Balthasar, out of his depth, and, misadventure (5.1.27-33)

BALTHASAR   I do beseech you, sir, have patience:

                        Your looks are pale and wild, and do import

                        Some misadventure.

ROMEO                                               Tush, thou art deceived.

                        Leave me, and do the thing I bid thee do.

                        Hast thou no letters for me from the Friar?

BALTHASAR   No, my good lord.

ROMEO                                   No matter, get thee gone,

                        And hire those horses; I’ll be with thee straight.

                                                                                    Exit [Balthasar] (5.1.27-33)

Balthasar is out of his depth, and that’s the point: if this were Benvolio (lovely Benvolio!) say, then he could – and would – push back more, get Romeo to wait, think – and offer him more comfort than Balthasar’s have patience. But Balthasar is a servant, often played as little more than a boy; Romeo is sir,my good lord, the master. What he says goes. Misadventure probably slides past us, but like Romeo defying the stars and star-crossed, it’s an echo of the Prologue (the lovers’ misadventured piteous overthrows). Misadventure mostly means misfortune, bad luck, but the sense of a misguided enterprise, something that will be regretted, is also emerging at this time, and I think that’s more what Balthasar’s getting at. Of course Romeo would look pale and wild– with grief, with disbelief, with shock – but that his demeanour imports some misadventure makes clear that Balthasar is already worried about what he’s planning to do, that he’s going to do something stupid. (Poor Balthasar. He thought he was doing the right thing, and he’s already having doubts.) A final, desperate gesture at the original plan – hast thou no letters for me from the Friar? this wasn’t meant to happen. And Romeo dismisses his servant, and his last hope – no matter– and prepares to act. The reverie of the scene’s opening is long gone; do we even notice that the fast horses that Balthasar is hurrying off to procure are a terrible recollection of the fiery-footed steeds? but they too will carry Romeo to his beloved Juliet as night falls, and, fatally, far swifter even than the lagging horses of the sun which she urged on with such passionate intensity.


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