Love moderately

In the literature that I teach my students, there is a golden mean or virtue of loving moderately, with the vice of loving excessively (dotage) on one side and loving deficiently (parsimony) on the other side.

Prior to marrying Romeo and Juliet, Friar Lawrence advises the young man:

These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which, as they kiss, consume. The sweetest honey
Is loathsome in his own deliciousness
And in the taste confounds the appetite.
Therefore love moderately. Long love doth so.
Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow. (2.9-15)

When Othello writes his obituary, he pleads for the Venetians to remember this:

I pray you in your letters,
When you shall these unlucky deeds relate,
Speak of me as I am. Nothing extenuate,
Nor set down aught in malice. Then must you speak
Of one that loved not wisely, but too well;
Of one not easily jealous, but being wrought,
Perplexed in the extreme . . . (5.400-406)

And finally, consider Esteban’s discovery after his twin brother falls in love with an actress in Thornton Wilder’s novel, The Bridge of San Luis Rey:

But the life that Esteban was leading had been full enough for him. There was no room in his imagination for a new loyalty, not because his heart was less large than Manuel’s, but because it was of a simpler texture. Now he discovered that secret from which one never quite recovers, that even in the most perfect love one person loves less profoundly than the other. There may be two equally good, equally gifted, equally beautiful, but there may never be two that love one another equally well. So Esteban sat up in their room by a guttering candle, his knuckles between his teeth, and wondered why Manuel was so changed and why the whole meaning had gone out of their life.


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