“Enamoured of thy Parts”: Dismemberment and Domesticity in Romeo and Juliet

Ariane M. Balizet
Texas Christian University

Ariane M. Balizet. “‘Enamoured of thy Parts’: Dismemberment and Domesticity in Romeo and Juliet.” Early Modern Literary Studies Special Issue 19 (2009) 10.1-31 <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/si-19/balirome.html>.

  1. Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
    Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
    What’s Montague? It is nor hand nor foot,
    Nor arm nor face, nor any other part
    Belonging to a man. (2.1.81-85)1
    In her dismissal of Romeo’s name, Juliet raises what must have been an important question for an audience in Renaissance London: What are the essential qualities—parts—belonging to a proper man? A bawdy and necessary joke haunts this question: “other” parts might be “private” parts, in which case it is merely genitalia that Juliet requires from Romeo to make a worthy partner. If we read Juliet’s catalogue of parts belonging to a man this way, however, we ignore that Romeo and Juliet is in fact a play deeply invested in the anatomization of masculine qualities, not simply in the ribald sense of the male “pump,” “hams,” and “fishified” flesh (2.3.60, 51, 37) harped on by Mercutio and perhaps hinted at by Juliet here. It is not just a man that Romeo and Juliet attempts to assemble from these disembodied parts: Juliet is looking to make Romeo into her husband. In this, the play repeatedly reflects the chief priority of early modern marriage manuals: articulation of the nature of a husband’s authoritative presence in the home. Renaissance domestic guides, a body of literature dictating marriage, domestic governance, and other practical matters of the household that was rapidly growing in the second half of the sixteenth century (Hull 35), sought to establish a model of the family composed of a head and its compliant, inferior members. The language of dismemberment, dissection, and anatomization in Romeo and Juliet thus corresponds directly to Renaissance cultural discourse on domesticity, and, as I will argue, illustrates the play’s rejection of contemporary domestic ideology.

  2. Given that so few characters in Romeo and Juliet understand the nature of the protagonists’ relationship, the bulk of the play is in fact given over to two dynastical projects: on the Capulet side, finding a proper husband for Juliet, and on the Montague side, testing and proving masculinity through escalating violence. The rhetorical dismemberment of male bodies such as Romeo’s simultaneously satisfies both aims. In imagining the perfect husband—and therefore dramatizing a domestic ideal—Romeo and Juliet reveals the extent to which early modern models of domestic order depend upon fantasies of corporeal violence.

  3. The present study explores two tangled metaphorical systems: figures of embodiment in Renaissance England, drawn from the richly evocative language of medical treatises; and figures of domesticity, drawn from the didactic but often lively and even conflicted language of marriage manuals and household guides popular in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These two metaphorical systems overlap in their interest in the human body; for the former, as tenor, and for the latter, as vehicle. On the surface, the authors of Renaissance medical, domestic, and dramatic literatures asserted the body as a figuratively neutral site, an analogic middle-ground that materially located the individual soul within family, state, and cosmic hierarchies. In the past twenty years, however, scholarship on the body in early modern cultural discourse has revealed many important fissures in these models (see McDowell). In Romeo and Juliet (especially Q2, the longer version with which modern audiences are most familiar), as in the literatures of medicine and housekeeping, we can locate a complex struggle between the dominant ideology of an ordered, unified body and the messy but practical realities of embodied experience. The 1597 First Quarto of Romeo and Juliet omits several passages (or significant portions thereof) discussed here, especially those pertaining to Capulet’s servants. No longer regarded as a “Bad” Quarto, recent studies have advanced the possibility that Q1 was an abridged version of the play for a touring production. The omission of scenes featuring small, witty domestic characters or emphasizing Capulet’s domestic skills makes sense in the service of quick pacing and a mobile, flexible production. Q2, on the other hand, presents a richer and more nuanced picture of the interlocking ideologies of properly ordered bodies and households.

  4. When Juliet rejects her father’s offer of Paris as a groom, he focuses his disbelief on the body of Paris as a collection of parts fashioned into a suitable husband: “Does she not count her blessed, / Unworthy as she is, that we have wrought / So worthy a gentleman to be her bride?” (3.5.142-4). Capulet’s use of the term “wrought” is underscored later in his tirade, as it is the young man’s “parts,” collected or “stuffed” together, that make him a “worthy” husband for the “unworthy” Juliet:
    Day, night, hour, tide, time, work, play,
    Alone, in company, still my care hath been
    To have her matched; and having now provided
    A gentleman of noble parentage,
    Of fair demesnes, youthful, and nobly ligned,
    Stuffed, as they say, with honourable parts,
    Proportioned as one’s thought would wish a man… (3.5.176-182)
    Capulet’s frustration belies two contrasting models of embodiment: Paris is “[p]roportioned as one’s thought would wish a man,” and thus imagined as a whole, complete, and ordered example of a bridegroom. At the same time, however, his “honourable parts” are rhetorically isolated and thus emphasized; like Romeo’s “part[s] / Belonging to a man,” Paris is similarly anatomized for Juliet’s scrutiny. Contrary to the Bakhtinian model of Renaissance masculinity defined by “classical” wholeness, the search for Juliet’s husband has already revealed Paris’s virtue as a function of his parts (see Stallybrass 126-27).

  5. The underlying violence in this metaphorical fragmentation and its inherence to the domestic sphere staged by Romeo and Juliet are my chief concern, and in this I am deeply indebted to the scholarship of Wendy Wall. In Staging Domesticity, Wall examines the violence of domestic labor in early modern culture and on the Renaissance stage in sharp contrast to hegemonic models of order and harmony. For Wall, the early modern domestic space represented a web that necessarily includes familiarity, alienation, eroticism, and violence—a “fully penetrable body more complex and negotiable than dominant models suggest” (219). I find Wall’s premise that “domestic life was represented as accessible but also forcefully estranged from its practitioners” (18) particularly helpful in understanding the way that Shakespeare’s play repeatedly frames domestic formation (a potential marriage) with the unsettling language of violent anatomization.

  6. In what follows, I will begin by tracing the figurative language of embodiment in the Renaissance to show the persistence of dismemberment as a threat to corporeal models of identity and organization. I then locate the anxiety of dismemberment in models of the embodied household, focusing in particular on how Renaissance domestic guides idealized an impossibly disciplined, highly ordered domestic corporeality. In order to make this connection between dismemberment and domesticity, I have brought Romeo and Juliet into conversation with medical/anatomical treatises and domestic guides published in Shakespeare’s time (roughly 1550-1619). Although published after the first Quarto of Romeo and Juliet appeared in 1597, the few treatises and guides mentioned below that post-date the play indicate the persistence of particular motifs in Renaissance medical and domestic culture throughout Shakespeare’s career. By including them, my aim is to shed light on the cultural significance of somatic metaphors for the ordered home and cosmos throughout this period, and to suggest that the use of somatic rhetoric in Romeo and Juliet is unique in its energetic rejection of the ideologies of bodily and household order that dominated medical and domestic discourse during this time.

  7. Finally, I will read this heightened language of dismemberment directed towards the bodies of the young lovers in Romeo and Juliet—especially Romeo’s anatomized, scrutinized collection of “parts”—as the play’s articulation of the violence stemming not from an “ancient grudge” (1.0.3) but from the very nature of these “[t]wo households both alike in dignity” (1.0.1).


