris Opera and Paris Opera Ballet at Opéra Bastille. The production was noteworthy both for its sheer size – bringing together over a hundred performers on stage – and its historical significance – it was the first ever production of the dramatic symphony in the repertoire of the world’s oldest ballet company, as well as only their third choreography by a German woman. For the present purposes, the focus will be on the stylistic idiosyncrasy of the production as a blending of classically balletic formulae and more contemporary styles, specifically the staging of the Scène d’amour as a post-modern Pas de deux to visualize the dialogical closeness of the two lovers.

16The Pas de deux is one of many significant inheritances from the emergence of the Romantic throughout the 19th century. Informed by the highly influential works of Marius Petipa, it became established as the conventional form of male-female duets in story ballets. Following Marius Petipa, the classic Pas de deux consists of a standardized structure:

[T]he opening adagio for the ballerina and her partner is followed by variations (solo) for each dancer. The two dancers again join in the concluding coda, which is usually a display of pyrotechnics. The ballerina is invariably the focal point of the pas de deux, and the male dancer’s function is chiefly to support her and display her beauty.30

17While Sasha Waltz’s Roméo et Juliette generally stages the Scène d’amour as a Pas de deux between the lovers, it avoids the structural segmentation of the classical form, and instead allows the two characters to be physical in contact with one another from the very beginning. Furthermore, Sasha Waltz – a contemporary choreographer who usually works with her own Berlin-based company Sasha Waltz & Guests – infuses the Pas de deux form with decidedly non-classical material, borrowing heavily from contact improvisation, a dance form which emerged in the US during the 1970s as part of the post-modern dance movement. Contact Improvisation (CI) abolished many principles of classical ballet and the classical Pas de deux, such as the aesthetic ideals of weightlessness and grace, the choreographical emphasis on the dancers’ extremities, and the gendered differentiation between male and female dancers, with the latter usually carried and supported by the former. Instead, CI was conceived of as a freely improvised, physical dialogue between two equal partners who mutually support one another, rather than one supporting or dominating the other:

Contact involves two partners: the idea is to move continually supporting one another, always keeping a point or a plane of contact. The movement is invented, proposed, given and received out of broad waves of mutual support in an improvisation where the subject gives over all initiative to her/his own weight shifts in a gravitational touching of the other’s body.31

18Given this conception, Contact Improvisers are required to display a heightened sense of empathy towards their partner, quite literally ‘feeling into’ the other’s body in their ongoing exchange of physical impulses. Touch thus functions as both “a form of physical communication” and “a window into one’s partner’s physical experience”.32

19Sasha Waltz, who was herself trained in CI early on in her career and has cited the form as one of the defining influences on her oeuvre since,33 employs the principles of CI, particularly the ongoing, reciprocal flow of weight between two partners, to create a choreographical code of the amorous relationship between Romeo and Juliet. On the one side, this code is still rooted in the domain of classical ballet. The Scène is choreographed, rather than improvised; it follows Shakespeare’s narrative, as opposed to the usually plotless CI; and in the majority of lifts, it is the man lifting the woman, with the two being visually gendered – Romeo is wearing pants, Juliet is wearing a dress. Nonetheless, several stylist remnants of CI are clearly discernible in the Scène d’amour. For one, Romeo and Juliet are barefoot, rather than wearing slippers or pointe shoes. Throughout the dance, they are rarely out of contact with one another, but instead seem to yearn for the other’s corporal presence and proximity. Most importantly, their movements, while not improvised, nevertheless emphasise the dancers’ torsos, rather than their extremities, and signal visually that their physical dialogue is founded upon the reciprocal giving and receiving of weight between oneself and the other, as can be seen in the photo below.

