- Snow, Edward. "Language and Sexual Difference
- in Romeo and Juliet."Shakespeare's "Rough Magic": Renaissance Essays in Honor of C. L. Barber. Ed. Peter Erickson and Coppélia Kahn. Newark: U of Delaware P, 1985. 168-192.
Thesis: "What I would like to suggest . . . is that the language of Romeo and Juliet is most intricately concerned not with the opposition between passion and the social order but with the difference between the sexes; and that its subtler affirmations have to do not with romantic love but female ontology." (170). In other words, the language of the play emphasizes the difference between male and female psychology, and shows that the female is better. Snow believes that Romeo, because he is a man, is isolated, competitive, and conventional, while Juliet, because she is a woman, is pretty much the opposite.
Even when Juliet's language seems to place her in the same imaginative world with Romeo, there is often a contrast between the tendency of his metaphors to keep love distant and remote, and hers to bring it up close, and make it possible. Romeo's preoccupation with the light of beauty, for instance, isolates the object of his desire, and mystifies [i.e., makes mystical, not the usual sense of "confuses"] the distance that separates him from it ("It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night," "What light through yonder window breaks?"). When Juliet has recourse to the idea, however, beauty's light becomes an enabling force that emanates from the consummated relationship: "'Lovers can see to do their amorous rites / By their own beauties" (3.2.8-9). Their matching images of black-white contrasts differ in much the same way. Romeo's evokes a purely visual experience -- a stable figure-ground relationship that again defines an object of desire, and isolates it in the distance: "Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear! / So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows, / As yonder lady o'er her fellows shows" (1.5.47-49). Juliet's, on the other hand, is a sensually experienced image, and it sublimates the physical contact of an achieved sexual relationship: "Come, night, come, Romeo, come, thou day in night, / For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night, / Whiter than new snow upon a raven's back" (3.2.17-19). (177)
Weaknesses: Snow uses academic jargon and throws together quotations without much regard for their context.
Bottom Line: He may have a valid point, but this is a tedious essay.