Romeo and Juliet
Art and Culture Quotes
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Why, Romeo, art thou mad?
Not mad, but bound more than a mad-man is;
Shut up in prison, kept without my food,
Whipp'd and tormented and--God-den, good fellow.
Does this sound a little cliché? It did in the sixteenth century, too. When Romeo talks about his love for Rosaline, he acts and sounds like a typical "Petrarchan lover," one who is "imprisoned" and tormented" by his unrequited love for an unavailable woman. Petrarch, by the way, was a fourteenth-century Italian poet whose sonnets were all the rage in Renaissance England. Much of Petrarch's love poetry was written about "Laura," a figure as unavailable and unattainable as Romeo's.
Well, in that hit you miss: she'll not be hit
With Cupid's arrow; she hath Dian's wit;
And, in strong proof of chastity well arm'd,
From love's weak childish bow she lives unharm'd.
She will not stay the siege of loving terms,
Nor bide the encounter of assailing eyes,
Romeo's whining about Rosaline's celibacy, but that's not the interesting part. The interesting part is the way he goes about describing love and sex with the language of hunting and battle. Rosaline, he says, won't be "hit with Cupid's arrow" because she's "well arm'd" against his romantic advances. (Romeo also compares Rosaline to Diana, goddess of hunting and of chastity.) Romeo's sexual advances ("loving terms") are also likened to a "siege" (an attack). This conceit (elaborate metaphor) is pretty typical of romantic poetry. Compare Romeo's lines to the following love poem from Edmund Spenser's Amoretti, a collection of poems first published in 1595. (Psst. It's NOT about deer hunting.)
Like as a huntsman after weary chase,
Seeing the game from him escap'd away,
Sits down to rest him in some shady place,
With panting hounds beguiled of their prey:
So after long pursuit and vain assay,
When I all weary had the chase forsook,
The gentle deer return'd the self-same way,
Thinking to quench her thirst at the next brook.
There she beholding me with milder look,
Sought not to fly, but fearless still did bide:
Till I in hand her yet half trembling took,
And with her own goodwill her firmly tied.
Strange thing, me seem'd, to see a beast so wild,
So goodly won, with her own will beguil'd. (Amoretti LXVII)
What say you? can you love the gentleman?
This night you shall behold him at our feast;
Read o'er the volume of young Paris' face,
And find delight writ there with beauty's pen;
Examine every married lineament,
And see how one another lends content
And what obscured in this fair volume lies
Find written in the margent of his eyes.
This precious book of love, this unbound lover,
To beautify him, only lacks a cover:
The fish lives in the sea, and 'tis much pride
For fair without the fair within to hide:
That book in many's eyes doth share the glory,
That in gold clasps locks in the golden story;
So shall you share all that he doth possess,
By having him, making yourself no less.
Here, Lady Capulet instructs Juliet to check out Paris when she's at the Capulet's ball later that evening so she can decide whether or not she likes what she sees. What's interesting about this passage is the way Lady Capulet compares Paris's face to the cover of a book of love poetry that Juliet can "read." When she calls Paris an "unbound" lover, she puns on Paris's status as an unbound, or unmarried, man who "lacks a cover," or a wife, to "bind" him and enrich his beauty.
Brain Snack: In the 1996 film Romeo + Juliet, director Baz Luhrmann makes Lady Capulet's metaphor literal by placing a picture of Paris's face on the cover of a popular magazine.