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MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would argue that Sampson does not present a portrait of love at all, but rather a paternalistic and extremely sexual attitude toward women in the play. He appears in Act I, scene 1 with Gregory, another servant of the Capulet's. They are walking through the streets of Verona, bragging about what would happen if they encountered anyone from the house of Montague. It's actually quite a funny scene, exactly what you might expect from 2 young men who think their reputations are at stake.

As Sampson discusses how he will fight the men, he turns to the subject of how he would treat the women. First, he talks about pushing the men of the house "away from the wall." This was an insult in Shakespeare's time: being pushed away from the wall meant you were walking in the street, and therefore in the mud, filth, manure, and garbage of the town. Then Sampson says he will push the women of the Montague house "toward the wall": essentially, he will have sex with them. There's also a play on words when Sampson says he will "cut off their heads." Literally, it means he will kill the women; figuratively, it means he will take their virginity (their maidenheads). He also talks about his reputation in bed: "Me they shall feel while I am able to stand; and 'tis
known, I am a pretty piece of flesh." So, in addition to bragging about his courage and prowess in fights, Sampson boats about his virility with women.

So, I don;t think Sampson is talking about love here. Instead, he is presenting a very chauvinistic attitude, common at the time, of women as sexual objects. He thinks they exist solely for men's pleasure.

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Romeo and Juliet

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