The yoke of inauspicious stars – star-crossed… (5.3.108-112)

ROMEO                                   Here, here will I remain

                        With worms that are thy chambermaids; O here

                        Will I set up my everlasting rest,

                        And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars

                        From this world-wearied flesh. (5.3.108-112)

Where is here? in the tomb, this palace of dim night, certainly. But there’s implied action, perhaps: here is in Juliet’s arms, embracing her, resting his head on her shoulder, her breast. To set up his everlasting rest is, partly, to sleep forever, but it’s also a phrase that has been eroticised in the play, when the Nurse spoke of Paris, on his putative wedding night with Juliet, having set up his rest that you shall rest but little. And here it’s also Romeo’s final promise: I will stay with you. The worms that are thy chambermaids is a grisly thought, but one of the things that it’s doing is setting up this speech’s next movement, by bringing a particular close physicality, even a sensuous corporeality, to this moment. Taking it back into the body. And it’s also setting up a contrast between the disgust of the worms, and the terrible, almost transcendent beauty of the yoke of inauspicious stars (give me my Romeo, and when I shall die, take him and cut him out in little stars) – the yoke of ill-fortune, fate, bad luck, which is such a heavy burden, and which here is another way of saying, star-crossedWorld-wearied, rather than world-weary: not tired of the world, but worn out by it. Which is a terrible thing to hear a young person say.

In the UK,  Samaritans, phone 116 123, and, for young men in particular, CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (for resources, not crisis support).

View 2 comments on “The yoke of inauspicious stars – star-crossed… (5.3.108-112)

  1. This is curious. I had a conversation with an alma mater concerning this specific dialogue and was hoping you could enlighten me. I do not wish to come across as ignorant, but please tell me if this is the case! Thank you in advance.
    Would I be extending my understanding too far to suggest that “yoke” could also suggest a sense of ‘sperm and the egg’ with regard to Romeo’s intimate corporeality? I am unsure whether this could be regarded as a pun, but the subsequent use of the word “stars” would therefore refer to an orgasm.

    Please let me know- I am curious and perhaps completely wrong! Thank you!

    1. Hello, and no, I don’t think that there’s anything eggy going on here with yoke/yolk, sorry, if I understand you correctly! Ovum/ovary (ie egg) isn’t used in relation to human reproduction (I think) until the later seventeenth century – women were sometimes thought to produce ‘seed’, like men, not eggs – and the understanding of female reproductive anatomy was still quite vague (fallopian tubes had only been identified/described for the first time in the mid C16, for instance, and certainly not human female ova). So I don’t think that the quibbling that you’re wondering about is possible here – it would be tenuous anyway, in the context (the stars look back too obviously to all the other instances of stars as connoting fate etc; Juliet’s ‘cut him out in little stars’ is really an outlier in the play’s stellar language) – but the possible puns rely on a chain of allusions which isn’t possible in terms of the available vocabulary/concepts at the time. Sorry! it’s an inventive and thoughtful response!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *