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Rothenberg, A.B. (1977). Infantile Fantasies in Shakespearean Metaphor: III. Photophobia, Love of Darkness, and “Black” Complexions. Psychoanal. Rev., 64(2):173-202.

(1977). Psychoanalytic Review, 64(2):173-202

Infantile Fantasies in Shakespearean Metaphor: III. Photophobia, Love of Darkness, and “Black” Complexions

Alan B. Rothenberg


A four-hundred-year-old mystery in Shakespeare's work has thus far eluded explanation:9 Why are so many characters—often to their own confusion or anguish—enamored of dark ladies, black men, or black children, and this even though the ideal of beauty at the time was symbolized by light, by day, by the “worshipped sun,” rather than by night, by darkness, or by blackness? “In the old age black was not counted fair,” Shakespeare noted (Sonn. CXXVII). It is the mystery of Shakespeare's own ambivalent love, expressed in his sonnets to his dark lady whose “eyes are nothing like the sun” and whose breasts are “dun” rather than like the white of snow (Sonn. CXXX). It is the mystery of Juliet, who is both a symbol of the dazzling sun in the east and the invoker of night's “black mantle,” of “the mask of night” upon her face, of “gentle … loving, black-brow'd night.”

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