so, i meant to post this last night, but instead i wrote myself into fuzzy-eyed exhaustion. LOOK AT THIS SCENE.
LORENZO: The moon shines bright!- In such a night as this, when the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees, and they did make no noise; in such a night, Troilus, methinks, mounted the Trojan walls, and sigh’d his soul toward the Grecian tents, where Cressid lay that night.
JESSICA: In such a night did Thisbe fearfully o’ertrip the dew, and saw the lion’s shadow ere himself, and ran dismay’d away.
LORENZO: In such a night stood Dido with a willow in her hand upon the wild sea-banks, and waft her love to come again to Carthage.
JESSICA: In such a night Medea gathered the enchanted herbs that did renew old Aeson.
LORENZO: In such a night did Jessica steal from the wealthy Jew, and with an unthrift love did run from Venice, as far as Belmont.
JESSICA: In such a night did young Lorenzo swear he lov’d her well, stealing her soul with many vows of faith, and ne’er a true one.
LORENZO: In such a night did pretty Jessica (like a little shrow) slander her love, and he forgave it her.
JESSICA: I would out-night you, did nobody come; but hark, I hear the footing of a man.
it does everything. i mean, first of all, it’s shakespeare at his most musical: ‘in such a night stood dido with a willow in her hand upon the wild sea-banks, and waft her love to come again to carthage’.
i could take that line apart, but i really don’t want to.
there’s humour (‘i would out-night you’!). & it’s romantic, of course, but there’s an echo of tragedy- because all the stories referenced end in tragedy. & yet once you know the context- that jessica & lorenzo are the naive young lovers who never seem to be in any real body-or-soul danger, unlike the other inhabitants of merchant– there’s another layer of fun there. jessica & lorenzo know the context of these stories; they know that theirs is unlikely to end in death. & so they’re fantasising, they’re laying the ley-lined silk of literature over their own romance & glorying in the allure of it. it’s a love-scene between lovers of literature. it’s behaviour i certainly recognise; it’s behaviour that i imagine all bookworms who’ve ever been remotely lovesick ought to understand. i find that really charming. thanks a bunch, shakey.