Image 10000201000003B100000276FFBA6D18887EE9CD.png

Ludmila Pagliero (Juliette) and Germain Louvet (Roméo) in Sasha Waltz’s Roméo et Juliette (2018)

© Photography by Ann Roy

20The photo shows Ludmila Pagliero and Germain Louvet, etoiles at the Paris Opera Ballet who performed the title roles in the 2018 revivals of Sasha Waltz’s Roméo et Juliette at Opéra Bastille and Deutsche Oper Berlin. It depicts a movement repeated a few times throughout the Scène d’amour, namely Juliet leaning backwards into Romeo’s chest. While the movement marks a variation of the “swoon” – a choreographical hallmark as a representation of love in the balletic history of Romeo and Juliet34 – it also exemplifies Sasha Waltz’s references to CI and its internal focus on weight and momentum to visualize the characters’ amorous intimacy and reciprocity in non-verbal means. Juliet is transferring her body weight to Romeo’s, who in return is offering up his own body mass to the backward-leaning Juliet as physical support and anchor point. The two bodies communicate with one another by giving their own weight and receiving the other’s weight – a communication that is enabled and governed by their physical contact in their respective torso regions. Juliet has to sense physically that Romeo is there to receive her before she can lean back without any risk of falling with no support, and accept and recognize his body by letting her be received by him. Waltz’s choreography thus embodies non-verbally what David Schalkwyk in his recent study of love and language in Shakespearean drama has described as “a dialogical interplay of […] sustained action rather than mere affective intensity”.35 In fact, the reciprocal exchange of body weight as a sustained choreographical action becomes a means to express the very affective intensity between the two lovers as two dancing bodies that move in constant proximity to and support of and with the other.

21Brining the different analyses together, all three renditions of the Romeo and Juliet narrative discussed in this article, Shakespeare’s, Berlioz’s, and Waltz’s, offer different, yet interconnected facets of love as a form of reciprocal dialogism. Shakespeare presents the protagonists’ process of falling in love with one another as a reciprocal assimilation of the other’s language; Berlioz musicalizes love as the dialogical synthesis of two musical gestures into one; and lastly, Waltz choreographs love as a tender and intimate exchange of body weight through physical contact between two dancers. While all three cases obviously operate within the boundaries of three vastly different art forms, they are still remarkably similar in that they all create artistic representations of what Villém Flusser has described as the gesture of loving: “the complete absorption in the other without loss of the self, […] the tipping over into another which makes ‘I’ and ‘you’ into ‘we’”.36 All three renditions conceive love as a dialogical reciprocity between two aesthetic entities that is paradoxically marked by inseparability and separateness. The self enters an amorous union with the other to form something that one could not have created alone – a metaphorical discourse, a synthesized gesture, a choreographic image – while still maintaining one’s individual separateness from the other. As a “paradox of unity and separateness”,37 contact dance, or more abstractly even dance in general, may be the most explicit in visualizing this dynamic. Regardless of the choreographic image being created in a Pas de deux, it is always two separate – although in the present case intensely connected – bodies bringing forth that image, not just one. Still, this paradox is apparent in all three instances, verbal and non-verbal. Perhaps it is this paradox that at least partly explains the ongoing appeal of Romeo and Juliet, even for modern audiences, as iconic representations of Romantic love across a multitude of art forms and cultures. Theirs is an idealized story of two individuals who find themselves through the other, paradoxically becoming one with the other and simultaneously remaining their individuated selves. Theirs is also a story whose origin may be grounded in poetic language, but whose affective appeal has since traversed into vastly different generic fields. As Joseph Campana has argued, choreographic adaptations of Shakespearean drama can be described as “a series of re-materializations, as a work both theatrical and literary phases in and out of shades of materiality and embodiment”.38 This article has argued the case for amorous reciprocity – with all its encompassing emotional conditions – as being one of the salient features of Shakespeare’s re-embodiments in the works of Hector Berlioz and Sasha Waltz. More broadly speaking, one may therefore conclude that there is no single language – linguistic or generic – to the amorous reciprocity of Romeo and Juliet and the iconicity that they have accumulated over the centuries. Instead, there are countless (re)materializations of their myth, the linguistic communality of which has perhaps been captured best by Émile’s Deschamps’ libretto to Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette: “ses paroles sont des pleurs”.39

Bibliographie

Albright, Ann Cooper, “Present Tense: Contact Improvisation at Twenty-Five”, in Ann Cooper Albright, David Gere (eds.), Taken by Surprise: A Dance Improvisation Reader, Middletown, Wesleyan University Press, 2003, p. 205-211.

