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Discovering Shakespeare’s Meaning 1. Verse and Prose

Discovering Shakespeare’s Meaning

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Page 1: Discovering Shakespeare’s                                Meaning

Discovering Shakespeare’s Meaning

1. Verse and Prose

Page 2: Discovering Shakespeare’s                                Meaning

Renaissance Drama

• One of the major obstacles encountered by the student or inexperienced reader in studying the work of Shakespeare is the form in which it is principally composed – Blank Verse (the term conventionally employed to denote the unrhymed iambic pentameter)

• Dŭmaín | iš míne, | aš súre | aš bárk | oň trée.

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Contemporary Drama

• For all its seeming realism, the dialogue of a contemporary play does not reflect everyday speech – it creates an illusion of actuality by drawing upon the audience’s assumptions about the kind of speech patterns the individuals concerned might be expected to employ.

• The atmosphere or emotional tempo is dictated by background music.

• Lighting plays a significant part in determining the impact of the words.

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Shakespeare’s dramatic language• Shakespeare’s blank verse constitutes a

kind of suitcase of twentieth-century conventions.

• The resources of the sound mixer and the lighting engineer were not available to the Renaissance dramatist, and he had consequently to project, through language alone, what a modern producer achieves through a combination of lights, words, and music.

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• The lines, which Shakespeare’s characters speak are designed, not merely to convey information between those on stage, and from the dramatis personae to the audience, but to suggest the atmosphere of a scene, the nature of the speakers, and the degree of excitement which the situation as a whole generates.

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The modes of communication Shakespeare uses

• Blank verse• Rhyming couplets• Song• Formal and informal prose

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• A movement between literary forms frequently marks a shift

from one class of speaker, or cast of mind, to another,

or from one order of experience to a different level of apprehension.

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• Song – more obviously structured than blank verse or prose, and usually performed to a musical accompaniment.

• It is used to suggest a distinct order of reality in the play world, or an element of artifice within that of the play itself . (The spirituality of Ariel in The Tempest and the element of fancifulness in Orsino’s love for Olivia in Twelfth Night)

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• Prose – used to suggest earthiness as opposed to spirituality.

• Couplets – by their recurring rhymes and insistent meters are, like song, more self-consciously ‘poetic’ than blank verse and denote the intrusion of romance into the day-to-day world, or point to dramatic stylization (Romeo‘s couplets in expressing his love for Rosaline before he meets Juliet).

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• Blank verse – the most dignified English meter and generally assigned to upper class speakers when he is in control of himself and his kingdom – prose when his hold on both deserts him (King Lear).

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An entire microcosm implied by bringing together a variety of styles within a single structure

• In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the five groups into which the characters fall are clearly differentiated by metrical means.

• 1. Theseus and Hippolyta – the dignified rulers of the human arena, communicate in blank verse.

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• 2. Hermia, Helena, Demetrius and Lysander – the noble-born, volatile young lovers, speak in rhyming couplets.

• 3. Bottom the weaver, and his working class companions – use prose.

• 4. The fairies – belong to a different order of reality, sing songs and assigned a dazzling variety of meters.

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• 5. Pyramus and Thisbe – the hero and heroine of the play incompetently performed by Bottom and his friends, betray their fictional status within the play world through their absurdly emphatic alternate rhymes.

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The infinite variation of Blank verse• It would be wrong to suggest that blank

verse itself constitutes one single, monolithic form of expression.

• Just as Shakespeare implies differences between or within individuals by moving up or down a register of metrical forms, so he suggests emotional or temperamental differences between or within his speakers by the kind of blank verse his characters are assinged.

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The difference between blank verse and free vese• Free verse has no regular pattern of

stressed and unstressed syllables.• Blank verse consists of five units, or

feet, each composed of one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one.

• Dŭmaín | iš míne, | aš súre | aš bárk | oň trée.

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A regular blank verse line

• Caesura (a pause in the middle, i.e. after the second foot)

• End-stopped (a mark of punctuation concluding the line)

• Dŭmaín | iš míne, | | aš súre | aš bárk | oň trée.

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• One of kinds of departure from the regular pattern.

Turn all her mother’s pains and benefits To laughter and contempt, that she may feel How sharper a serpent’s tooth it is To have a thankless child!

` Those lines that do not conclude with a mark of punctuation are referred to as run-on.

` The effect is to suggest a crescendo of emotion

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More metrical variations

• Spondee – the kind of foot in which both syllables are accented, employed to highlight particular words or phrases by the violence that it does to the listener’s metrical sense.

• Heár, Ná|tŭre, héar.

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• Reversed feet – a similar technique to spondee, with which many lines open.

• Dŕy ŭp |iň hér• Feminine caesura- the pause falls

after an unstressed, rather than a stressed syllable.

• Aš Í | ăm nów | ŭnhá | ppy; | | whích | iš móre

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• Feminine ending – an unstressed syllable falling at the end of a blank verse line.

• Who please| to come | and hear. | For life, | I prize | ĭt.

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Prose variation

• Prose does not always indicate a degenerate state, however, nor is it necessarily less complex in its organization than verse.

• Though it functions as a stylistic contrast, and frequently points social divisions, its use does not automatically involve the juxtaposition of a racy ‘low language’ against a more elevated idiom.