Dark night, light love (2.2.93-106)

JULIET                              O gentle Romeo,

If thou dost love, pronounce it faithfully;

Or if thou think’st I am too quickly won,

I’ll frown and be perverse, and say thee nay,

 So thou wilt woo, but else not for the world.

In truth, fair Montague, I am too fond,

And therefore thou mayst think my behaviour light:

 But trust me, gentleman, I’ll prove more true

Than those that have more coying to be strange.

I should have been more strange, I must confess,

But that thou overheard’st, ere I was ware,

My true-love passion; therefore pardon me,

And not impute this yielding to light love,

Which the dark night hath so discoverèd. (2.2.93-106)

She can still be playful, though: it would be fun if you were to woo me and I’d quite like to hear what else you have to say, so I can pretend to be unconvinced and reluctant for a bit, so you know I’m serious and you can have the thrill of thinking you’ve won me over. There’s clichés here, about playing hard to get, but Juliet can’t keep that up for long: she is too fond, both too foolish (in her honesty) and too loving, doting. Light again (looking back to the mask of night and forward to the dark night), here meaning frivolous or ‘easy’ in relation to behaviour, but also love itself; light love could be trivial, superficial. Here, though, it’s imbued with the resonances of the many conceits of light – glowing, burning, radiant, shining; sun, torch, stars – which have appeared thus far in the play. The lightness of this exchange – its playfulness, its speed, its elevation – is also a contrast with Romeo’s previous references to heaviness, dullness, lead. I have seen productions where he has leapt for sheer joy. She addresses him by his name again – gentle Romeo, fair Montague – embracing the problem of the name, the feud, and also making it personal; this is about him, and him alone, rather than being a generalised teenage passion which has latched on to him more or less at random. (Her adjectives, gentle, and fair, and addressing him as gentleman, also suggest a particular standard of behaviour: she is assuming that he is virtuous and will act in a way befitting one of his rank and upbringing.) Dark night has become a place of discovery, of things being uncovered or revealed (glancing, again, at the language of undressing). What has been revealed is light, light in darkness. And love.

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