Albright, Daniel, Musicking Shakespeare: A Conflict of Theatres, Rochester, University of Rochester Press, 2007.

Au, Susan, Ballet and Modern Dance, London, Thames and Hudson, (1988) 2012.

Berlioz, Hector, Roméo et Juliette, ed. D. Kern Holoman, Kassel, Bärenreiter, (1990) 2015.

Berlioz, Hector, Roméo et Juliette, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner, London, Decca, (1998) 2012, CD.

Campana, Joseph, “Dancing Will: The Case of Romeo and Juliet”, in Julia Reinhard Lupton (ed.), Romeo and Juliet: A Critical Reader, London & New York, Bloomsbury, 2016, p. 153-176.

Escolme, Bridget, Emotional Excess on the Shakespearean Stage: Passion’s Slaves, London & New York, Bloomsbury, 2014.

Fisher, Jennifer, “Falling in love, literally: Romeo, Juliet, Ballet and the Swoon”, Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, vol. 14, n°1, 2004, p. 137-152.

Flusser, Vilém, Gestures, trans. Nancy Ann Roth, Minneapolis & London, University of Minnesota Press, 2014.

Hatten, Robert S. Interpreting Musical Gestures, Topics, and Tropes: Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Bloomington & Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 2004.

Henderson, Diana E., Poetic Transformations: The Significance of Lyricism in Elizabethan Dramatic Performance, Diss., Columbia University, Ann Arbor, MI, UMI 1989.

Honegger, Thomas, “‘Wouldst thou withdraw love’s faithful vow?’: The Negotiation of Love in the Orchard Scene (Romeo and Juliet Act II)”, in Harold Bloom (ed.), William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, New York, Infobase, 2009, p. 169-183.

Kemp, Ian, “Romeo and Juliet and Roméo et Juliette”, in Peter Bloom (ed.), Berlioz Studies, Cambridge, CUP, 1992, p. 37-79.

Kottman, Paul A., “Defying the Stars: Tragic Love as the Struggle for Freedom in Romeo and Juliet”, Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 63, n°1, Spring 2012, p. 1-38.

Kramer, Lawrence, “Speaking Melody, Melodic Speech”, in Suzanne M. Lodato, David Franic Urrows (eds), Word and Music Studies: Essays on Music and the Spoken Word and on Surveying the Field, Amsterdam & New York, Rodopi, 2005, p. 127-143.

Louppe, Laurence, Poetics of Contemporary Dance, trans. Sally Gardner, Alton, Dance Books, 2010.

Maguire, Laurie, Shakespeare’s Names, Oxford, OUP, 2007.

McMullan, Gordon “Introduction”, in William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, ed. Gordon McMullan, New York & London, W. W. Norton & Company, 2016, p. ix-xxiii.

Micznik, Vera, “Of Ways of Telling, Intertextuality, and Historical Evidence in Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette”, 19th-Century Music, vol. 24, n°1, Summer 2000, p. 21-61.

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Rodgers, Stephen, Form, Program, and Metaphor in the Music of Berlioz, Cambridge, CUP, 2009.

Rushton, Julian, The Music of Berlioz, Oxford, OUP, 2001.

Schacher, Thomas, Hector Berlioz: Roméo et Juliette, München, Fink, 1998.

Schalkwyk, David, Shakespeare, Love and Language, Oxford, OUP, 2018.

Schlagenwerth, Michaela, Nahaufnahme Sasha Waltz, Berlin & Köln, Alexander, (2008) 2012.

