Romeo and Juliet

by: William Shakespeare

Sex

1

I will push Montague’s men from the wall and thrust his maids to the wall (1.1.)

Samson’s boast introduces the theme of sex in explicitly violent terms. He imagines attacking Montague men and assaulting Montague women. Sex is paired with violence throughout Romeo and Juliet. Even the sexual union of the lovers themselves is shadowed by the violence between their families: on the same night that Romeo comes to consummate his marriage to Juliet, he kills her cousin Tybalt.

2

now art thou what thou art, by art as well as by nature, for this drivelling love is like a great natural that runs lolling up and down to hide his bauble in a hole. (2.4.)

Mercutio is pleased that Romeo is exchanging jokes with him instead of moping for his love. He dismisses love as foolish: a “natural” is a fool, and a “bauble” is the stick a professional fool carries. The image of the fool trying to “hide his bauble in a hole” also implies sexual intercourse. Mercutio’s point is that at its root, love is really just sexual desire. As far as Mercutio is concerned, all of Romeo’s romantic longing is just “drivelling” and “lolling” brought on by sexual frustration. Mercutio’s cynical point of view challenges the idealistic romance of the two lovers.

3
Come, gentle night, come, loving black-browed night,
Give me my Romeo, and when I shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars (3.2.)

Juliet yearns for her wedding night. The repetition of the word “come” shows us the strength of her desire. There’s no ambiguity about what Juliet is yearning for. “Die” was Elizabethan slang for “orgasm.” The image that follows, of Romeo “cut…out in little stars,” is a subtle metaphor for the sexual ecstasy Juliet anticipates. At the same time, the image suggests childhood play, reminding us again that Juliet is very young. The words “die” and “cut” also have violent undertones. In this play, sex and violence are never far apart.


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