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May 28, 2022 9:45 PM
Tommy and Ayako in the Scholomance
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"Gooood question. --She's not a character, one of the bad reasons Romeo comes up with to not sneak into Capulet parties is that he had a dream it would be a bad idea, and Mercutio is making fun of him by going on and on about how you know dreams come from the fairy queen who goes around in her carriage made of a hazelnut shell and makes lovers dream of their partners and soldiers dream of war and lawyers dream about their work. It's a beautiful piece of writing but it's bizarrely long for how little it actually says about the characters or plot and it doesn't seem like it has anything to do with anything else and I don't know what it's doing here." 

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"Maybe Shakespeare just liked hazelnut shells."

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"Maybe? But usually if something's there it's there for a reason, especially if it's a monologue that's well-known on its own. Also our homework for next week is an essay on it and I can't write an essay about how maybe Shakespeare just really liked hazelnut shells."

Pause.

 

"...hey, Rin?"

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"Mm?" says one of the older girls on the couch.

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"Rin, beloved senpai mine, who taught me everything I know--"

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"--who taught me everything I know about poetry in Shakespeare--"

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Tommy tenses automatically. Who...is this. Her older sister, maybe? Something like that? He's vaguely aware of "senpai" as being some sort of weeb shit but maybe that's racist and it's just a normal Japan thing and anyway it doesn't matter, he doesn't know what it means. He had realized there were other people in the room but not that they were here to supervise, which in retrospect was maybe stupid of him.

...He stays quiet, just in case Rin's more like Clay than she is Wil.

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"Yes, Ayako, I would love to take a break from doing math homework and explain the Queen Mab monologue to you, how do you know me so well."

 

The explanation she gives is long and complicated and very fast, and she keeps going into parenthetical asides about Elizabethan slang for prostitution; Ayako seems to understand it?

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Yeah Tommy is not capable of paying attention to that. His eyes glaze over after the first sentence. 

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"--all that make sense?" she finally says.

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"Yep, all that made sense, thank you!"

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"No problem," and she goes right back to doing her other homework, legs still entangled with the other upperclassman's.

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"Right," Ayako says to Tommy, "sorry, I could get her to explain it slower but she's used to me and I need the practice teaching things anyway, did you catch... any of that." 

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“…Well, yes and no. Mostly no.”

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"Right, of course.

So what Rin says is that-- so first, this is the establishing character moment for Mercutio, and the thing it establishes about him is that he mocks Romeo mercilessly and doesn't believe in ideals and he's very funny and quick-witted and prone to going off on wild flights of fancy, which is important even if the specific content of the speech weren't.

But it's also doing a couple of other things, like how it starts off being about a character out of a fairy tale but quean and mab are both slang from the period for prostitute, it's mixing this grand idealistic fantasy image with a prostitution joke, and how-- you see how as the speech goes on the dreams get darker and darker? From people dreaming about love to people dreaming about money to people dreaming about slitting throats, until Mab has gone from being the fairy queen in a spiderweb carriage to being a hag who teaches maidens how to have sex? So it's Mercutio making fun of Romeo by talking about how his sense that maybe the thing they're about to do is a bad idea comes from this figure who looks like she's grand and beautiful and out of a fairy tale but is actually dark and cynical and Romeo's ideals aren't what they look like they are.

And of course we the audience know that Romeo's right, that going to this party will lead him to his doom, because we know he dies at the end of the play even if he doesn't, and that Mercutio is wrong both about the party and about the ideals. Which I think is what my essay's going to be on. Did that make more sense."

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Not really. "So, wait, Romeo's wrong because he's not cynical enough, but also he's the one who thinks he's doomed? Isn't that, like, that doesn't really make sense, mate, I'm gonna be honest, is it--supposed to not make sense or am I just being stupid."

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"No, it's that-- Romeo isn't cynical at all, he believes in things like true love conquering all and trusting your weird dreams that tell you that things are bad ideas, and he's right because this is a story where the ideals Romeo believes in are important? Mercutio thinks love and weird gut feelings are stupid and pointless and don't amount to anything, and that Romeo is being an idiot for thinking that they do, but in fact Romeo's prophetic dream is telling him the truth, and it's Juliet and Romeo's love that eventually stops the feud at the end."

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"...But... he dies. So he can't have been right about everything."

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"Yeah. Usually nobody is right about everything, if the story's any good, and being an idealist is not a strategy without downsides because they live in a city where people keep murdering each other for no reason on the streets. But, yknow, it's not like Mercutio lives to the end of the play either."

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"And he doesn't get to have dreams about a spiderweb fairy teaching him how to have sex, which, like, seriously, man, that's pretty cool."

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"It's true! He does not even a little get to have that." 

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"Moral of the story, don't live in cities where people murder each other on the streets. But that's all of the cities, so it's kind of a useless moral."

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She'd summarize the moral of the story as something more like 'being an idealist in a world ruled by violence is not very good for the life expectancy, but dismissing love as worthless is ultimately counterproductive and compassion for other people is the only thing that can change that world.' Which is of course not very helpful as an attitude to have in the Scholomance, but it's aspirational.

"Places with lots of murder and death around are bad, it is a fact," is all she says. "I think I've got enough material for my paper, want to do this again on Friday?"

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“Okay.”

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