Shakespeare, William, Romeo and Juliet, ed. Jill L. Levenson, Oxford, OUP, 2000.

Smith, Nancy Stark, “A Subjective History of Contact Improvisation: Notes from the Editor of Contact Quarterly, 1972-1997”, in Ann Cooper Albright, David Gere (eds.), Taken by Surprise: A Dance Improvisation Reader, Middletown, Wesleyan University Press, 2003, p. 153-173.

Taylor, Gary, “Feeling Bodies”, in Jonathan Bate, Jill L. Levenson, Dieter Mehl (eds), Shakespeare and the Twentieth Century: The Selected Proceedings of the International Shakespeare Association World Congress Los Angeles, 1996, Newark & London, University of Delaware Press, 1996, p. 258-279.

Notes

1 Unless noted otherwise, all Shakespeare references are to William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, ed. Jill L. Levenson, Oxford, OUP, 2000.

2 David Schalkwyk, Shakespeare, Love and Language, Oxford, OUP, 2018, p. 193.

3 Paul A. Kottman, “Defying the Stars: Tragic Love as the Struggle for Freedom in Romeo and Juliet”, Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 63, n°1, Spring 2012, p. 5.

4 Gordon, McMullan, “Introduction”, in William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, ed. Gordon McMullan, New York & London, W. W. Norton & Company, 2016, p. xvi.

5 Diana E. Henderson, Poetic Transformations: The Significance of Lyricism in Elizabethan Dramatic Performance, Diss., Columbia University, Ann Arbor, MI, UMI, 1989, p. 20.

6 Thomas Honegger, “‘Wouldst thou withdraw love’s faithful vow?’: The Negotiation of Love in the Orchard Scene (Romeo and Juliet Act II)”, in Harold Bloom (ed.), William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, New York, Infobase, 2009, p. 176.

7 Laurie Maguire, Shakespeare’s Names, Oxford, OUP, 2007, p. 67.

8 Bridget Escolme, Emotional Excess on the Shakespearean Stage: Passion’s Slaves, London & New York, Bloomsbury, 2014, p. xxxvii.

9 Gary Taylor, “Feeling Bodies”, in Jonathan Bate, Jill L. Levenson, Dieter Mehl (eds), Shakespeare and the Twentieth Century: The Selected Proceedings of the International Shakespeare Association World Congress Los Angeles, 1996, Newark & London, University of Delaware Press, 1996, p. 262.

10 Paul A. Kottman, art. cit., p. 6.

11 Ibid., p. 27.

12 Ibid., p. 29.

13 David Schalkwyk, op. cit., p. 203.

14 Daniel Albright, Musicking Shakespeare: A Conflict of Theatres, Rochester, University of Rochester Press, 2007, p. 114.

15 Hector Berlioz, Roméo et Juliette, ed. D. Kern Holoman, Kassel, Bärenreiter, (1990) 2015, p. 1.

16 Julian Rushton, The Music of Berlioz, Oxford, OUP, 2001, p. 43.

17 Daniel Albright, op. cit., p. 99.

18 Ian Kemp read the Scène d’amour in a strict bar-line parallelism towards Shakespeare’s balcony scene. Ian Kemp, “Romeo and Juliet and Roméo et Juliette”, in Peter Bloom (ed.), Berlioz Studies, Cambridge, CUP, 1992, p. 65-67.

19 Vera Micznik, “Of Ways of Telling, Intertextuality, and Historical Evidence in Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette”, 19th-Century Music vol. 24, n°1, Summer 2000, p. 40.

20 Thomas Schacher, Hector Berlioz: Roméo et Juliette, München, Fink, 1998, p. 56-57.

21 Stephen Rodgers, Form, Program, and Metaphor in the Music of Berlioz, Cambridge, CUP, 2009, p. 117.

22 Ibid., p. 120.

23 Robert S. Hatten, Interpreting Musical Gestures, Topics, and Tropes: Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Bloomington, Indianapolis, Indiana UP, 2004, p. 125, p. 93-94.

