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Romeo and Juliet – Not my fav but respected

Photo - Wikipedia

Photo – Wikipedia

Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy by William Shakespeare (1595-6). It portrays the brief lives of two “star crossed lovers” who come from feuding families, the Capulets and the Montagues.

In Shakespeare’s time it was one of his most popular plays, as it remains today.

Myself, I never really liked Romeo and Juliet too much. It seems small and dark. Romantic love is fine. But when it gets all messed up and doesn’t work out right, it doesn’t really capture my imagination.

I find it sort of silly and dramatically frustrating that someone would commit suicide because he thought his true love was dead. And guess what? She wasn’t even dead after all. So what happens? She wakes up and kills herself.

Maybe I just like happy endings. I realize life doesn’t always turn out that way but still, Romeo and Juliet for me is a bit of downer.

Like many of his plays, Shakespeare didn’t come up with the idea out of the blue. There were precedents, some very clear.

Romeo and Juliet borrows from a tradition of tragic love stories dating back to antiquity. One of these is Pyramus and Thisbe, from Ovid‘s Metamorphoses, which contains parallels to Shakespeare’s story: the lovers’ parents despise each other, and Pyramus falsely believes his lover Thisbe is dead. The Ephesiaca of Xenophon of Ephesus, written in the 3rd century, also contains several similarities to the play, including the separation of the lovers, and a potion that induces a deathlike sleep.

One of the earliest references to the names Montague and Capulet is from Dante‘s Divine Comedy, who mentions the Montecchi (Montagues) and the Cappelletti (Capulets) in canto six of Purgatorio:

Come and see, you who are negligent,
Montagues and Capulets, Monaldi and Filippeschi
One lot already grieving, the other in fear

Image - Wikipedia

Romeo and Juliet (detail) by Frank Dicksee – Wikipedia

In 1938 the Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev wrote a ballet after the story. And Berlioz (1839) and Tchaikovsky (1869) also wrote classical pieces on the theme.

There have been several screen adaptations. One of my favorites is Franco Zeffirelli‘s 1968 Romeo and Juliet. I remember marveling at Olivia Hussey as a kid when I saw the film in junior high. For me, she was the epitome of womanly beauty back then.

¹ See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romeo_and_Juliet

In India, the Mahabharata epic tells of a family feud that leads to total war between the Pandavas and the Karavas. This war is also central to The Bhagavad Gita, which is a part of the Mahabharata (some believe a later addition because it differs stylistically). I don’t think the Capulets and Montagues were related but the Pandavas and Karavas were. Of course, Shakespeare most likely did not have access to Hindu myth (in this case, the Puranas) because it hadn’t been translated into European languages yet. But for thinkers like Adolf Bastien, Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung (who believe that certain psychological “patterns” or “structures” arise independently around the world) this wouldn’t have been a huge problem.

Related » Projection, Radha

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Sign of the Cross – Sign of the Times?

Originally published in 2007 at Earthpages before we migrated to WordPress

The other night Turner Classic Movies ran a wonderful 1930’s production called The Sign of the Cross. Basically it’s about early Christians being hunted down and persecuted in the Roman empire. Toward the end, the film gives a dramatic portrayal of the power of faith as imprisoned Christians face the prospect of being eaten alive by wild beasts at the Colosseum (which really happened), with an especially inspired performance by Elissa Landi.

After the close of the movie, the critics at TCM said absolutely nothing about the power of faith but zeroed in on the importance of a woman’s breasts being partially shown in a milk bath and how a lusty gay scene was mostly edited out some years later once Hollywood prohibitions kicked in. Interesting stuff, but really quite tangential to the main message…


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Odo – Change is the name of the game

Image credit – Wikipedia

Odo is a character in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine played by actor René Auberjonois. He belongs to a race called “changlings.” Basically a shapeshifter, he can assume practically any form he likes.

This idea is similar to the changlings and shapeshifters found in mythologies and folklore pretty much around the world. The idea is also found in literature. Sometimes one changes shape against their will or by surprise, as in Franz Kafka‘s Metamorphosis, other times the change comes through choice or perhaps divine intervention.¹

¹ A good list here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shapeshifting#Fiction


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Ophelia – Victim of a twisted parent

Mary Catherine Bolton (afterwards Lady Thurlow...

Mary Catherine Bolton (afterwards Lady Thurlow) (1790-1830) as Ophelia in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet in 1813, opposite John Kemble’s Hamlet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ophelia is a tragic Shakespearian character whose twisted father asks her to reject her lover, Hamlet. Ophelia’s father exploits her misguided loyalty to him and manipulates her into agreeing to reject Hamlet.

Ophelia’s father also had been spying on her while she was seeing Hamlet.

Tormented by conflicted loyalties, Ophelia eventually goes mad. Ophelia represents the too many women (and men) pushed into insanity by a misguided sense of loyalty to an unscrupulous parent or parents.

Mary Pipher reflects on this dynamic in her book, Reviving Ophelia (1994):

Psychologist Mary Pipher named her non-fiction book, Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls (1994), after Shakespeare’s Ophelia. In it, Pipher examines the troubled lives of the modern American adolescent girls. Through her extensive clinical work with troubled young women, Pipher takes a closer look at the competing influences that lead adolescent girls in a negative direction. For example, Pipher attributes the competing pressure from parents, peers, and the media for girls to reach an unachievable ideal. Girls are expected to meet goals while still holding on to their sanity. These pressures are further complicated when young women undergo physical changes out of their control, like the biological developmental changes in puberty.¹

Actor Jean Simmons provides a classic performance of Ophelia in Sir Laurence Olivier’s film version of the play. Simmons’ vacant stare and melodious voice give Ophelia a mystical, ethereal quality just before her demise.

¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ophelia

Related » William Shakespeare


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Robin – archetypal apprentice or unspoken lover?

Batman with his sidekick Robin. Painting by Al...

Batman with his sidekick Robin. Painting by Alex Ross, based on the cover of Batman #9 by Jack Burnley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Also known as “The Boy Wonder,” Robin is Batman‘s sidekick. He arguably represents the younger half of an archetypal master-apprentice or teacher-disciple relationship.

At least, that’s a Jungian interpretation. It has also been suggested that the relationship between Batman and Robin has homosexual overtones, especially in the TV show. Carl Jung tended to see homosexuality as a developmental problem, so I’m not sure how he’d depict this particular relationship within his archetypal theory.¹

¹ Jung’s ideas can be too vague and conjectural at times for my liking. To his credit, Jung, himself, admits that he is simply making a modern myth. He doesn’t claim to have the final word. Those interested in his views about homosexuality might find some ideas here.

C. G. Jung on Risk and Safety

OUTstage – GLBT Theatre Fest – BENT

FACT CHECK: Homosexual behavior present in animals, Manny

Why Men Stomp on Homosexuality

Why Are So Many Animals Homosexual? – Facts So Romantic

80 Percent of Black Men in Atlanta are Gay?


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Star Wars Memories

Updated scene of Anakin Skywalker, Yoda and Ob...

Updated scene of Anakin Skywalker, Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi appearing as Force Ghosts in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Star Wars, well, we all know about it. But back in 1977, I remember my next door neighbor (who was a sci-fi fan), telling me, a young lad of 15 yrs, that a whole new kind of sci-fi movie was soon coming out. I could sense his excitement. He was in the know. And the timing was perfect.

Star Trek the original series had wrapped up in 1969. And almost all we had to watch on TV in the mid-seventies were Star Trek reruns, old Doctor Who episodes and a fairly dull program called Space 1999, which was stylistically based on Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. At least, that’s what we had in Toronto, Canada. I don’t  know about other places.

So along comes Star Wars in 1977, the groundbreaking film written and directed by George Lucas. The original Star Wars won seven academy awards and broke box office records. I remember another friend saying, after seeing the film, that “he didn’t know they could make a movie that good.”

People dressed as Star Wars characters walk in downtown Angouleme on January 30, 2016, on the sideline of the city’s International Comics Festival. GOBET

Not a few Star Wars sequels followed. But I’m more interested in the symbolic import and psychological meaning of Star Wars, so won’t outline all the sequels here. Many other sites do this just fine.¹

The idea of Star Wars as a mythological creation is found throughout Earthpages.ca. So follow the links below for more info.

¹ For example, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Wars

Related » Abyss, Joseph Campbell, Darth Vader, Han Solo, Hero, Jedi, Luke Skywalker, Odysseus, Obi Wan Kenobi, Princess Leia, Yoda


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Surya (Asian deity/deities)

Konark Sun Temple Panoramic View via Wikipedia

One of the main identities of Surya is an Indian sun god associated with fantastic temples, like that found at Konark.

Like most mythic beings, Surya appears in different contexts. The deity variously exhibits divine, semi-divine and aristocratic attributes, according to the tradition in which it has evolved. This variety poses a problem to archetypal theorists who tend to simply complex mythic histories by interpreting them in vague, watered-down “general principles”—e.g. Great Mother, The Wizard, The Wise Old Man.¹

Surya or the Sun God, Konark.

Surya or the Sun God, Konark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Upon closer inspection much of the data forced into conceptual boxes by archetypal theorists is far more inconsistent and variable than they claim. Mythic and religious data is linked to politics, economics, geography, and war. With war we find that the aggressive movement of populations usually results in the conquest and subjugation of peoples, whose gods may be replaced, adapted or tolerated by the conquerors, who themselves almost always introduce something new to the cultural and religious landscape.

In defending their archetypal position, theorists like Joseph Campbell and C. G. Jung assert that they’ve distilled the underlying essence or commonality among various cultural expressions of an archetype. To distinguish a cultural manifestation from the archetype, proper, they use the term archetypal image. Archetypal images of a given archetype vary, but the underlying archetype behind its imagery is (supposedly) one and the same.

To my mind that’s like saying all cities are “the same” because they share core elements such as people, a downtown, suburbs, roads, utilities, government and housing. Anyone who has compared a developing to a developed city will find it a gross simplification to say that all cities are “the same.” And so it is, I would argue, with those archetypal theorists who claim that all myths and religions are “the same.” It’s an unwarranted simplification often made with good intentions, out of political correctness, or perhaps through lack of experience.

Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

See the following for the tremendous variety found in the Surya character, according to Asian tradition and scripture: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surya

¹In the Star Wars mythos Obi Wan Kenobi arguably plays a dual role of the Wizard and the Wise Old Man. Filmmaker George Lucas actually consulted the mythographer Joseph Campbell to facilitate the idea that Star Wars would tell a modern story with timeless, mythic appeal. So, in fairness, we could say that the success of Star Wars throws a vote in favor of the archetypal theorists and their tendency to generalize. However, many films use so-called archetypal ideas and bomb at the box office. So that’s clearly not enough for the making of a blockbuster.

Related » Underworld