R for sex, sexual language, brief nudity, and bawdy jokes
There's very little in Romeo and Juliet that can't be interpreted as some kind of dirty joke. Even the most serious moments in the play have sexual puns lurking under the surface. Here's a guide to some of the play's bawdy bits (the Elizabethan term for dirty jokes). It's not definitive, since that would mean reprinting most of the play, so here are two rules you should follow when looking for the sexual parts of Romeo and Juliet:
- If it seems like a line might be a sex joke, it's probably a sex joke.
- If it seems like there's no way a line could be a sex joke, there's still a high probability that it's a sex joke.
Some general guidelines:
- Watch out for references to death. In Elizabethan slang, "to die" means to have an orgasm. (Compare to the French slang for orgasm, "la petite mort," the little death.)
- Any reference to weapon/sword/dagger/tool/arrow/shaft/thrust can be interpreted not just in the literal sense (all the men in the play do carry swords) but also as a reference to their metaphorical "swords." This should become clear pretty early in the play, when Sampson says, "My naked weapon is out" (1.1.10). Also, any reference to Cupid's shafts in particular is not just talking about the naked baby's cute little arrows.
- "To stand" is used as a metaphor for having an erection.
- References to falling, sinking, or bearing burdens are all supposed to conjure the image of women with men lying on top of them. (Or, occasionally, men with adventurous women on top of them.)
A sampling of dirty jokes in the play:
- The opening pages of the play are basically one long dirty joke. Two Capulets are talking about "thrusting" Montague women to the wall. Gregory boasts about his "naked weapon" and describes how he will use his "sword" to "cut off" the "maid's heads" or "maidenheads" (their virginity).
- Even Juliet's Nurse's speech is full of double entendre:
I must another way,
To fetch a ladder, by the which your love
Must climb a bird's nest soon when its dark. (2.5.9)
Here, she's literally talking about getting a ladder for Romeo to climb up so he can spend the night in Juliet's bedroom. To "climb a bird's nest" is also slang for having sex.
- Almost everything Mercutio says is dirty. He and Romeo have an epic back-and-forth in 1.4 that involves cupid's "shafts," sinking underneath the burden of love, and Mercutio's command, "If love be rough with you, be rough with love / prick love for pricking and you beat love down" (1.4.4).
- Even Juliet has her moments. In the balcony scene, as she's talking to herself about how amazing Romeo is, she's not just thinking about his dreamy eyes and great personality. "Tis but thy name that is my enemy," she argues to herself. "Thou art thyself, though not a Montague./ What's Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot, nor arm nor face, nor [pause, grin] any other part belonging to a man" (2.2.3). In the 1996 film Romeo + Juliet, Claire Danes does a great reading of this line.