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"Plantain leaf", "broken shin"
Cultural Reference
Act 1,
Scene 2
Lines 45-57a

Cultural reference discussing a cure for Romeo's broken heart in myShakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, Scene 2.

 

Benvolio

Tut, man, one fire burns out another's burning;
One pain is lessened by another's anguish;
Turn giddy and be holp by backward turning;
One desperate grief cures with another's languish.
Take thou some new infection to thy eye,
And the rank poison of the old will die.                         

Romeo

Your plantain leaf is excellent for that.

Benvolio

For what, I pray thee?

Romeo

For your broken shin.

Benvolio

Why, Romeo, art thou mad?

Romeo

Not mad, but bound more than a madman is:
Shut up in prison, kept without my food,
Whipped and tormented and —

Benvolio tries to convince Romeo to get over his love sickness by finding a new girlfriend. According to his logic, one fire burns out another, a new pain lessens a current one, and a new eye infection relieves the one now bothering you. Romeo seizes on Benvolio's last metaphor and jokes, "A plantain leaf is excellent for that." The plantain being referred to is a small herbal plant that grows in England and whose leaves were used for medicinal purposes. (It should not be confused with the fruit that shares the same name.) But Benvolio doesn't understand and asks what the leaves are excellent for. Romeo replies that they are good for a broken shin, which is slang for a broken heart. Still not understanding Romeo’s joke, Benvolio asks if Romeo’s insane.