Not daybreak, but a friendly meteor (3.5.12-16)

JULIET                        Yond light is not daylight, I know it, I:

                        It is some meteor that the sun exhaled

                        To be to thee this night a torch-bearer,

                        And light thee on thy way to Mantua.

                        Therefore stay yet, thou need’st not to be gone. (3.5.12-16)

There’s such an intricate delicacy to the writing here, voices and thinking utterly intertwined. It’s certainly enabled by the shared sonnet in the ball scene, but it also transcends it, or perhaps rather uses it as a springboard: this dialogue has all the intimacy and integrity of that moment but does without the formal structures of versification. Almost ostentatiously, there are no alternating quatrains here but, in the first part of the scene at least, slightly longer units which (if we keep a sonnet in mind) manifest that desire to delay, to stretch out time, to overgo. One of the many things unifying this dialogue is its assonance, the repetitions of light/night/die/I, and Juliet’s first line here exemplifies this, especially in the way that it picks up Romeo’s die (rhyme is scattered through this scene; the lovers share couplets even as they mostly speak in blank verse). Then Juliet’s fantastic conceit of the meteor (it might be helpful to know that meteors were believed to be made from vapours drawn from the earth by the action of the sun): the sun is on their side, the streaks which sever the cloud come to guide Romeo; they are benevolent. (But shooting stars were sometimes seen as ominous portents, too.) To think of Romeo as needing a torch-bearer also reminds us again that he goes alone, without Juliet, his light in darkness; Juliet is partly wishing him a companion. But Juliet’s own consoling, distracting fancy of the meteor still comes back to the same conclusion: please, please don’t go yet. Stay with me.

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