In Act 1, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, what seems to be Gregory's and Sampson's attitude towards sex, and how is this attitude revealed in the language they use?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the opening scene of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the two Capulet servants Sampson and Gregory portray a very irreverent attitude towards sex through the use of several sexual innuendos and puns that treat women as mere sex objects.

One innuendo and several puns can be seen in the very beginning of their dialogue exchange. The two are arguing about whether or not Sampson would be able to act should they run into anyone from the house of Montague out on the street. Gregory is essentially asserting that Sampson is too weak in mind and abilities to fight, calling him a "weak slave" and one who "goes to the wall," meaning is shoved against the wall (eNotes).

Sampson turns Gregory's insult into a sexual in innuendo containing several puns, arguing that "women, being the weaker vessel, are ever thrust to the wall" (I.i.14-15). In calling women the "weaker vessel," he is calling women the weaker sex, which is also a biblical allusion referring to 1 Peter 3:7 (eNotes). The phrase "thrust to the wall" is a sexual innuendo referring to a sexual position, and the term thrust is a sexual pun literally referring to the action of shoving, while also referring to sexual activity. His speech of three to four lines contains further puns using the word "push," "thrust," and "maids" (15,16).

In addition, it should be noted that during this time period, the Catholic Church was seen as the supreme ruler, and sex was restricted to holy matrimony. Hence, it can be said that Sampson and Gregory display an irreverent attitude towards sex through their crude sexual jokes  because they treat sex in ways that were considered inappropriate by the church.

iamkaori | Student

They think of sex as something violent and aggressive, just like killing people.

On the pun they use in the context of 'maiden-heads', back then maiden-heads were known to be women's virginity. By saying that they would take the maiden-heads, there is a meaning of actually taking their lives by beheading them, and also taking their virginity.

On the other pun of 'tool', the tool has meaning of both the sword to actually behead people, and the tool to take virginity - the male genitalia. 

When you see how sex is being compared to beheading people, it can be seen that Sampson and Gregory do have an attitude of aggressiveness and perhaps ruthlessness in the idea of sex.