    And hence it is, that man is called a Microcosme or little worlde.” (Crooke 2)

  8. The foremost embodiment metaphor in early modern England was man-as-microcosm, and thus the threat of dismemberment triggered anxieties ranging from the immediately personal to the larger, Foucauldian sense of the political.2 Helkiah Crooke’s 1615 anatomical treatise was structured entirely around this analogy of man and cosmos, a sentiment articulated by Romeo himself: “Can I go forward when my heart is here? / Turn back, dull earth, and find thy centre out” (2.1.1-2). Here Romeo imagines his body as a “dull earth” lacking a heart or center—i.e., his beloved, Juliet. Renaissance anatomical treatises such as Crooke’s, practical health guides such as William Bullein’s 1595 Government of Health, and phlebotomy manuals such as Nicholas Gyer’s 1592 English Phlebotomy relied upon a microcosmic epistemology of embodiment:
    Of the excellency and dignity of man’s body: have not the Philosophers in the schools called the same Microcosmos, Orbiculus, a little world most beautiful in form, & fairest in shape, excelling far all other living creatures in whom the creator hath made. (Gyer A3v)
    This analogy functioned on national and spiritual levels as the body politic, metaphorically linking a unified human body to the body of the state and the order of the cosmos. “For many writers in Tudor and Stuart England,” writes Jonathan Gil Harris in Foreign Bodies and the Body Politic, “the body politic was not simply a heuristic device; it was imbued with a cosmic significance, participating within a system of correspondences between the body of man, or microcosm, and the larger body of the universe, or macrocosm” (2). Leonard Barkan has argued that the Elizabethan version of the body politic repaired some of the damage suffered under Henry VIII’s split with Rome and subsequent “confusion of bodies politic and mystical” (76):
    The English Renaissance picture of world order was above all a defense of the hierarchical status quo, and the human body was a useful analogy because, like society, it was clearly a strange and arbitrary combination of functions which all seemed to work perfectly together. Perhaps the prime lesson of the anthropomorphic analogy is the idea of cooperation: each member is only a part of the whole body, and therefore less than the whole, but the whole can only exist as the totality of its members. (77)
    While it would be difficult to overstate the ideological weight of the body politic in the medical and dramatic literature of the English Renaissance, Barkan’s picture of Elizabethan order is an example of what Harris terms “the fetishization of social integration and cohesion that is the hallmark of functionalist organicism” (5). In other words, Barkan’s twentieth-century analysis seems to accept the mythic premise of supreme bodily coherence and unity upon which the early modern body politic is based, ignoring the many examples within Renaissance medical and dramatic literature that actually contradict a “defense of the hierarchical status quo.” Romeo’s “dull earth,” for instance, has already been dismembered; he turns back to retrieve his missing “heart.”

  9. Gail Kern Paster has consequently shattered the assumption that the early modern body was seen as an unequivocal “combination of functions which all seemed to work perfectly together” with her groundbreaking work on the dynamics of the humoral body in Renaissance culture. Paster argues, “[I]f the insubstantial margins of the humoral body open that body to the world, the cultural meaning of that openness remains indeterminate … . For the humoral body, all boundaries were threatened because they were—as a matter of physical definition and functional health—porous and permeable” (13). Paster’s work is important because it reminds us that, while ideological apparatuses operated under the guiding principles of neatly ordered analogies of human, social, and cosmic bodies, humoral epistemology (including Galenic medical theory and the bulk of early modern health sciences and medical practice) depended on the fundamental fluidity of the body’s boundaries.3

  10. Accordingly, if we are to explore how writers including Gyer, Shakespeare, and Crooke embraced the analogic connections between the human body, the state, and the cosmos, we must also note their palpable anxieties towards the body’s vulnerabilities. The Nurse’s early compliment to Paris, for example—“A man, young lady, lady, such a man / As all the world—why, he’s a man of wax” (1.3.77-78)—indeed gestures towards a microcosmic analogy (“such a man / As all the world”). At the same time, the double-edged description of Juliet’s potential husband as a “man of wax” suggests the perfection of a sculptor’s model and a figure subject to melting and disintegration.4 Shakespeare’s stage in particular embraced the dramatic possibilities in the fact that the “little world” of man was always on the verge of melting, leaking, or breaking apart.

  11. Romeo and Juliet is riddled with tropes of dismemberment. In its earliest moments, the Capulet Samson imagines an act of sexual violence (the breaking of a Montague maidenhead) as a beheading: “when I have fought with the men, I will be civil with the maids, I will cut off their heads” (1.1.20-22). He then identifies himself according to the relevant “part” of his body: “’tis known I am a pretty piece of flesh” (1.1.27-28). I do not intend to argue, however, that Samson’s comments are indicative of an alienated, disembodied sensibility; as David Hillman and Carla Mazzio assert in the introduction to their important collection The Body in Parts, in early modern Europe, “the body in parts is not always the body in pieces” (xi). For Hillman and Mazzio, the “body in parts” is a discourse resultant from the sixteenth century breakdown in “religious and social systems modeled on bodily organization” (xiii); the Reformation, for example, severed the Anglican Church from Rome (a “part”) but left it relatively coherent and functional (not “in pieces”).

  12. Following Hillman and Mazzio, Sean McDowell’s survey of recent scholarship on early modern bodies finds “an emphasis on bodily fragmentation, [and] the agency of body parts in competition with one another” (780). We see this emphasis on bodily fragmentation in Mercutio’s “Queen Mab” speech, in which competition between body parts is illustrated by ensuing dreams:
    And in this state she gallops night by night
    Through lovers’ brains, and then they dream of love;
    O’er courtiers’ knees, that dream on curtsies straight;
    O’er lawyers fingers, who straight dream on fees;
    O’er ladies’ lips, who straight on kisses dream…
    Sometime she driveth o’er a soldier’s neck,
    And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
    Of breaches, ambuscados, Spanish blades,
    Of healths five fathom-deep; and then anon
    Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes,
    And being thus frighted, swears a prayer or two,
    And sleeps again. (1.4.68-86)
    The accent is on the body part—brains, knees, fingers, lips, necks, ears—over which Queen Mab travels. It is the part that dictates the dream, not the character (lover, courtier, lady, soldier). Hillman and Mazzio’s essay underscores the potent ethos in such rhetorical tropes: “Insofar as parts were imagined as dominant vehicles for the articulation of culture, the early modern period could be conceptualized as an age of synecdoche” (xiii-xiv). The synecdochical force of lips and knees here renders Queen Mab’s journey into a monstrous image, in which the part overwhelms and overdetermines the whole. Mazzio and Hillman later clarify the “age of synecdoche” as an early modern crisis of synecdoche, in which a political, religious, or dramatic whole is threatened by the “often disruptive dominance of its parts” (xxvi n17). Mercutio could be the standard-bearer for such a crisis, as he imagines Rosaline by blazoning her desirable parts:
    I conjure thee by Rosaline’s bright eyes,
    By her high forehead and her scarlet lip,
    By her fine foot, straight leg, and quivering thigh
    And the demesnes that there adjacent lie (2.1.18-21)
    Rosaline’s body is certainly not a “little world”; nor is it, in Hillman and Mazzio’s sense, “in pieces.” The tension between Mercutio’s anatomization of Rosaline’s parts and her identification as an object (or collection of objects) of desire represents one of the several ways Romeo and Juliet attempts to articulate an embodied metaphor: the human body as acutely vulnerable to dismemberment and always subject to scrutiny.

