Sweet dreams? (2.2.136-141)


                                                            [Nurse calls within.]

JULIET                        I hear some noise within; dear love, adieu! –

                        Anon, good Nurse! – Sweet Montague, be true.

                        Stay but a little, I will come again.

ROMEO           O blessèd, blessèd night! I am afeard,

                        Being in night, all this is but a dream,

                        Too flattering-sweet to be substantial. (2.2.136-141)

The stage direction here is a version of the one in the Folio, ‘Cals within’; editors add an exit for Juliet after I will come again. It’s an audacious move, and a show-off one: risk the mood in order to increase the tension (and also to nudge the plot along, as the rest of the scene will do). It pays off: it allows Juliet to turn on a sixpence and be speedy and impetuous and practical, as well as lyrical and profound, and also to seize the initiative. Although she starts off by saying farewell, dear love, adieu, she changes her mind: stay but a little, I will come again, wait right there and don’t do anything. Again, she names him, sweet Montague; in conjunction with the fear of discovery, it’s a timely reminder of the feud. Romeo’s right; their encounter thus far has had a dreamlike quality (not least for the original audiences, who have had to imagine the night itself, who have been craning their necks and, perhaps, squinting into the sun). Flattering-sweet is a variant – Q1 has flattering true – but I think it works better here, because of substantial: sweet suggests sugar, associated with lack of substance in early modern texts because it melts and dissolves. This fits with the multi-sensory sensuality of the scene, its imagining of touch and scent, as well as sight and sound. It’s nice that Romeo’s flattered but, more, this little hiatus where he can catch his breath also demonstrates how he has been fundamentally changed. His much-vaunted love for Rosaline (remember her?) never seemed to imagine the possibility of being loved back – in fact it ruled it out completely – but now he is both loving and lovable; his whole idea of what love is has acquired new dimensions. Is it a dream? Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Queen Mab, among other things…


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