How does the presentation of love in Christina Walsh's poem, "A Woman and Her Lover," compare with the presentation of love in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet?
Several of the stanzas in Christina Walsh's poem, "A Woman to Her Lover," actually express the exact opposite of the feelings that are expressed in Romeo and Juliet.
In the second stanza, Walsh asks her lover if he comes to her thinking "to wed with one from heaven sent" whom he thinks is a "wingless angel who can do no wrong." She then commands her lover to "go!," saying that she refuses him. These sentiments express the exact opposite of the sentiments we see being held by Romeo concerning Juliet. When Romeo first sees Juliet he proclaims that he sees her as a celestial being by referring to her as a "holy shrine" and to himself as an unworthy sinner, as we see in the lines, "If I profane with my unworthiest hand / This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this ... (I.v.98-99). We further see him refer to her as a celestial being in the famous balcony scene when he calls Juliet "the sun" and a "bright angel" who is "[a]s glorious to this night ... [a]s a winged messenger of heaven" (II.ii.3, 28-30). Hence, since the play seems to accept the idea of seeing women as divine beings while Walsh's poem does not, we can say that Walsh's second stanza expresses a sentiment that is exactly opposite to the sentiment found in Romeo and Juliet.
Walsh's third stanza also expresses an idea about sexuality that runs contrary to Romeo and Juliet. Walsh asks her lover if he thinks of her as a "creature who will have no greater joy / than gratify your clamorous desire." It is very evident in the play that both Romeo and Juliet, for the most part, equate romantic love with sexuality. We especially see this in Romeo, but also, on their wedding night, we see Juliet waiting alone for Romeo and delivering a soliloquy that expresses her maidenly sexual desires. We not only see her sexuality expressed in phrases such as "love-performing night" and "amorous rites," we also see it very descriptively portrayed in the lines:
Hood my unmann'd blood, bating in my cheeks,
With thy black mantle till strange love, grown bold,
Think true love acted simple modesty. (III.ii.15-17)
In other words, she is asking the night to hide her maidenly reaction to love making until she becomes bold with her new husband. Since both Romeo and Juliet base their love on physical attraction and physical desire, we can see the play as contrasting with Walsh's third stanza.
The one passage in Walsh's poem that we can see the play agreeing with is:
But lover, if you ask of me
that I shall be your comrade, friend, and mate,
to live and work, to love and die with you....
Although their relationship is too short lived to see the couple "live and work" together, we do see Juliet acting as Romeo's "comrade" and "friend" when we see her defend her husband after killing Tybalt and learn to trust him again. Like a comrade, Juliet asks herself, "Ah, poor my lord, what tongue shall smooth thy name / When I, thy three-hours' wife, have mangled it?" (III.ii.103-104). Also, although the couple does not do much living together, both members of the couple die when they learn that the other is dead. Hence, in this one respect, we can see the play relating to Christina Walsh's poem.