  13. There is a dramatic conflict between this model of embodiment and the man-as-microcosm metaphor also running throughout Romeo and Juliet. If they are similar in any way, it is in their emphasis on legibility. The ideology of the body politic and the language of dismemberment applied here to Rosaline and elsewhere to Romeo share only the vocabulary of the anatomist. The connection between this motif of anatomization and domestic ideology is made explicit in Andrew Kingsmill’s A View of Man’s Estate. Published posthumously in 1576 and reprinted several times before 1600, Kingsmill offers this advice to his sister on choosing a husband:
    [B]ut if there happen any such where upon your consideration shall stand, my counsel is that you follow [that] example of the Physician, who to know the whole state of a man openeth and cutteth him up, and divideth him into parts, and thereby groweth into a greater knowledge: so I wish you to make an anatomy of him [that] you have in hand, make no confusion of wealth, wit, body and soul, life and living: For so you may soon deceive yourself. (J8v)
    Kingsmill’s instructions are vividly descriptive: to evaluate and choose a proper husband, the suitor must be “opened,” cut up, and divided into parts. As I will discuss below, Juliet’s division of Romeo into “parts / belonging to a man” thus places her in the position of the anatomist or Kingsmill’s “Physician.” Yet the “greater knowledge” Kingsmill promises here of the husband-to-be is tinged with danger. Jonathan Sawday begins his magnificent study of early modern anatomists’ theaters with a helpful assertation: “anatomization … is an act of partition or reduction and, like dissection, anatomy is associated primarily with medicine. But, just as in the case of dissection, there lurks in the word a constant potential for violence” (1). Although we must differentiate dismemberment from mutilation—Romeo’s hand, foot, arm, and face are still recognizable as such—the rhetorical taking apart of bodies is still, inherently, a threat of violence.

  14. For Marjorie Garber, the violence of dismemberment is always already present on the stage: “The materiality of the body and its vulnerable articulations not only exemplifies but constitutes the semantics of performance. Dismemberment is the hard connective tissue of drama, the skeleton beneath its scrim” (45). The actors’ bodies constantly reify those vulnerabilities and anxieties generated by the language of embodiment and dismemberment. In what follows, I will argue that Romeo and Juliet not only illustrates Garber’s point, it also reveals dismemberment to be the “skeleton,” so to speak, of domestic life in the early modern imagination.


  15. When he had told at length the wife what was her due:
    His duty eke by ghostly talk the youthful husband knew.
    How that the wife in love must honor and obey:

    What love and honor he doth owe, and debt that he must pay. (Brooke 763-66)

    — Arthur Brooke, The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Iuliet (1562), 763-766.
    Arthur Brooke’s Romeus and Iuliet—which scholars agree served as Shakespeare’s primary source for Romeo and Juliet—includes a lengthy wedding scene in which the Friar soberly lectures the lovers on their roles as husband and wife, emphasizing their respective “due[s]” and “dut[ies]”. In Shakespeare’s version, Friar Laurence hurries the lovers along: “Come, come with me, and we will make short work; / For, by your leaves, you shall not stay alone / Till holy church incorporate two in one” (2.5.35-37). By stating his refusal to leave them alone (out of fear, we presume, that they will act on their elegantly articulated desire) and rushing the ceremony, Shakespeare’s Friar Laurence demonstrates an earthly understanding which Brooke’s version of the character lacks. The nature of the “ghostly talk” in Brooke, however, is no mystery. Domestic literature of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries took as its central focus the duties of husbands and wives which, when working properly, took on the characteristics of a unified human body, as seen in William Whately’s Bride-Bush: Or, A Direction for married persons (1619):
    The husband’s special duties, are all fitly referred to two heads; he must govern his wife, and maintain her; and as our Lord Jesus is to his Church (for with that comparison is the holy ghost himself delighted), so must he be to his wife an head and savior. As for government, two things also be required of him; one, that he keep his authority; the other, that he do use it. (O1r)
    The somatic figure for domestic authority—the man as head of the household—featured prominently in household literature. Indeed, increased literacy in the second half of the sixteenth century was met with a flood of new or translated domestic guides and marriage manuals in the London marketplace, most of which revolved around simple analogies of order: head and body, husband and household, king and country, God and cosmos.5 Myles Coverdale’s 1552 translation of Heinrich Bullinger’s Christen State of Matrymonye cites a biblical precedent to argue for female inferiority as it cautions against male tyranny:
    The woman was taken from out of the side of man and not from the earth, lest any man should think that he had gotten his wife out of the mire: but to consider, [that] the wife is the husband’s flesh and bone, and therefore to love her, yet was she not made of [the] head. For the husband is the head and master of the wife. Neither was she made of the feet (as though thou might’st spurn her away from thee, and no thing regard her) but even out of thy side, as one that is set next unto man, to be his help and companion. (A3v)
    For Bullinger, the model of the domestic body emphasizes the man as “head and master,” but characterizes the woman as made from (and therefore signifying) the “side,” not, he underscores, the feet. Synecdochically, the feet signify the lowest of labor and the violence of “spurning”; the “side,” however, suggests not only a companionate model for marriage but emphasizes the human trunk, internal organs, reproductive system, and womb.

  16. The result of this anatomization was the practical division of labor, contrasting the head-of-household’s business outside the home and the housewife’s maintenance of thrifty order within the domestic threshold. Edmund Tilney’s 1568 Flower of friendshippe is indicative in this regard: “The office of the husband is, to go abroad in matters of profit, of the wife, to tarry at home, and see all be well there” (C5v). Husband and housewife are instructed to maintain complementary roles within and outside the home, according to Tilney:
    The office of the husband is, to be Lord of all, of the wife, to give account of all, and finally I say, that the office of the husband is, to maintain well his livelihood, and the office of the woman is, to govern well the household. (C5v)6
    The head should not lower itself to the functions of the body, cautions the author of A glass for housholders (1542); just as “she should not much entermedle in your merchandise or business which is done out of ye house… So it is not seeming that you greatly busy yourself in things of the house belonging to her charge as many womanly men do” (D4v). On the surface, at least, the prosaic matters of household governance were relegated to domestic members other than the head of household.

  17. Thus the larger social—and even political—consequences of maintaining the constant role of “head” in the domestic body, according to Renaissance domestic guides, were clear. According to John Dod and Robert Cleaver’s Godlie Forme of Householde Government, from 1598,
    A household is as it were a little commonwealth… If [a wife] be not subject to her husband, to let him rule all household, especially outward affairs; if she will make head against him, and seek to have her own ways, there will be doing and un-doing. Things will go backward, the house will come to ruin, for God will not bless where his ordinance is not obeyed. (A7r-F4v)
    Here a wife’s gravest insubordination is to “make head” against her husband, and the consequences of such a dismemberment are dire, as Dod and Cleaver warn: “God will not bless” such a house. Indeed, for the authors of these guides, household order was directly tied to domestic order in the widest (which is to say, proto-national) sense, and, keeping this in mind, Alex Niccholes’ 1615 Discourse of Marriage and Wiving explains the husband’s domestic responsibilities fully:
    [F]or every married man, for the most part, hath three Common-wealths under him: he is a Husband of a Wife, a Father of Children, and a Master of Servants, and therefore had need of government in himself that must govern all these, and to that purpose cannot take unto himself a better practice or precedent, then from this uniformity of the body, where the head stands aloft like a king in his Thro[n]e, giving direction and command to all his Subjects, biddeth the foot go, and it goeth, the hand fight and it fighteth. (G2v-G3r)
    Perhaps nowhere in the domestic literature of the Renaissance are the interlocking analogues of bodily, familial, and proto-national integrity so elegantly articulated. The ideal husband, according to Niccholes, possesses the “uniformity” of body wherein the head can clearly command the foot or hand; just so must a head of household order his servants to move the furniture, his wife to prepare his dinner, and his children to maintain silence; just so must a king, from his seat of power, command his subjects do his bidding. A breakdown in this system—if a husband has a disobedient wife, “making head” against him, or a potential head of household lacks the “uniformity of body” to be the seat of authority—threatens to dismantle the entire system.

