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Shakespeares language
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Music and rhymed music

Rhymed couplets often end scenes

the play’s the thing,/Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King” -- Hamlet

Rhyme fills A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Helena’s first soliloquy (1.1.226-33)

Oberon’s chant as he applies magic lotion to Titania’s eyes (2.2.27-34)

Slide 25

Blank verse

Blank verse

Sir Philip Sidney thought it especially suited to rhyths of English speech

Titania, speaking in blank verse, refuses to surrender the Indian boy to Oberon

Slide 26

The fairy land buys not the child of me.

The fairy land buys not the child of me.

His mother was a vot’ress of my order,

And in the spiced Indian air, by night,

Full often hath she gosipp’d by my side,

And sat with me on Neptune’s yellow sands,

Marking th’embarked traders on the flood;

When we have laugh’d to see the sails conceive

And grow big-bellied with the wanton wind;

Which she, with pretty and swimming gait,

Following (her womb then rich with my young squire)

Slide 27

Would imitate, and sail upon the land

Would imitate, and sail upon the land

To fetch me trifles, and return again,

As from a voyage, rich with merchandise.

But she, being mortal, of that boy did die,

And for her sake do I rear up her boy;

And for her sake I will not part with him.

(2.1.122-37)

Slide 28

Effect of these lines

Effect of these lines

Five-beat structure works on the ear

Smooth musicality of the meter

Regular repetition of unstressed and stressed sounds

Combines with other repetition (words, phrases, consonants, vowels) to create a mood of intense emotion - even awe

Slide 29

Bending of the iambic pattern

Bending of the iambic pattern

v / v / v / v /

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me

v /

your ears! [regular]

/ / v / v / / v

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me

v /

your ears! [irregular]

Slide 30

Language as theme

Language as theme

Shakespeare’s early plays - candid look at how he uses language

1592 or 1593 - he discovers the power of language - an epiphany

Love’s Labor’s Lost and Richard III

sudden explosion of rhetorical ability

sense of exuberance

Slide 31

Richard III - master of language

Richard III - master of language

Usurper, hunchback, infanticidal psychopath

He both attracts and repels us

Words speak louder than his actions

Richard gets what he wants with words

gets others to do his killing for him

heroic villain with an unparalleled gift for language

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