Will someone please translate the meaning to Shakespeare: "To die means to have an orgasm"?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I'm not exactly sure what you mean here by translate this.  Shakespeare never actually writes this line, it's just that this was a fairly common euphemism in Shakespeare's day.

If you think about it, you can see why this would be the case.  Without being graphic about it, sexual climax can easily be equated with death since it A) represents the ending of something intense and B) makes the one who has it feel drained and somewhat lifeless.

It is said  that the French still call orgasms "le petit mort" ("the little death") for these same reasons.

I don't know if that's what you're asking or not...

elleoneiram's profile pic

Noelle Matteson | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

In sixteenth century France and England, to “die” could also mean to orgasm. Both are a climactic conclusion, one to life and the other to sex. This connection between sex and death can be seen in a number of Shakespeare's plays. Romeo and Juliet is an example of a play rife with violence and passion, and Shakespeare uses the word “die” enough times to suggest it sometimes has a sexual meaning.

Friar Laurence describes the dangers of desire: “These violent delights have violent ends / And in their triumph die, like fire and powder, / Which as they kiss consume.” Impulsive pleasure can be dangerous, and though “these violent delights” might explode in glory, like a sexual climax, they also destroy themselves and lose their strength, or “die.” Metaphorically, Romeo and Juliet die in symbolic throes of passion. Romeo dies upon a kiss, and Juliet stabs herself with Romeo’s phallic dagger.

In Much Ado About Nothing, several characters describe Beatrice as being willing to die before she reveals her love for Benedick. They emphasize her stubbornness: “Hero thinks surely [Beatrice] will die; for she says she will die, if he love her not, and she will die, ere she make her love known, and she will die, if he woo her, rather than she will bate one breath of her accustomed crossness.” This humorous passage emphasizes the foolishness of love, but the repeated use of “die” in relation to romance also suggests a cheeky double entendre.

Obviously, dying does not necessarily literally equate to sex in Shakespeare’s plays, but it is a common enough comparison to warrant noticing, especially in the context of characters’ sexual relationships.


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