  18. Part of this “uniformity of body,” however, was secured through the marital bond; much of the domestic literature from this period points to the good wife as an essential quality of masculinity. Thomas Tusser’s tremendously popular Fiue hundreth pointes of good husbandrie,7 which largely expounds the merits of household thrift (“husbandry”), compares the housewife to a man’s “weapon”:
    Take weapon away, of what force is a man?
    Take huswife from husband, and what is he then?
    As lovers do covet, together to dwell,
    So husbandry loveth, good huswifery well. (H6r)
    As a tool of violence proves essential to masculinity, so too the good housewife—practiced in the arts contained in Tusser’s guide—proves essential to the thrifty husband. For her part, the good housewife must obtain proper instruction from her family, as Bullinger instructs:
    It is expedient that a man handfast not his daughter before he hath good experience of her housewifery, and governing of an house. For it becommeth her better to have a pair of rough and hard hands, then to be fair and soft, glistering with rings or covered continually with smooth gloves…so that they may govern their own houses with their own husbands. (L8r)
    Without a “pair of rough and hard hands,” a daughter cannot fulfill the role of the good housewife; without a good housewife, a man cannot fulfill his role as the proper “head and savior” of the household. In the domestic literature of the Renaissance, this “crisis of synecdoche” is always poised to dismember the figure of somatic domesticity. If the Renaissance home is a body, and the Renaissance body is a little world under potential threat of breaking apart, then what we see in these marriage guides is a collision of metaphors for home and body in which the constant dangers of dismemberment and household disorder are in fact interchangeable. The reassertion of the husband as “head” in the somatic model of domesticity—even at times to the point of figurative absurdity—serves to deflect and absorb the anxieties of dismemberment inherent to porous, permeable somatic experience.

  19. Because Shakespeare, unlike Brooke, makes it plain that Romeo and Juliet have only the observation of their own families for instruction, the Capulet household provides a surprising example for the expectations and vulnerabilities of domestic corporeality. Jennifer Low has argued that Romeo’s repeated trespassing into the Capulet home and violent breaking into the Capulet burial monument are staged manifestations of his penetration of Juliet’s body (4). The Capulet home, however, is not secured as tightly as the tomb; as a domestic body, the Capulet home is perpetually festive, porous, and open. On the night of Capulet’s “old-accustomed feast” (1.2.20), for instance, the household is in chaos. The servant Peter reflects these sentiments to Juliet’s mother:
    Madam, the guests are come, supper served up, you called, my young lady asked for, the Nurse cursed in the pantry, and everything in extremity. I must hence to wait; I beseech you follow straight. (1.3.102-105)
    A household “in extremity” is both “in a state of emergency” and disjointed or pulled apart; since the extremities of a body are the hands and feet, this domestic body definitively lacks a head.8 Capulet’s furious question to Tybalt—“Am I the master here or you?” (1.4.191)—in the midst of the party scene is indicative of this disciplinary crisis. His magnanimous permissiveness of Romeo’s presence is nullified by the fact that he has no real control over the permeable boundaries of his home. As he transforms the banquet into a dancehall, the Chief Serving-man snatches a sweet for himself and arranges for the admittance of two uninvited guests:
    Away with the joint-stools, remove the court-cupboard, look to the plate. Good thou, save me a piece of marchpane, and as thou loves me, let the porter let in Susan Grindstone and Nell, Anthony and Potpan. (1.4.118-122)9
    Who are Susan Grindstone and Nell? They do not appear on the guest list dictated by Capulet (1.2.65-74). As Potpan has already been identified as a fellow servant shirking his responsibilities (1.4.113) it seems as though the women are private guests for a separate gathering; the Chief Serving-man, having surreptitiously requested a piece of candy and the admittance of the two women, then returns to calling for help from Potpan and Anthony.10 In this reading, Susan Grindstone and Nell are thus clandestine trespassers; no doubt their presence is completely benign, but their admittance under the authority of a servant makes them intruders nonetheless. These moments of domestic labor bordering on chaos suggest a household that is all extremity; we witness pleasures (purloined marzipan, secret guests) and dangers (unsecured domestic borders), but no authoritative “head.” In contrast with Capulet’s potent social prerogative to choose his daughter’s husband—“An you be mine, I’ll give you to my friend; / An you be not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets!” (3.5.191-192)—the domestic body represented by the Capulet household is governed not from its head but from its extremities.

  20. The consequences of Capulet’s inability to govern as head of his domestic body are evident not in his wife’s “making head” against him, however, but in Juliet’s fundamental disobedience. Juliet’s intentional perjury to her father after obtaining the sleeping potion, for example—“Henceforward I am ever ruled by you” (4.2.21)—temporarily gives the impression that his authoritative “head” has been reasserted. “This is as’t should be,” he says (4.2.28). At this point, however, he relinquishes masculine disciplinary practices in favor of more prosaic household business. In the words of A glasse for housholders, he wrongly busies himself with domestic cares “as many womanly men do” (D4v). Capulet in fact relishes domestic labor, vowing at first to invite only “a friend or two” (3.4.23) to Juliet’s wedding to Paris; soon his number has grown to “some half a dozen friends” (3.4.27), and, on the eve of the wedding, he demands the hire of “twenty cunning cooks” (4.2.2). That night he sends his wife to bed with assurance that he will see to the wedding preparations. The Nurse, derisively, calls him a “cotquean” (4.4.6), or man acting as housewife,11 but he has already imagined himself as such: “Let me alone. / I’ll play the housewife for this once” (4. 2. 41-42).12 Coppélia Kahn has argued that Capulet’s investment in Juliet’s wedding is a manifestation of patriarchal normativity: “the wedding,” according to Kahn, “constitutes the promise that his line will continue” (13). While I agree to some extent, Capulet’s determination to “play the housewife” in fact undermines the very core of domestic order purported by sixteenth-century marriage guides and, by extension, the cultural values of masculine authority they attempt to inscribe. The disorder in Capulet’s household—a body already “in extremity”—is here represented as an explicitly feminine domestic corporeality.

  21. I read this condemnation of Capulet’s husbandry as deeply ironic on Shakespeare’s part; Capulet’s meddling in housewifery is certainly not transgressive or liberatory, nor do his few actions in keeping with the priorities of authoritative head of household (e.g. violently insisting Juliet marry his choice of Paris) reassert his ability to maintain and protect patriarchal order. It may be tempting to read Capulet as a prime counter-example for the ideal early modern husband, but he does not suffer the abject punishments of cuckoldry, class insubordination, and petty treason that define domestic tragedies such as Arden of Faversham or A Warning for Fair Women.13 I would instead argue that Romeo and Juliet indicts the premise of somatic domesticity itself; anxiety regarding the basic vulnerability of the body to dismemberment disrupts the sustained cultural force of this simple metaphorical system.


