How does Christina Walsh's poem "A Woman to Her Lover" compare with Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We can see a few themes in Christina Walsh's poem "A Woman to her Lover" that are similar to themes in Romeo and Juliet.

To begin with, we can liken the first stanza of Welsh's poem to the themes surrounding Paris's desires to marry Juliet. In this stanza, the woman proclaims to her lover that she refuses to be treated as one who should be subservient to a man, as one who should "bend to [a man's] will," like a "bondslave," or even as one who should be conquered by a man. This stanza captures a truism that often men have seen women as only child-bearers and household servants, which are things that the stanza is protesting against. We are not told a great deal about Paris, but we can speculate that, while he genuinely cares for Juliet as we can see from his profound grief, he might have treated her in this same way had he married her. One reason we can draw this conclusion is that when in the first act he petitions Lord Capulet for Juliet's hand in marriage, he argues that "[y]ounger than she are happy mothers made," meaning that younger girls than Juliet are married and made mothers (I.ii.12). Paris's choice to mention motherhood shows us that he certainly has bearing children on his mind, which can say that he sees Juliet as a servant child-bearer, like the stanza suggests, capturing the theme portrayed through Paris of men's treatment of women. We also see that Paris is very persistent in trying to gain Juliet's hand and agrees to marry her even before she consents to the match. Paris's persistence shows us that he sees himself as a "conqueror" and Juliet as one to be "vanquished," again portraying the theme of men's treatment of women, just like the stanza suggests.

We also see that the second and third stanzas portray exactly how Romeo treats and views Juliet. In the second stanza, the woman tells her lover not to worship her, like "one from heaven sent," which is exactly how Romeo views Juliet. We especially see that he views her and her beauty as heavenly when he first meets her, takes hold of her hand, calls her a holy shrine, and says that his own hand might pollute hers as a holy shrine, as we see in his lines:

If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss. (I.v.98-101)

Not only does Romeo treat Juliet as something worthy of being worshiped, it is also very evident Romeo equates love with sexuality and thinks of Juliet very sexually.

Read the study guide:
Romeo and Juliet

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