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08 January 2014 @ 12:22 pm
R&J feelings, as per usual  
We may make it as far as Romeo and Juliet's farewell scene today ("Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day"), although I have my doubts. Still, in preparing it for discussion, I'm struck again - this has been the case throughout this reading of the play - by how alive the language of Romeo and Juliet is. Literally so, almost: the two of them make everything participate in their love affair; they personify everything, turning day and night themselves into witnesses and conversation partners and teachers ("Come, civil Night, / Thou sober-suited matron all in black, / And learn me how to lose a winning match / Played for a pair of stainless maidenhoods"). Characters like the Nurse, and Lord and Lady Capulet, rely on cliches and proverbs and abstractions, but Romeo and Juliet - and this is hard to remember, because their speeches have become so famous - see everything with new eyes, question everything, ask how to make some new observation about the world. Yes, sonnets often compare a lover's eyes to stars or the lover to the sun - but Romeo talks back to the moon ("Be not her maid, since she is envious. / Her vestal livery is but sick and green, / And none but fools do wear it") and imagines that stars might hold some conversation with Juliet's eyes ("Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven, / Having some business, do entreat her eyes / To twinkle in their spheres till they return"), and then still isn't content until he's explored that imaginative idea more fully: "What if her eyes were there, they in her head? / The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars / As daylight doth a lamp" (my emphasis). Juliet demands that the night listen to her, and move faster - I think she ought to *run* onstage with that first line of her first soliloquy, with that first stressed syllable unlike your usual iambic rhythm: "Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds, / Towards Phoebus' lodging…" (Can we talk, as well, about the plosives in "Gallop apace"? And then the sharp, emphatic alliteration of "fiery-footed", and of "such a waggoner / As Phaeton would whip you to the west"? This girl means business.)

Which is why Romeo's final personification, of "insubstantial Death" as "amorous," breaks my heart, because it's that same imaginative energy, to the very last, but put to such a final, tragic use.

[I wrote this before class. We didn't actually get to the scene after all, but we'll start there tomorrow.]