Like any educated girl, River read Shakespeare, and she knows that in the end everyone gets married or everyone dies. She doesn't know if she's in a tragedy or a comedy; she doesn't know if she's part of some history that's happening right now.
(Juliet killed herself to be with Romeo, and Jayne would kill and has killed in order to be with her. It's a J and an R, hundreds of years apart, but she still hasn't figured out yet which one she is.
She'd quite like to be Puck-
-but some days she feels like poor drowned Ophelia-
- and some days she doesn't feel like she is anyone at all.)
Jayne, like any good boy, knows his Shakespeare though she doesn't know how or why. He surprised her more than once, when she was looking at the stars while they were planet-side, lying in the grass while Mal screwed up something-or-other without any help, and he moved up next to her quietly.
"Look at their glow," River had said, idly tracing shapes to find new constellations and name them after herself, "look at the stars."
"There are more things in heaven and earth," Jayne had responded gruffly, and she had wiggled around to gaze up at him-
"are you calling me Horatio?" River had asked, all wide-eyed and mussed and shiny, and then Jayne had smiled down at her all genuine.
"You're more like Ariel," he says, and the significance isn't lost on her because River knows her Shakespeare. "Little sprite of a thing once captured and held and now you're free."
She links her fingers with his. He doesn't protest.
River knows that if this were a play in five acts that Inara would be the tragic heroine and Wash the wise fool. Book was the wise man too, and Zoe was lion-hearted like Cordelia or Portia and Kaylee is bright and charming like Rosalind. Simon is Viola and Sebastian all wrapped into one, the one who lost his sibling, the one who found her.
Mal is- Mal. Mercutio, maybe, making jokes and living until his death, or something more serious. River and Jayne can't tell you, and River and Jayne know their Shakespeare.
Like any educated girl, River read her Shakespeare, and she doesn't know if they're in a tragedy or a comedy. They've got the dead and dying down pat, but they've got the weddings and couplings too.
Jayne is the good character who might have been ambiguous at first, he is the one who you know is loyal by the end of the play but stay unsure about up until intermission.
"We're stuck in a tragicomedy," he declared to her one day while they lay in bed, tangled up in each other with limbs overlapping, "and we ain't ever going to get out of it."
River knows that Jayne is right. "Ariel didn't have a love interest," she says to him through a veil of her hair, "don't you remember?"
"The fool wasn't supposed to die, either-"
"-but it makes an impact on the audience more than the death of anyone else."
"Goddamed Shakespeare," Jayne growls, and River has to agree.