Architectures of Desire – the Balcony Scene

A famous etching showing the actors Barry Spranger (Romeo) and Mary Isabella Nossiter (Juliet) at a rehearsal of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet at Covent Garden Theater in 1759 depicts a pathos formula immortalized in Western love culture: the balcony scene. However, the mythical second scene of the second act of the star-crossed lover’s tragedy from 1597 does not mention a balcony at all, lexeme entering the English language only in 1618. Nonetheless, Shakespeare’s balcony scene is an emblem for an architecture and dramaturgy of love that appears to be naturally anchored in literary and cultural history. The research projects aims at analyzing the architecture of desire and affect incorporated in the balcony scene based on a diachronic corpus that goes well beyond Shakespeare. From a queer-feminist perspective, it especially focuses on poetic and sociocultural normalization processes of an affect called love. The research corpus reaches not only from Old Occitan to Anglophone as well as Hispano- and Italophone cultures, but also from troubadour poetry to French comedies of the siècle classique to Ramazzotti advertisements of the 00s.

“The actors Spranger Barry and Mary Isabella Nossiter in Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare (1564-1616), rehearsal at Covent Garden in 1759. Engraving. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.