    Romeo, come forth, come forth, thou fearful man.
    Affliction is enamoured of thy parts,
    And thou art wedded to calamity. (3.3.1-3)
    Tracing Romeo’s rhetorical dismemberment and consequential prohibition from his place as “head” of a household may seem an abstract exercise: there is no bustling household like Capulet’s awaiting Romeo’s wise husbandry and Juliet’s thrifty housewifery. Within the rhetorical economy of the embodied household, however, the fact that Romeo and Juliet possess no domestic body is deeply significant; the discourse of Renaissance domesticity depends upon a spatial dimension for marital order, and Romeo and Juliet’s marriage occupies no domestic space in which to manifest the cultural imperatives of an orderly household.
    14 This lack of home is emphasized by Shakespeare’s staging of Romeo and Juliet’s most memorable scenes on or near the liminal space of the balcony; both inside and outside the Capulet home, the balcony represents the porousness of one domestic body and the palpable absence of another.15 In their analysis of rape imagery in the play, Robert Watson and Steven Dickey have observed that the spatial significance of the balcony is transformed between the Second and Third Acts: “The fictive spaces and physical arrangements of the two balcony scenes thus take us from the verticality of courtship idolatry (balcony as pedestal) to the horizontal parity of the consummated marriage (balcony as bed)” (135). What is notably missing from the play, however, is a return to the embodied verticality of the domestic hierarchy, a spatial arrangement dictated and demanded by early modern domestic literature. The absence of a domestic body (or the dramatic possibility for a domestic body) is accordingly transferred into rhetorical violence towards the material bodies of the lovers.

  22. When Juliet—fearing she will never consummate her marriage with the banished Romeo—calls for “death, not Romeo, [to] take [her] maidenhead!” (3.2.137), her conflation of sex and death is part of a pattern of such tropes running throughout the play. The interchangeability of grave and wedding bed, for example, occurs rhetorically at the moment she meets Romeo—“If he be marrièd, / My grave is like to be my wedding bed” (1.4.248-9)—and again when she refuses the polygamous union to Paris: “I would the fool were married to her grave” (3.5.139).16 In general, images of death taking her virginity or keeping her as a lover counter-intuitively represent male fantasies of Juliet’s preserved virginity or chastity. Upon discovering her lifeless body, for example, Capulet believes Juliet has died a virgin: “Flower as she was, deflow’red by him. / Death is my son-in-law, death is my heir” (4.4.63-64). Believing Juliet to be dead, and kept to be death’s “paramour” (5.3.105), Romeo maintains she has not yet succumbed to death’s seduction: “Thou art not conquered” (5.3.94). By preserving her chastity in this way, the love-in-death (Liebestod) motif allows for a spectacular consummation in their double suicide. Early applications of the Liebestod myth to Romeo and Juliet thus read the deaths of Shakespeare’s young lovers as idealized erotic fulfillment:
    Only annihilation can do full justice to such longings as Romeo and Juliet share. Theirs is not a love of propagation and domestic contentment, but rather a yearning for a transformation of the world that will correspond to their inner state. Anything but death would be a betrayal of that love. (Rabkin 183)
    Death, within the Liebestod myth, is consummation that transcends the cultural and communal obstacles separating the lovers (see Bijvoet 1-12; Kristeva 212-16; de Rougemont 34-36). As M. M. Mahood and others point out, however, Romeo and Juliet’s love may be secret, but it is not illicit, extra-marital, or adulterous, as the Liebestod tradition dictates (58). The fact that they are married to one another—and thus not disruptive of cultural norms regulating amorous and sexual behavior—may in fact energize the emotive power of their deaths, as Roger Stilling suggests: “they are not outside convention but very much in it, where the creative power of their love may operate effectively. The relationship between the lovers and society is therefore double” (81). Jill L. Levenson has given us a historical context for this deviation from classical and medieval examples of the Liebestod, pointing out that while examples such as Pyramus and Thisbe or Tristan and Isolde exist in liminal stages outside of marriage or trapped in adultery, Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare’s characters as well as earlier versions) actively seek and seem to value the marital rite of passage (4).

  23. If Romeo and Juliet do not exemplify the Liebestod tradition by virtue of their marital legitimacy, however, I want to suggest that Shakespeare revises this familiar story by replacing the perils of adultery with a new macabre threat: a vision of married life articulated through dismemberment, violence, and physical suffering. This is signaled by the fact that Romeo has an unearthly paramour, as well (a motif almost always overlooked by scholars exploring Juliet’s deathly bridegroom). Upon hearing his sentence of banishment, Romeo’s unmanly wailing and weeping elicits a disgusted response from Friar Laurence: “Romeo, come forth, come forth, thou fear-full man. / Affliction is enamoured of thy parts, / And thou art wedded to calamity” (3.3.1-3). Thematically, the erotics of Juliet’s perceived death are recuperative of patriarchal prerogatives, but for Romeo only figures of abject suffering—“affliction,” “calamity”—seek to make him a supernatural bridegroom. Of course, Juliet, like “Affliction,” is “enamoured of [Romeo’s] parts.” Yet Friar Laurence’s comment reiterates Juliet’s anatomization of Romeo’s essential qualities; subjected to the rhetorical economy of embodied domesticity, Romeo is a collection of desirable, but dismembered, parts.

  24. Kingsmill encouraged his sister to “follow [that] example of the Physician,” opening, cutting, dividing the potential suitor into parts, and thereby make “an anatomy of him” (J8v). Juliet and her Nurse exemplify this advice, and the act of anatomization evokes a sense of wholeness in Juliet as it disarticulates Romeo’s masculine qualities:
    Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
    Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
    What’s Montague? It is nor hand nor foot,
    Nor arm nor face, nor any other part
    Belonging to a man.
    Romeo, doff thy name,
    And for thy name, which is no part of thee,
    Take all myself. (2.1.81-92)
    Juliet’s anatomization stresses those parts of his body she sees as elemental to his “dear perfection” (2.1.89) —i.e. hand, foot, face—and argues against the significance of the feud between their families by claiming Romeo’s name is no part of him. Juliet’s adoration of Romeo’s manly parts prefigures Capulet’s description of Paris, “Stuffed, as they say, with honourable parts”; rhetorical dismemberment, in this context, effectively heightens domestic desirability. Juliet’s representation of Romeo as a collection of parts sharply contrasts with her simple self-identification, however, as the endpoint of this meditation asserts her own unity: “Take all myself.” According to Kahn, Juliet’s denial of Romeo’s name as a masculine “part” is ironic (since, as his wife, she would become a Montague and thus a part of his family herself); under Juliet’s logic, “his new identity as a man is to be based on his allegiance to her as her husband, and not on his allegiance to his father” (11). Her assertion of wholeness, however, reminds us that the practice of rhetorical dismemberment—especially, as here, for the purposes of evaluating domestic fitness—was always in contrast to the anatomical and political episteme of man-as-microcosm.

