ROMEO But if thou, jealous, dost return to pry
In what I farther shall intend to do,
By heaven, I will tear thee joint by joint,
And strew this hungry graveyard with thy limbs.
The time and my intents are savage-wild,
More fierce and more inexorable far
Than empty tigers or the roaring sea. (5.3.33-39)
This is partly about getting rid of Balthasar, yes, but also a way of accentuating Romeo’s desperate resolution. The idea of him tearing anyone joint by joint might seem laughable, but here it has the effect of putting the potential for catastrophic violence at the heart of this point in the scene. Romeo is like a coiled spring; he intends – we have inferred – to direct that violence against himself, but we also know that Paris is lurking in the shadows… As well as that promise of violence, the beginning of another conceit: that of the hungry graveyard, of the tomb as a hideous mouth. (Romeo will develop this a few lines later.) To think of the graveyard as hungry, as having appetite, further eroticises it; appetite is about desire. Death, it seems, is insatiable. (And look, some body parts, at least potentially, Balthasar’s limbs strewn – like flowers – around the graveyard. Like the end of Doctor Faustus…) Although it’s the time and his intents, the desperation of the occasion and what he plans to do that Romeo characterises as more savage-wild than hungry tigers or the roaring sea – the sea which, previously in the play, has been associated with love, its boundlessness, its extremity – it’s also death itself, insatiable like the graveyard. Everything hurtling out of control. Savage-wild. Grief.