Romeo and Juliet

by: William Shakespeare

Five Key Questions

Summary Five Key Questions

1) Do Romeo and Juliet have sex?

At the beginning of Act III, scene v, Romeo and Juliet are together in Juliet’s bed just before dawn, having spent the night with each other and feeling reluctant to separate. We might conclude that we’re meant to infer that they just had sex, and that may be the way the scene is most commonly understood. However, we have no way of knowing specifically what they did, only that they enjoyed it. One reason why it might matter whether they had intercourse or not is that according to Catholic doctrine, a marriage isn’t fully valid until it has been consummated, and consummation specifically refers to having sex in such a way that conceiving children is possible. If the marriage is unconsummated it could still be annulled by their parents. Romeo and Juliet don’t talk about their experience in terms of their marriage or its permanence, however, focusing instead on the intensity of their feelings in the moment: Juliet longs for Romeo to stay for just a few more moments, denying the fact that dawn is coming, and Romeo says that he would rather stay and be put to death than leave. Just as Romeo and Juliet’s dialogue when they first meet takes the form of a sonnet, their dialogue here about being reluctant to separate takes the form of a type of poem called an aubade, in which lovers lament the necessity of separating before dawn—although in a traditional aubade the lovers have to separate because they are having an adulterous relationship and can’t get caught.