  25. Juliet’s Nurse similarly catalogues the same desirable, masculine parts with the intention of teasing Juliet:
    [Y]ou know not how to choose a man. Romeo? No, not he, though his face be better than any man’s, yet his leg excels all men’s, and for a hand and a foot and a body, though they be not to be talked on, yet they are past compare. (2.4.37-41)17
    Having gotten a good look at Romeo, the Nurse lightheartedly questions Juliet’s judgment—“you know not how to choose a man”—by critiquing those very parts Juliet has already admiringly dissected: his face, his leg, his hands and feet, and his “body” in general. On the basis of this “anatomy” she concludes that his parts are, in fact, “past compare,” though she chides with mock modesty at the very nature of such an examination: “though they be not to be talked on.” Juliet and the Nurse both praise Romeo, of course (in their own ways), but their breaking apart of his body for the purposes of evaluation echoes Mercutio’s aggressive objectification of the beautiful Rosaline. According to Sawday, “[t]he threat or the reality of violence runs through all Renaissance anatomizations, dissections, partitions, and divisions, whether we encounter the term in a medical sense or in a looser metaphorical set of registers” (2). I would argue that rhetorical anatomization, especially vis-à-vis these tenuous models of embodied domesticity, importantly evokes the threat of physical violence, as though neither Juliet nor the Nurse can imagine a husband—even an ideal husband—without implicitly imposing violence upon his body.

  26. This violence is more blunt—though indeed more overtly eroticized—in the blazon of Juliet’s wedding-night soliloquy:
    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,
    And he will make the face of heaven so fine
    That all the world will be in love with night,
    And pay no worship to the garish sun. (3.2.20-25)18
    Juliet’s punning on the word “die” (to orgasm) and the spectacular astronomical display she assumes will follow initially link her burgeoning sexual awareness to the man-as-microcosm embodiment metaphor. Juliet imagines that the bodily act of consummation will have cosmic results: “all the world will be in love with night.”19 Sexual maturity is accordingly metonymized by lavish environmental spectacle, emphasizing the perception that individual bodily transformation will be reflected in the cosmos. Yet the threat of dismemberment from this new bride is shocking in its directness: “when I shall die, / Take him and cut him out in little stars.” On her wedding night, Juliet thus eschews the ideology of a domestic body composed of head and properly governed body; indeed, her fundamentally sexual fantasy ruptures the principle of Romeo’s coherent, unified human body in and of itself. This is accomplished through an expression of purely erotic desire, however—a paradox articulated by Susanne Wofford in her analysis of dismemberment and desire in Antony in Cleopatra. That play, she argues,
    [S]hows that submersion in a mythic whole may be both deeply feared and deeply desired…[and] such submersion can only come with the acceptance of the very dismemberment or dispersion of the self that seems to be its opposite. (20)
    In Antony and Cleopatra, the “mythic whole” includes Antony’s royal love affair with Cleopatra and heroic reputation; in Romeo and Juliet, I am suggesting, the “mythic whole” is not the Liebestod but an embodied domestic life resembling those households imagined in the domestic literature of the sixteenth century. Romeo and Juliet’s articulation of their desire to become husband and wife through the language of dismemberment and danger reveals the deep ambivalence and real fears attending to such fantasies of the whole, complete domestic body.

  27. Nor is the corporeal unity of husband and wife as “one flesh” afforded Romeo and Juliet for any length of time. Friar Laurence’s hurried language at Romeo and Juliet’s wedding seems intended to emphasize a domestic body governed by spiritual unity: “you shall not stay alone / Till holy church incorporate two in one” (2.5.36-37). Immediately following carnal consummation of their bond, however, Juliet’s language begins to sever their “one flesh”:
    Some say the lark makes sweet division;
    This doth not so, for she divideth us.
    Some say the lark and loathèd toad changed eyes.
    O now I would they had changed voices too,
    Since arm from arm that voice doth us affray. (3.5.29-33)
    Having been “incorporated,” the separation of the newlyweds—“arm from arm”—enacts a division more violent than the anatomization of parts that occurred before their nuptials. After this incorporation, Romeo and Juliet repeatedly imagine their bodies as houses, a recurring trope made more poignant by the absence of a household of their own. Following her fantasy to “cut [Romeo] out in little stars,” Juliet impatiently laments, “O, I have bought the mansion of a love, / But not possessed it; and though I am sold, / Not yet enjoyed” (3.2.26-28). Initially, Romeo is the domestic space (the “mansion of love” she has purchased), but she then reverses the image and it is she who has not yet been “enjoyed.”

  28. This image reappears with a chilling effect from Romeo, echoing Juliet’s earlier “What’s in a name?” soliloquy as well as the mansion of love: “O tell me, Friar, tell me, / In what vile part of this anatomy / Doth my name lodge? Tell me, that I may sack / The hateful mansion” (3.3.104-107). Critics have long read Romeo’s longing for self-humiliation here as figurative castration; having been made “effeminate” by Juliet’s beauty (3.1.114), he manifests his abject suffering through a desire to sever his masculine privilege through his father’s name.20 What has been overlooked is that Romeo’s urge to dismember himself takes the form of figurative domesticity; the violence he intends towards his body manifests itself in an imagined household corrupted by an enemy lodger. Juliet has already answered this question—his name is not a part of his body—but Romeo’s suffering reflects the frustration of his ability to embody the unified, masculine order of a Renaissance household.

  29. Friar Laurence briefly attempts to reify a sense of bodily unity in Romeo, throwing into sharp relief the anatomizing language directed towards his body. His tirade begins by emphasizing masculinity as the experience of unified, coherent wholeness:
    Hold thy desperate hand!
    Art thou a man? Thy form cries out thou art.
    Thy tears are womanish; thy wild acts denote
    The unreasonable fury of a beast.
    nseemly woman in a seeming man,
    And ill-beseeming beast in seeming both,
    Thou hast amazed me.

    Thy noble shape is but a form of wax,
    Digressing from the valour of a man;
    Thy dear love sworn but hollow perjury,
    Killing that love which thou hast vowed to cherish;
    Thy wit, that ornament to shape and love,
    Mis-shapen in the conduct of them both,
    Like powder in a skilless soldier’s flask
    Is set afire by thine own ignorance,
    And thou dismembered with thine own defence. (3.3.107-133)21
    Romeo’s “form” and “shape” indicate his masculinity; he is not, in this effort at consolation by Friar Laurence, a collection of parts. According to the friar, Romeo’s leaky tears are “womanish,” his “wild acts” beastly, but he has within him the potential—in “valour,” “wit,” and “noble shape”—to manifest a man. As the passage continues, however, Friar Laurence seems to doubt Romeo’s potential for masculine unity. The final image, in which the intangible qualities of Romeo’s wit and ignorance explode like gunpowder, produces the play’s most direct rhetorical dismemberment—here, with his “own defence.” I read this as an indictment not of Romeo but of the figure of embodied domesticity itself. The image of a “skilless” soldier dismembering himself with his own weapon mirrors the weaponless man in Tusser’s domestic aphorism: “Take weapon away, of what force is a man? / Take huswife from husband, and what is he then?” In both examples, violence—a quality implicitly inherent to masculinity—appears perverse in its misapplication or absence, harming or making vulnerable to harm the soldier, husband, or man. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, however, insists upon the violence inherent to models of domesticity, the results of which are evinced in the destruction of an “alliance” (2.2.91) that was purposefully meant to quell fighting between the two families.

