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In a pantomime, Jean does some calculations in a notebook, and Christine enters, carrying his shift and tie. Christine gasps at the mess; Jean blames it on Miss Julie. Christine reminds Jean that he promised to join her at church this morning. The sermon today is on the beheading of John the Baptist. Jean gets dressed. Christine asks why he was up all night, and Jean confesses to sleeping with Miss Julie. Christine is more disgusted than jealous, deciding that she cannot remain in the house any longer. When one's superiors are no better than oneself, there is little point in trying to emulate them. Christine expresses disbelief that Miss Julie was been so proud about men, even having her dog Diana shot for copulating with a mongrel.
Christine thinks it is time that Jean finds a better position, if they are to marry. A doorkeeping or caretaking job would provide a steady income and pension. Jean has no intention of sacrificing himself for a family. The two hear sounds upstairs and realize that the Count has come back. Christine exits. The sun rises, marking the end of Midsummer's Eve. Dressed for travel, Miss Julie enters with a small birdcage. Jean remarks that she is "white as a ghost" and has dirt on her face. Julie again begs Jean to join her, fearing the memories that will haunt her on her journey. Jean agrees. When Miss Julie moves to bring her canary, Serena, Jean insists that she leave it behind. Julie would rather see the bird dead than entrusted to another. Jean offers to kill it. He decapitates it on a chopping block. "Kill me too!" screams Julie.
As Jean urges Julie to go, she approaches the chopping block, mesmerized. She hears a carriage approaching. Suddenly she exclaims that she wants to see Jean's head on a chopping block and his entire sex swimming in blood. She asks how Jean could presume that would bear his child and take his name. Julie calls him a "dog with [her] name on your collar—[a] lackey with [her] initials on your buttons!" She pledges to stay, to wait for her father to discover his bureau robbed, and then to confess everything to the sheriff. She says the Count will die. Her father's coat of arms will die with him, and Jean's family line will end in the orphanage, gutter, and jail.
This sequence functions as another unmasking. Miss Julie fantasizes about men's annihilation, and fantasy that shows her at her most violent, desperate, morbid, and monstrous. This fantasy is sparked by a scene of decapitation, a scene that links to Christine's mention of the execution of Saint John the Baptist. Unlike the biblical allegory, however, which imagines a man symbolically castrated by a conspiracy of women, the execution in Miss Julie is of a female bird that stands for her female mistress, which reverses the gender roles of the Saint John story. In Julie's story, the symbolic castration is of a woman already established as inappropriately masculine.
The story of Saint John's execution revolves around Salome, the daughter of Herodias and King Herod. King Herod had arrested John for his public invectives against the king's adultery and his urgings for the people to revolt. On his birthday feast, Herod, consumed with incestuous desire for his daughter, promises to grant Salome a wish if she performs the infamous dance of the seven veils on his behalf. She does so and, at the request of her mother, demands the head of the saint on a platter. John is executed, and Salome presents John's head to her mother. As elaborated by Freud and others, decapitation is often symbolic of castration. Thus the story of Salome has become a touchstone for fantasies of monstrous, castrating women. Both Julie and her mother are portrayed as wrathful, castrating, and monstrous women. Jean (French for "John") is the would-be victim of Julie. The decapitation of the bird, however, reverses the terms of the story.
Miss Julie's pet dog already stands in for Julie. The lusty dog is named Diana, ironically, for Diana is the virgin goddess. The canary, Serena, also stands in for Julie, which makes Julie the symbolic victim of this cruel execution. Julie screams for Jean to kill her too, making her identification with the bird obvious. The play inverts the gender dynamics of the biblical allegory, and the woman who would castrate becomes the castrated woman. This execution prompts Miss Julie's outburst of rage. This speech reveals the threats the degenerate Julie supposedly poses. She reveals her hatred of men in all its violence, saying she wants to see the blood and brains of all men, and would love to eat their hearts. Julie's revenge fantasy also involves the derision and destruction of the proper name, on which the family line depends. The name symbolizes the father's legacy, his dominance in the family, and his ownership of his wife and children. Jean's name becomes the sign of his inferior class position. Jean has no last name beyond his servile role (Doorkeeper or Floorsweeper); his line can only end in the orphanage, gutter, and jail. Jean cannot be a father, the ancestor of a new line; as a servant, he is a tarnished man.
Because last names symbolize male authority, Julie's comment that Jean bears her name on his buttons and collar robs Jean of his manhood. At the same time, however, the initials on Jean's buttons are not really Julie's. They are the initials of Julie's father, which symbolize his ownership of Julie and Julie's mother. Julie must borrow the tool of a man in order to show Jean her superiority. In the tirade's final reversal, Julie yearns for the destruction her father's name. She dreams of his death and the annihilation of his line.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Miss Julie!