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“Love talk” names that style of talk that is only too familiar to scholars of the early modern period: Heavily sonorous, rich in modifiers, and overflowing with figures of physical dissolution, love talk is a style marked above all by cliché. The last of these figures have posed a burden to critics of Romeo and Juliet, who have sought to recover Shakespeare’s tragedy from the deadening grip of the cliché. In so doing, they have suppressed the play’s self-conscious embrace of the cliché. This chapter argues that Romeo and Juliet is a script for following scripts of love. The tragedy shows how love enlists the most publicly circulated linguistic forms so that it might be experienced as a private, self-generated, and formless event. The seduction of this script is thus its central contradiction: Love is an experience that extricates the lover from the social by immersing the lover so completely within its forms that they may be forgotten. Love-talk is central to this dialectic. The style’s insistent, even unbearable artifice recalls earlier love stories for the present one to follow. It also turns Romeo and Juliet itself into another such story for audiences to follow in turn.
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