SAMPSON       I strike quickly, being moved.

GREGORY       But thou are not quickly moved to strike.

SAMPSON       A dog of the house of Montague moves me.

GREGORY       To move is to stir, and to be valiant is to stand: therefore if thou art moved thou runn’st away.

SAMPSON       A dog of that house shall move me to stand: I will take the wall of any man or maid of Montague’s.

GREGORY       That shows thee a weak slave, for the weakest goes to the wall.

SAMPSON       ’Tis true, and therefore women being the weaker vessels are ever thrust to the wall: therefore I will push Montague’s men from the wall, and thrust his maids to the wall. (1.1.5-16)


By the end of this exchange, the alternating lines, stichomythia which have opened the scene have given way to longer, baggier phrases, and the latent (sexual) aggression of the initial to-and-fro rhythm has broken out into explicit boasting, even by the stolid Sampson, of (sexual) violence. The move/stir/stand/thrust repetitions constellate valour and cowardice, stoicism and emotion, energy and impotence, stasis and dynamic motion. These servingmen, especially Sampson, have an anxious preoccupation with status: servingmen they may be, but they are at pains to establish their superiority to the dogs and weak slaves who serve other masters, and especially to maids or women. Touchy, literal, anonymous Sampson voices his obsession – an obsession which anticipates his master Tybalt’s – with the Montagues, invoked by him three times in this short passage. (Like Sampson, the Capulets have not yet been named.) And, almost overlooked in the jittery, pumped-up texture, there’s a wall, albeit a notional, partly figurative one, but named five times in as many lines (more or less), a solid thing, but also (we might remember Pyramus and Thisbe) a thing that divides.

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