In Romeo and Juliet, how does Shakespeare present both physical and spiritual love between Romeo and Juliet?  

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Physical love shared between Romeo and Juliet is, of course, presented through their sexual relationship and allusions to their sexuality in their language. The couple's spiritual love is seen through references to religion.

It is evident that both Romeo and Juliet share an intense, physical attraction for each other. We see allusions to Juliet's sexual attraction for Romeo during her short soliloquies on the balcony scene. One particularly good passage roams through body parts, showing us that she is dwelling on Romeo's physical attributes. We see this in the lines:

What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. (II.ii.42-44)

The final phrase "nor any other part / Belonging to a man" particularly alludes to Juliet's sexuality by alluding to genitalia.

In this scene, we also see Romeo alluding to his own sexual desires in his own soliloquy, by asking Juliet to take off her clothes, thereby relinquishing her maidenhood. We see this in the lines, "Her vestal livery is but sick and green, / And none but fools do wear it. Cast if off" (8-9). The word "vestal" can be interpreted as referring to "chastity" while "livery" refers to clothing. Hence, in his mind, Romeo is asking Juliet to cast off her virginal clothing, which is a very obvious allusion to his sexual desires. The couple's sexual love for each other is, of course, also seen in the couple's wedding night and in the scene that prepares them for the wedding night. While waiting for Romeo to come, in Act 3, Scene 2, Juliet delivers a soliloquy that is full of descriptions for her sexual desires.

The spiritual love the couple shares is best seen when they fist meet. Romeo compares Juliet to a holy shrine and himself to a sinner who will defile the shrine by touching it, as we see in the lines, "If I profane with my unworthiest hand / This holy shrine..." (I.v.98-99). Juliet continues the spiritual allusion by calling Romeo a "[g]ood pilgrim" (102). Their spiritual love is also expressed through their hasty, holy marriage. In fact, Juliet, in keeping with the religious values she has been taught, refuses to continue their relationship unless she learns that Romeo's intentions are "honourable" and that he is offering her marriage (II.ii.149-150). Hence, we see that Romeo and Juliet's love is both a physical love and a spiritual love.