Ay me… (1.1.151-159)

BENVOLIO      Good morrow, cousin.

ROMEO                                               Is the day so young?

BENVOLIO      But new struck nine.

ROMEO                                               Ay me, sad hours seem long.

Was that my father that went hence so fast?

BENVOLIO      It was. What sadness lengthens Romeo’s hours?

ROMEO           Not having that, which, having, makes them short.

BENVOLIO      In love?

ROMEO           Out—

BENVOLIO      Of love?

ROMEO           Out of her favour where I am in love. (1.1.151-159)


What should give us hope, here, for Romeo, is the stichomythia, the way in which he and Benvolio immediately share an almost-couplet (young / long) in alternating half-lines. Where there’s repartee, or the promise of it, there’s hope, and that promise is borne out by the subsequent pace of In love? Out—Of love? where Benvolio, as it were, keeps cutting to the chase, and niggling away nicely. He knows perfectly well what’s going on, or at least some of it (he, unlike Montague, knows what hanging around in sycamore groves at dawn portends) but he wants to hear it from his friend; he’s pragmatic and nicely brisk (But new struck nine). And that briskness is in fact also picked up by Romeo (Was that my father that went hence so fast?) – he can’t really sustain the pose of the sighing melancholy lover for more than a few lines at a time, although he does his best. Where I am in love would sound less idiomatically strange to a sixteenth-century ear, but it’s still oddly formal, and oddly arbitrary: the as-yet unnamed Rosaline is introduced as a kind of place (or place-holder), not a person, although the syntax is largely subordinated to the metre here and it shouldn’t be over-determined. Benvolio’s niceness, his kind refusal to over-indulge and his willingness to listen, should also give us hope for Romeo as a character: judge a man by his friends.

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