Sex in Verona

This was my second read through of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet since my 9th grade English class, and personally there were distinctive situations and themes that surpassed the usually teaching of love and free will that a 9th grade class would be discussing. Because of the maturity level that is expanded upon from the young adult mindset and classroom decorum into the perspective that has evolved over the years, Romeo and Juliet becomes much more evocative and eroticized through hyper-sexualized characters. The sexual ambiance of the characters Romeo and Juliet overpowers the emotional attraction that love is supposed to possess.

            Sexuality overpowers the idea of love through Romeo’s superficial feelings for Rosaline and Juliet—“beloved and loved again” (2.0.5) the chorus exclaims—and within an instant the feelings are transferred from one girl to another. The depth of love that Romeo has for these women cannot be more than skin-deep, especially when Romeo specifies that he’d “ne’er saw true beauty till” the moment he laid eyes on Juliet (1.5.52). Such an exclamation about beauty does not constitute true love but more towards sexual love or even lust in regards to the duration of the two “lover’s” journey with each other. Rather, the swiftness of Romeo’s rebound towards Juliet marks the first red line regarding the truth of their love. Shakespeare

            From then on out in the play, the mentioning of consummation between Romeo and Juliet, with help from Nurse is highly regarded upon the young couple. The Nurse, whom practically raised Juliet since she was a baby, practically the motherly figure of her life, assists the couple in the plan for consummating the marriage:

There stays a husband to make you a wife.

Now comes the wanton blood up in your cheeks.

They’ll be scarlet straight at any news.

. . . I must another way,

To fetch a ladder by the which your love

Must climb a bird’s nest soon, when it is dark

. . . but you shall bear the burden soon at night (2.4.69-76)

The blood becomes the symbol for more than family and death in this scene; it becomes the essence of Juliet’s virginity. The “ladder”, the “bird’s nest”, and “the burden” becomes the physicality of their relationship, the physical act becomes the only way the two lovers can officially be married. The obsession with consummating becomes the overpowering nature of the relationship of Romeo and Juliet. The hyper-sexualized stupor that Juliet finds herself in, with Romeo as her first love as a thirteen-year-old girl, melodramatically assess Romeo’s banishment from Verona: “Come, cords; come Nurse; I’ll to my wedding bed / And death, not Romeo, take my maidenhead” (3.2.136-37). The sickening imagery of rot and ruin physically destroying her body to the point of her losing her virginity, to consummating her marriage to death rather than living her life with another human being, is the extent to which having sex is the necessity for Juliet to be happy in her relationship with Romeo. Without him physically able to consummate their marriage, making the doctrine legal in not only the eyes of God, but by the standards of society back then, there is nothing more to life for the two young lovers of this lamentable tragedy.

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4 thoughts on “Sex in Verona

  1. wolferamanda

    Great post, I really enjoyed your discussion of re-reading a play. When you’re in high school, sometimes major themes cannot be discussed but, college is a whole other world! I like your analysis of blood as a symbol, obviously we would associate this with death but in the passage you provided, it goes with Juliet’s virginity. Sex and blood are two strange things to pair together.

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  2. VincentFinoWriting

    Courtney,

    I too did not recognize the overpowering sexuality when I read Romeo and Juliet in high school. Back then, I just thought they were in love, and that was that. I did not ever think about Romeo’s overpowering sexuality, and how that could have been guided his thoughts and actions, not love. It would be interesting to do some cognitive literary experiments, and evaluate how teenagers vs adults process R & J. Splendid post.-Vince

    Reply
  3. Amanda M.

    This too was my second read of Romeo and Juliet since the beginning of high school. I can see now that in high school they just brushed over how important it was for Juliet to consummate the marriage. Juliet is indeed consumed with having to make her marriage “real” by having sex with Romeo.

    Reply
  4. mahorsfall

    I really enjoyed your breakdown of language referencing Juliet’s virginity. “I’ll to my wedding bed / And death, not Romeo, take my maidenhead” is a line I would have glossed over in high school, but you shed a new light on the sexual intent of the young lovers, and the commitment made to lust and marriage by a girl so young—long distance definitely wouldn’t have worked out. In all seriousness, though, your elaboration on the power of sexuality and the way that emotions and hormones might intermingle to bring about such intense tragedy is well done, and you definitely pulled out an important overarching message of the play.

    Reply

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