  30. Juliet, despairing in Friar Laurence’s cell, is also subject to rhetorical dismemberment. Her attempt to express her fear of bigamy fractures her own body along with Romeo’s, resulting in a fantasy of suicide that renders her body into “extremes”:
    God joined my heart and Romeo’s, thou our hands;
    And ere this hand, by thee to Romeo’s sealed,
    Shall be the label to another deed,
    Or my true heart with treacherous revolt
    Turn to another, this shall slay them both.
    Therefore, out of thy long-experienced time,
    Give me some present counsel; or behold,
    Twixt my extremes and me this bloody knife
    Shall play the umpire… (4.1.55- 63)22
    In this moment, Juliet underscores the innate connection between corporeal violence and domesticity running through Romeo and Juliet. Her vocabulary is initially the language of nuptial solemnization; here Levenson (citing Naseeb Shaheen) points out strong echoes of the Marriage Service in Juliet’s language (4.1.55n). The turning of one hand against a “treacherous” hand and heart (female “parts,” as it were, necessary to solemnize a marriage to Paris) to commit suicide, however, reveals the violent potential beneath the synecdochical terms of her forced marriage. Replicating her father’s house in which “everything [is] in extremity,” Juliet’s desire for death involves the separation of herself from her “extremes”—a term which points to Juliet’s urgent suffering as well as her bodily extremities.23 As the absent authoritative “head” of the household, it is Romeo’s body that receives the brunt of this rhetorical violence throughout the play; Juliet, however, is materially connected to such self-dismemberment. Before drinking the sleeping potion, Juliet addresses her knife directly as insurance against marriage to Paris: “What if this mixture do not work at all? / Shall I be married then tomorrow morning? / No, no! This shall forbid it.—Lie thou there.—/ She lays down a knife” (4.3.20-22sd).24 Juliet’s death—by a “happy dagger” (5.3.169)—has in fact been prefigured by these considered fantasies of dismemberment and suicide. What I want to stress here is that these recurrences of rhetorical dismemberment are not fleeting echoes or hints of danger; they are essential to domesticity as it appeared on the Elizabethan stage—the dramatic language of domestic life.

  31. Romeo and Juliet dramatizes the dismemberment of patriarchal domestic authority at each opportunity: the choleric Capulet’s household is in fact governed in and by its extremities, and the vigorous Romeo is denied a household over which to rule like a king and his commonwealth. This is less a condemnation of these men or their masculinity than a deeply cynical critique of the prevalent model of somatic domesticity. The paradox central to my claim—that early modern dramatists recognized violence as essential to domestic life—reappears in the final moments of the play, when Capulet negotiates a new dowry for Juliet over her corpse: “O brother Montague, give me thy hand. / This is my daughter’s jointure, for no more / Can I demand” (5.3.296-8).25 Throughout the play, domesticity is articulated in terms of dismemberment; here, the language of marriage becomes a means to express the spectacle of bloody death. The efforts towards “jointure”—Juliet’s dowry, but also a union, a joint—hint at the healing of dismembered bodies physical, domestic, and politic (the two men taking hands in a reconciliatory handshake also visually echoes the nuptial handfasting ritual). Romeo and Juliet’s dead bodies, however, underscore the fundamental fallibility and very real dangers presented by fantasies of early modern domestic order.


    1 The edition I am using is the Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet (Q2) from The Oxford Shakespeare, ed. Jill L. Levenson. All subsequent quotations are from this edition, except where noted. For more on the two Quartos of Romeo and Juliet, see Levenson’s introduction to the play, 103-125 and Halio, ed. 123-150.

    2 For Foucault, public torture and execution before the mid-eighteenth century purposefully capitalized on the analogic links between the body of the criminal and the body of the state. The brutality of public dismemberment “made it possible to reproduce the crime on the visible body of the criminal; in the same horror, the crime had to be manifested and annulled. It also made the body of the condemned man the place where the vengeance of the sovereign was applied” (Foucault 55). The tearing apart of the criminal’s body replicated and, through his death, annulled the dismembering of the body politic his crime represented.

    3 For more on Galenic medicine as it was practiced and understood in the Renaissance, see Siraisi 78-152 and Rawcliffe 29-81.

    4 Levenson also suggests a bawdy meaning for “man of wax” in the sense of “a penis becoming erect” (1.3.78n). If taken this way, Paris’s “model” perfection compounds the virility alluded to in his name. This sexual readiness also hints at his body being on the precipice of spilling or “leaking” semen.

    5 For more on the increase of female literature in general, and practical guides in particular, see Hull 47-56.

    6 Lorna Hutson has observed, however, that the dichotomy inherent to this model is in fact an empty one: “the husband occupies both spheres after all, is both ‘indoors’ and ‘outdoors’ all at once” (Hutson 21). According to the model of domesticity in which the husband was lord and head, women served as an “example of his ability to govern.” (21, emphasis mine).

    7 According to Hull, twenty-three editions were published between 1557 and 1641. I am using the 1593 edition.

    8 The OED lists several definitions for “extremity” that fit its use here, including “The uttermost parts of the body; the hands and feet; Extreme or inordinate intensity or violence,” and “A condition of extreme urgency or need; the utmost point of adversity, embarrassment, or suffering.” Wordplay on “extremities” runs throughout Romeo and Juliet, as when the second chorus sets the stage for Act 2: “Temp’ring extremities with extreme sweet”(2.0.14).

    9 Q1 (1597) does not include this scene.

    10 Levenson suggests this and an alternate reading: “the Chief Serving-man, sending a message to the porter, asks him to admit four more to help” (1.4.120-2n).

    11 The OED cites this example to illustrate definition 3: “A man that acts the housewife, that busies himself unduly or meddles with matters belonging to the housewife’s province.”

    12 Q1 does not include this line.

    13Frances Dolan has shown that the language of petty treason and petty tyranny to describe husband-murder and wife-murder, respectively, powerfully reinforced the home/state analogy in Renaissance England.

    14 Of all of Shakespeare’s plays that depend upon a marriage plot, Romeo and Juliet is the only play that deliberately stages both solemnization and consummation. The Friar’s words to the young couple at their wedding willfully resist the language of anatomization that permeates the rest of the play: “you shall not stay alone / Till Holy Church incorporate two in one” (2.5.36-7). Romeo and the Nurse point out the necessity of the rope ladder repeatedly (2.3.176-178; 2.4.71-73), emphasizing through the material prop of the cords (3.2.33-34) that Romeo will, indeed, have physical access to his bride on their wedding night.

    15 In her analysis of the Reformation’s transformation of marriage practice, Christine Peters notes, “As a rite of passage incorporating liminal phases, marriage ritual does not provide a complete blueprint for the meaning of marriage during the lifetime of the couple, but it is an important indication of the transformation that was understood” (65). In Romeo and Juliet, the staging of their courtship on and near the balcony reinforces the sense that their union is in a perpetually liminal phase—despite the fact that they have solemnized and consummated their nuptials properly.

    16 For more on the leitmotiv of Death as Juliet’s bridegroom, see Bijvoet 104-106; Halio Guide 70-71; Kristeva 209-233, esp. 220-222; Mahood 57-58; Stilling Chapter 5, passim.

    17 Q1 similarly represents the Nurse’s association with masculinity and anatomized parts: “Romeo, nay, alas, you cannot choose a man. He’s nobody, he is not the flower of courtesy, he is not a proper man; and for a hand and a foot and a body, well, go thy way, wench, thou hast it i’faith” (2.4.16-19).

    18 Q1 omits this passage entirely.

    19 We find a useful parallel in Paster’s analysis of Juliet’s weaning, in which infant (psychosexual) trauma is inextricably linked with a cosmically significant earthquake: “[W]eaning is in fact surrounded and metonymized by environmental trauma—the “perilous knock” on her forehead the day before, the earthquake striking just at the moment of her loss of the good breast and her rage with the bad” (227).

