Between Two Worlds

The Dybbuk, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, and Reparative Tragedy

in Critical Survey
Lisa S. StarksProfessor, University of South Florida, USA

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This article examines how S. Ansky's 1918 play The Dybbuk, or Between Two Worlds and its subsequent adaptations on stage and screen appropriate Romeo and Juliet, transforming Shakespeare's tragedy, through Kabbalah and Jewish folklore, into one that ‘repairs’ the story of star-crossed lovers and the material world that they seek to escape. The Dybbuk is a ‘reparative tragedy’, one that intersects multiple levels of restoration, healing and repair. Generically, the play and its later stage and screen adaptations recuperate and refigure Shakespeare's tragedy; materially, it calls for the repair of past and impending trauma, suffering and severed human relationships. These levels, as well as others, culminate in the play's overriding spiritual one: the play follows the ‘reparative’ narrative of Kabbalah itself, with its goal of tikkun olam – to repair the world.

Contributor Notes

Lisa S. Starks is Professor of English at the University of South Florida. She has published many articles and book chapters on Shakespeare and related topics. She is editor of the book collection Ovid and Adaptation in Early Modern English Theatre (Edinburgh University Press, 2020); author of the monograph Violence, Trauma, and Virtus in Shakespeare's Roman Poems and Plays: Transforming Ovid (Palgrave, 2014); and co-editor, with Courtney Lehmann, of two book collections on Shakespeare and film (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2002). Currently, she is working on a new monograph entitled Shakespeare, Levinas, and Adaptation, under contract with Edinburgh University Press. Email:

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