Romeo, rested and refreshed (5.1.1-5)

[5.1]    Enter ROMEO.

ROMEO           If I may trust the flattering truth of sleep,

My dreams presage some joyful news at hand.

My bosom’s lord sits lightly in his throne,

And all this day an unaccustomed spirit

Lifts me above the ground with cheerful thoughts. (5.1.1-5)

Finally, Romeo has got some sleep. It’s Wednesday afternoon, his first full day in Mantua (he left Verona early on Tuesday). So we can imagine that he and Juliet have both been asleep at the same time, which I rather like. He is positive and refreshed, not least because he’s been off-stage for all of act 4, and may well have fitted in a nap. Why start the final movement of the play like this? It makes it all the more terrible, of course, when Balthasar arrives with the news of Juliet’s death, only a few lines further on: Romeo isn’t on an ecstatic, giddy high, but rather cheerful, positive, full of hope – and he’s been feeling like that all day. But the detail of the dreams is the striking one, because we’ve been here before: I dreamt a dream tonight. And so did I. Well, what was yours? That dreamers often lie. In bed asleep, while they do dream things true. This was the set-up for Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech, way back in 1.4, before Romeo and Juliet had even met. (Just before they met.) Are dreams truly prophetic? Romeo still thinks so; he isn’t yet being specific about the content of his dreams, but they were flattering, positive. Mercutio invoked dreams only for them to become nightmarish, full of violent sexuality and threat, but these, these were good dreams. He feels gently uplifted – there’s a contrast with the ways in which he often described himself, and was described by others, early on in the play, as heavysad, dull, with soles of lead, but also with the soaring, vertiginous language of the balcony scene. After the madness and intensity of the last few days, Romeo feels an unaccustomed spirit; he feels both lively and rested, and apparently content.

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