Human monstrosity: rape, ambiguity and performance in Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The narrative of Rosemary’s Baby hinges on a central hesitation between pregnancy induced madness and the existence of Satanism. Accordingly, the monstrous element is embodied in both the real and the supernatural: Rosemary’s husband Guy (John Cassavetes) is responsible for her victimisation through rape in either explanation. However, I will argue that the inherent ambiguity of the plot makes it difficult to place him as such a figure typical to the archetypal horror binaries of normality/monster, human/inhuman. By displacing generic convention the film complicates the issue of monstrosity, whilst simultaneously offering the possibility for the depiction of female experience of marriage to be at the centre of the narrative, for the real to be possibly of more significance than the supernatural. Previous writing has tended to concentrate on Rosemary and her pregnancy, so through detailed consideration of Cassavetes’ performance and its placement in the mise-en-scène this focus on Guy aims to demonstrate that he changes almost as much as Rosemary does. The chapter will focus on the film’s depiction of rape, during Rosemary’s nightmare and after it, in order to demonstrate how the notion of performance reveals Guy’s monstrousness and the difficulties this represents in our engagement with him.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHosting the Monster
EditorsHolly Baumgartner, Roger Davis
Number of pages62
ISBN (Print)9042024860
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Publication series

NameAt the Interface/Probing the Boundaries


  • Rosemary's Baby
  • American horror
  • Film performance
  • pregnancy in film
  • rape in film
  • monstrosity
  • the body


Dive into the research topics of 'Human monstrosity: rape, ambiguity and performance in Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this