- Novy, Marianne. "Violence, Love, and Gender in Romeo and
- Juliet." Love's Argument: Gender Relations in Shakespeare. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1984. 99-109. Rptd. in Romeo and Juliet: Critical Essays. Ed. John F. Andrews. New York: Garland, 1993. 359-369.
Thesis: Novy's piece has a wide range. It includes comments on the lovers' youth, the sexual attitudes of Mercutio, the gender assumptions of some of the minor characters, lovers in other Shakespearean plays, and other related matters. However, Novy focuses mainly on the quality of love between Romeo and Juliet. She says that although "in the external world, masculinity is identified with violence and femininity with weakness," "Romeo and Juliet establish a role-transcending private world of mutuality in love" (360).
Why do Romeo and Juliet keep their love secret not only from their parents but also from their peers? Romeo never tells Benvolio or Mercutio of his love for Juliet, though neither one is so committed to the Montagues that they would necessarily be hostile. (Benvolio had no objection to Rosaline as a Capulet; Mercutio belongs to neither house.) This secrecy helps make Mercutio's fight with Tybalt inevitable. Romeo's exclusion of Mercutio from his confidence suggests that his love of Juliet is not only a challenge to the feud but also a challenge to associations of masculinity and sexuality with violence. How can Romeo talk of Juliet to someone whose advice is "If love be rough with you, be rough with love, / Prick love for pricking and you beat love down" (1.4.27-28)? (365)
Bottom Line: Novy's real audience is the person who has read everything Shakespeare ever wrote, but this part of her book is full persuasive insights.