    20 Kahn argues this moment is one in which we witness the annihilation of gender subjectivity: “Symbolically, he is trying to castrate himself; as a consequence of the feud he cannot happily be a man either by fighting for his name and family or by loving Juliet. Banished and apart from her, he feels, he will have no identity, and nothing to live for” (11).

    21 Q1 omits lines 125-133.

    22 Q1 omits lines 55-60.

    23 For “extreme” used here, as a noun, the OED lists two useful definitions: “The utmost point or verge; that which terminates a body; an end, extremity,” and “Extremities, straits, hardships.”

    24 Q1 has a more explicit address: “What if this potion should not work at all? / Must I of force be married to the County? / This shall forbid it.—Knife, lie thou there—” (4.3.12-15).

    25 Q1 has, “This is my daughter’s dowry, for now no more / Can I bestow on her. That’s all I have” (5.3.207-208). Levenson provides another reading of jointure: “If jointure refers to the bridegroom’s settlement, which provides for the wife if the husband dies first, Capulet accepts a gesture of reconciliation from the bridegroom’s family” (5.3.297n).

    Works Cited

    • A glasse for housholders: wherin thei maye se, bothe howe to rule theim selfes [and] ordre their housholde verye godly and fruytfull. London: 1542. Print.
    • Barkan, Leonard. Nature’s Work of Art: The Human Body as Image of the World. New Haven: Yale UP, 1975. Print.
    • Bijvoet, Maya C. Liebestod: The Function and Meaning of the Double Love-Death. New York: Garland Publishing, 1988. Print.
    • Brooke, Arthur. Romeus and Iuliet/Arthur Brooke; Rhomeo and Iulietta /William Painter. Ed. P. A. Daniel. London: New Shakespeare Society, 1875. Print.
    • Bullein, William. The Government of Health. London: 1595. Print. 
    • Bullinger, Heinrich. The Christen State of Matrymonye. Trans. Myles Coverdale. London: 1552. Print.
    • Crooke, Helkiah. Mikrokosmographia. London: 1615. Print. 
    • de Rougemont, Denis. Love in the Western World. Trans. Montgomery Belgion. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Co., 1940. Print.
    • Dod, John and Robert Cleaver. A Godlie Forme of Householde Government. London: 1598. Print.
    • Dolan, Frances. Dangerous Familiars: Representations of Domestic Crime in England, 1550-1700. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1994. Print.
    • Floyd-Wilson, Mary and Garrett Sullivan. Environment and Embodiment in Early Modern England. Houndsmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Print.
    • Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Vintage, 1995. Print.
    • Garber, Marjorie. “Out of Joint.” The Body in Parts. 23-51. Print.
    • Gyer, Nicholas. The English Phlebotomy: Or, Method and way of healing by letting of blood. London: 1592. Print.
    • Halio, Jay L. Romeo and Juliet: A Guide to the Play. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998. Print.
    • ---, ed. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: Texts, Contexts, and Interpretation. Newark: U of Delaware P, 1995. Print.
    • Harris, Jonathan Gil. Foreign Bodies and the Body Politic: Discourses of Social Pathology in Earl Modern England. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. Print.
    • Hillman, David and Carla Mazzio, eds. The Body in Parts: Fantasies of Corporeality in Early Modern Europe. New York: Routledge, 1997. Print.
    • Hull, Suzanne W. Chaste, Silent & Obedient: English Books for Women, 1475-1640. San Marino: Huntington Library Press, 1982. Print.
    • Hutson, Lorna. The Usurer’s Daughter: Male Friendship and Fictions of Women in Sixteenth-Century England. London: Routledge, 1994. Print.
    • Kahn, Coppélia. “Coming of Age in Verona.” Modern Language Studies 8.1 (1977-8): 5-22. Print.
    • Kingsmill, Andrew. A Vievve of Mans Estate. London: 1576. Print.
    • Kristeva, Julia. “Romeo and Juliet: Love-Hatred in the Couple.” Tales of Love. Trans. Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Colombia UP, 1987. Print.
    • Low, Jennifer. “‘Bodied Forth’: Spectator, Stage, and Actor in the Early Modern Theater.” Comparative Drama 39.1 (2005): 1-29. Print.
    • Mahood, M. M. Shakespeare’s Wordplay. London: Methuen, 1957. Print.
    • McDowell, Sean. “The View from the Interior: The New Body Scholarship in Renaissance/Early Modern Studies.” Literature Compass 3/4 (2006): 778-791. Web.
    • Niccholes, Alex. A Discourse, of Marriage and Wiving: and of The greatest Mystery therein contained: How to choose a good wife from a bad. London: 1615. Print.
    • OED Online. Oxford UP. Web. 29 June 2009.
    • Paster, Gail Kern. The Body Embarrassed: Drama and the Disciplines of Shame in Early Modern England. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1993. Print.
    • Peters, Christine. “Gender, Sacrament and Ritual: The Making and Meaning of Marriage in Late Medieval and Early Modern England.” Past and Present 169.1 (2000): 63-96. Print.
    • Rabkin, Norman. Shakespeare and the Common Understanding. New York: The Free Press, 1967. Print.
    • Rawcliffe, Carole. Medicine and Society in Later Medieval England. Phoenix Mill: Sutton Publishing, 1997. Print.
    • Sawday, Jonathan. The Body Emblazoned: Dissection and the Human Body in Renaissance Culture. London: Routledge, 1996. Print.
    • Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. Ed. Jill L. Levenson. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000, rpt. 2008. Print. The Oxford Shakespeare.
    • Siraisi, Nancy G. Medieval and Early Renaissance Medicine: An Introduction to Knowledge and Practice. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1990. Print. 
    • Stallybrass, Peter. “Patriarchal Territories: The Body Enclosed.” Rewriting the Renaissance: The Discourses of Sexual Difference in Early Modern Europe. Ed. Margaret W. Ferguson, Maureen Quilligan, and Nancy J. Vickers. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1986. 123-142. Print.
    • Stilling, Roger. Love and Death in Renaissance Tragedy. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1976. Print.
    • Tilney, Edmund. A brief and pleasant discourse of duties in mariage, called the Flower of friendshippe. London: 1568. Print.
    • Traub, Valerie. “Gendering mortality in early modern anatomies.” Feminist Readings of Early Modern Culture. Ed. Valerie Traub, M. Lindsay Kaplan, and Dympna Callaghan. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996. 44-92. Print.
    • Tusser, Thomas. Fiue hundreth pointes of good husbandrie. London: 1593. Print.
    • Wall, Wendy. Staging Domesticity: Household Work and English Identity in Early Modern Drama. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002. Print.
    • Watson, Robert and Steven Dickey. “Wherefore Art Thou Tereu? Juliet and the Legacy of Rape.” Renaissance Quarterly 58 (2005): 127-56. Print.
    • Whately, William. A Bride-Bush: Or, A Direction for married persons. London: 1619. Print.
    • Wofford, Susanne L. “The Body Unseamed: Shakespeare’s Late Tragedies.” Shakespeare’s Late Tragedies: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Susanne L. Wofford. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1996. 1-21. Print.

  32. Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at M.Steggle@shu.ac.uk.

    © 2009-, Matthew Steggle (Editor, EMLS).