What does Juliet mean by "a wanton's bird" in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet?

What Juliet means by "wanton's bird" is a bird that belongs to an indulged or pampered person. Juliet compares Romeo to a pet bird, held prisoner by love for her just as a pet bird is held prisoner by a silken thread that won't allow it to wander too far.

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Act II, scene 2 of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet contains the famous balcony scene in which the playwright creates a metaphor for separated lovers. Kept apart because of a feud between their families, the scene demonstrates the distance between the lovers. Romeo leaps over a wall into the Capulet garden below Juliet’s bedroom window where he overhears Juliet, on her balcony, declaring her love for him. Juliet is unaware of Romeo’s presence. She is extremely troubled by the feud between their families and saddened by the fact that Romeo is a Montague. In her subsequent dialogue with her lover, Juliet recognizes her own selfishness by her attempts to bind Romeo to her, like a spoiled child reluctant to free “a wanton’s bird.”

Once Romeo reveals his presence in the garden, the lovers begin a passionate conversation from afar, once again demonstrating their forced separation by fate. During their verbal exchange, Juliet expresses her desire to marry Romeo. She vows to no longer be separated from her lover rather than be thrust into a different fate by the Capulet family and its hatred for the Montagues. However, she realizes that dawn is upon them and it is extremely dangerous for Romeo to be caught in the Capulet garden. She expresses her desire to be with him forever, but is conflicted because of the danger Romeo faces. She urges Romeo to leave for his own safety, while declaring her devotion to him:

’Tis almost morning; I would have thee gone,
And yet no farther than a wanton’s bird,
That lets it hop a little from her hand,
Like a poor prisoner in his twisted gyves,
And with a silk thread plucks it back again,
So loving-jealous of his liberty.

Juliet’s metaphor of the “wanton’s bird” compares her desire for her lover to remain with her to that of a pet bird in the hands of a spoiled child. The child would allow the bird to escape, but quickly pulls the creature back into her hand with a “silk thread” preventing the freedom of the bird for selfish reasons. Through Shakespeare’s imagery, the audience can feel the conflict and emotion in Juliet. She unselfishly bids Romeo goodbye:

Parting is such sweet sorrow
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.

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A "wanton's bird" in this context means the bird owned by a pampered person. Wanton also carries the overtone of someone sexually unrestrained.

In this passage, Romeo has to leave his place below Juliet's balcony. The sun is starting to rise, he is on the Capulet property, and Juliet knows he could be killed if someone sees him there. At the same time that she has to hurry him off, however, she also expresses her desire to have him close. She compares her desire for his proximity to a "wanton" or pampered and indulged person having a bird for a pet and wanting to keep it near so that it can't fly away.

Juliet envisions Romeo as tied to her like a bird with a silken thread. She will let him "hop" a short way off, but he is her "poor prisoner" who she will pull back.

This is an image about love with ominous undertones. Juliet describes love as form of captivity. It has a power over Romeo that keeps him close, even imprisoned, so that Juliet can keep pulling him back so that he can't fly away. A bird who can't fly from a place is vulnerable to death. This foreshadows the way Romeo will be tied to Juliet so that he can't truly stay away from Verona, even though returning at the end of the play leads to his death.

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Juliet's use of the phrase "wanton's bird" comes in Act II Scene II of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, which is the very famous balcony scene. Romeo has climbed the outer walls of Juliet's home to catch a glimpse of her and finds her on the balcony pouring out her love for him. When Romeo hears this, he is overcome with emotion and responds to her. During their exchange, Juliet realizes it will mean death for Romeo if he is caught, so she tries to urge him to go. 

"'Tis almost morning. I would have thee gone.
And yet no further than a wanton’s bird,
That lets it hop a little from his hand
Like a poor prisoner in his twisted gyves,
And with a silken thread plucks it back again,
So loving-jealous of his liberty."
She is expressing her conflicting feelings. She wants Romeo to leave because it's dangerous for him to be there, but she really wants him to stay. This is characteristic of young love---knowing what the right thing to do is but being so caught up in emotion that the world and all reason just falls away. She doesn't want to let Romeo out of her sight. Romeo has said that he will stay there forever, so he has in a way placed himself in her hands, like the little bird. She wants to release him but doesn't want him to go, either. She compares her desire for him to go to a child who steals a bird's liberty because of his/her own desire for it. Gyves were shackles. The imagery here is of a silken thread--the bonds that hold Romeo to her are gentle and soft, but they are bonds nonetheless because she desires to have him as her own. 
 
Shakespeare used the word wanton in many plays and with several different meanings. In this instance, it means a young rogue or scamp, a rascal. It could also refer to a spoiled child that doesn't want to relinquish his/her treasures. 
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I'm so happy to hear that the old-fashioned idea of a book-club or literature club is still alive!  And that you are reading Shakespeare is even happier news!  You GO, girls!!

In Shakespeare's day, the word "wanton" was used variously. It generally meant a female who doesn't follow the rules, so it tended most often to be used to denote women of ill-repute, prostitutes, or women who were said to be engaging in behavior bad enough to make them prostitutes.

Strangely enough, it was also used to denote little girls and teens who were merely spoiled and wanted their way.  (This probably tells us a LOT about Shakespeare's culture's attitudes toward women's behavior, eh?  Any kind of misbehavior could be assumed to lead to sexual misbehavior, it seems.)

So, this phrase, "a wonton's bird" literally means a little girl who is spoiled enough to have the luxury of a pet bird.  The usual practice was to take a piece of string and tie the bird's feet to her finger or wrist, so that it wouldn't fly away. As you can imagine, this usually didn't result in very healthy conditions for the poor bird.

The image here is that Juliet is admitting she is petulant and childish enough to want to tie Romeo to her like a cruel little spoiled girl.

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