GREGORY       The quarrel is between our masters, and us their men.

SAMPSON       ’Tis all one, I will show myself a tyrant: when I have fought with the men, I will be civil with the maids; I will cut off their heads.

GREGORY       The heads of the maids?

SAMPSON       Ay, the heads of the maids, or their maidenheads, take it in what sense thou wilt.

GREGORY       They must take it in sense that feel it.

SAMPSON       Me they shall feel while I am able to stand, and ’tis known I am a pretty piece of flesh.

GREGORY       ’Tis well though art not fish; if thou hadst, thou hadst been poor-John. Draw thy tool, here comes of the house of Montagues.

Enter two other SERVINGMEN, [one being ABRAM](1.1.17-28)

The wall’s done its work: the quarrel is between, and although Gregory’s in part making the point that the women of the warring households, of whatever rank, should be left out of it, it’s a grimly ironic one. It’s back to more nervous banter, Sampson talking himself up through ever more labored and obvious sexual puns, and making the absurd claim that he would be a tyrant, like Tamburlaine for example. (Surely his name, borrowed from the Old Testament strong man in Judges, is an in-joke, and a note, for the actor.) It is, of course, Gregory who wins the exchange, undercutting Sampson’s phallic bluster with cheap, feminized fish, Poor John, hard only because salted, his sword (and phallus) into a mere tool.

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