From Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, what does Romeo mean when he says, "Ay me! Sad hours seem long" (I.i.156)?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Benvolio finds Romeo in the first scene of the first act at Sycamore Grove. Romeo asks his cousin what the time is an Benvolio tells him it is nine o'clock in the morning. Romeo exclaims, "Ay me!" which is to show his surprise at the hour. Then, he says "Sad hours seem long," which suggests to Benvolio that he is not presently happy with life. The more common idiom that we understand today, and which is opposite of what Romeo says, is "Time flies when you're having fun!" Hence, to Romeo, when a person is sad, the time seems to pass slowly. Upon further reading, Benvolio asks Romeo to explain his comment by asking, "What lengthens Romeo's hours?" (I.i.158). Romeo then expounds on the subject a little bit further, but still uses riddles to mask his meaning: "Not having that which, having, makes them short" (I.i.159). The conversation then progressively uncovers Romeo's sadness as the result of being rejected by Rosaline. It is unknown as to how long Romeo has been pining away since the rejection; the fact remains, however, that to him, life has been long and torturous since it happened.

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Romeo and Juliet

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