A Comparison of Dying for Love between Oriental and Occidental Drama: Taking Du Liniang and Juliet as Examples

By Rui, Kong | Cross - Cultural Communication, November 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

A Comparison of Dying for Love between Oriental and Occidental Drama: Taking Du Liniang and Juliet as Examples


Rui, Kong, Cross - Cultural Communication


Abstract

Both The Peony Pavilion and Romeo and Juliet concern similar theme of eulogizing the beautiful and passionate love of a young couple, exploring the relationship between love and death, the value and significance of lovers' dying for love. Both heroines, Du Liniang and Juliet, dare to pursue genuine love relentlessly even sacrifice their lives for love. Liniang's death is not the final destination, and her resurrection meets the readers' expectation in the view of Chinese culture. Juliet's death not only sublimates love but redeems the sin of family feud, aiming to arouse audience's pity and fear to achieve tragic catharsis in Occidental dramas. This paper attempts to compare the two heroines' dying for love by tracing the different stages in their love process so as to reveal the similarities of seemingly-coincident scheme and explore the reasons which cause the differences. And this may facilitate the understanding of historical and cultural background in the orient and Occident.

Key words: Du Liniang; Juliet; Dying for love

INTRODUCTION

The Peony Pavilion (1598) and Romeo and Juliet (1594) are two extraordinarily significant dramas about feverish love on the Oriental and Occidental drama stages. The two great contemporary dramatists, Tang Xianzu (1550-1616) and William Shakespeare (1564-1616), living in totally different cultures, presented their respective masterpieces nearly at the same time so coincidently {The Peony Pavilion in 1598, and Romeo and Juliet in 1594). Both dramas concern similar theme of eulogizing the beautiful love and burning passion of a young couple, exploring the relationship between love and death, the value and significance of by lovers' dying for love. Both heroines, Du Liniang and Juliet, dare to pursue genuine love relentlessly even sacrifice their lives for love. This paper attempts to compare the two heroines' dying for love by tracing the different stages in their love process so as to reveal the similarities of seemingly-coincident scheme and explore the reasons which cause the differences. And this may facilitate the understanding of historical and cultural background in the orient and Occident.

1. THE CREATING BACKGROUND OF THE TWO DRAMAS

The Peony Pavilion was created in a period when Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) was going through a stringent and repressive philosophy of Neo-Confucianism named Daoxue, which praised appropriate displays of behavior and rituals and distained passion and desire of human being. It also became the standard curriculum for the imperial civil service examination system. Tang Xianzu, a young and learned scholar at that time, failed three times in the civil service examinations system because of refusing to pander to the contemporary powerful minister. Feeling greatly dismayed and suffocated with the society, he resigned from the court official and then devoted to creating literary works. Most of his works eulogize the power of love, deep emotions, desire and passion, which are regarded as a great challenge and sharp criticism to Daoxue in his time. The touching love story named The Peony Pavilion is a typical example dealing with love, death and resurrection.

Almost in the same period, European countries including England were going through the Renaissance, a revolutionary movement of advocacy of humanism, national growth, commercial expansion and political concern etc.. William Shakespeare, a dramatist in London at that time, undoubtedly was encouraged by the thoughts in the cultural movement. He expressed his support and acceptance in his own drama-writing. He favored the freedom of love, the stability of society, showed his hatred for the feudal aristocracy, because it was a constant threat to the stability of society. As a typical humanist of his time, Romeo and Juliet celebrate the charm and power of love in conquering ossified social conventions. The final death in the tragic ending seems to be the only escape to end the feud between the two families in that society. …

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