24 The quotation from Emile Deschamps’ libretto refers to Hector Berlioz (2015), p. 36-37. Its translation is quoted from the booklet enclosed with the Decca recording of Roméo et Juliette conducted by John Eliot Gardiner, originally released by Universal International Music on CD in 1998.

25 Lawrence Kramer, “Speaking Melody, Melodic Speech”, in Suzanne M. Lodato, David Franic Urrows (eds), Word and Music Studies: Essays on Music and the Spoken Word and on Surveying the Field, Amsterdam & New York, Rodopi, 2005, p. 127.

26 Vera Micznik, op. cit., p. 38.

27 Nina Noeske, “The Sound of Gender: Überlegungen zur klangsemantischen Konstruktion von Geschlecht im Musiktheater des 20. Jahrhunderts”, in Jörn Peter Hiekel, Wolfgang Mende (eds), Klang und Semantik in der Musik des 20. und 21. Jahrhunderts, Bielefeld, transcript, 2018, p. 155-163.

28 Robert S. Hatten, op. cit., p. 164.

29 Ibid., p. 221.

30 Susan Au, Ballet and Modern Dance, London, Thames and Hudson, (1988) 2012, p. 62.

31 Laurence Louppe, Poetics of Contemporary Dance, trans. Sally Gardner, Alton, Dance Books, 2010, p. 68.

32 Ann Cooper Albright, “Present Tense: Contact Improvisation at Twenty-Five”, in Ann Cooper Albright, David Gere, (eds.), Taken by Surprise: A Dance Improvisation Reader, Middletown, Wesleyan University Press, 2003, p. 209.

33 Michaela Schlagenwerth, Nahaufnahme Sasha Waltz, Berlin & Köln, Alexander, (2008) 2012, p. 34-41.

34 Jennifer Fisher, “Falling in love, literally: Romeo, Juliet, Ballet and the Swoon”, Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, vol. 14, n°1, 2004, p. 137-152.

35 David Schalkwyk, op. cit., p. 8.

36 Vilém Flusser, Gestures, trans. Nancy Ann Roth, Minneapolis & London, University of Minnesota Press, 2014, p. 51.

37 Nancy Stark Smith, “A Subjective History of Contact Improvisation: Notes from the Editor of Contact Quarterly, 1972-1997”, in Ann Cooper Albright, David Gere, (eds.), Taken by Surprise: A Dance Improvisation Reader, op. cit., p. 155.

38 Joseph Campana, “Dancing Will: The Case of Romeo and Juliet”, in Julia Reinhard Lupton (ed.), Romeo and Juliet: A Critical Reader, London & New York, Bloomsbury, 2016, p. 155.

39 Hector Berlioz (2015), p. 43. The full quotation, “Si pure extase que ses paroles sont des pleurs”, is translated in the aforementioned Universal International Music release from 1998 as ‘a passion so pure that its words are tears’.

Pour citer ce document

Par Jonas Kellermann, «Dramaturgies of Reciprocity in Romeo and Juliet», Shakespeare en devenir [En ligne], Shakespeare en devenir, N°14 - 2019, III. Adaptations musicales, mis à jour le : 28/12/2019, URL : https://shakespeare.edel.univ-poitiers.fr:443/shakespeare/index.php?id=1741.

Quelques mots à propos de :  Jonas Kellermann

Jonas Kellermann is a doctoral candidate at the University of Konstanz. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English philology and theatre studies and a Master of Arts degree in English studies from Freie Universität Berlin. During his undergraduate studies, he spent an academic year as an ERASMUS MUNDUS exchange student at the University of Edinburgh and later worked as editorial assistant of Shakespeare Jahrbuch, the yearbook of the German Shakespeare society, edited by Sabine Schülting. In O ...