chapter  19
13 Pages

Giselle and the Gothic

Contesting the Romantic idealisation of the woman
ByGeraldine Morris

This chapter discusses the contested issue of the Gothic and its relationship with the Romantic and then considers the presence of Gothic themes in some nineteenth-century ballets. In other words, in literature, theatre and opera Giselle was interpreted as Gothic. Giselle's themes embody many concerns of the Gothic – duplicity, madness, suicide, wealth, class, and the supernatural – and this is mirrored in the music. The events of the ballet take place in medieval Silesia, then in Prussia, its Germanic location perceived as a suitably Gothic setting. The association of the Gothic with popular culture could be the reason why British critics, writing in the 1940s and 1950s, promoted Giselle and other mid-nineteenth-century ballets as Romantic. Their aim was to situate ballet in high art and associating it with the Gothic might have rendered it melodramatic, locating it in popular culture.