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Shakespeares language




Slide 1

Shakespeare’s Dramatic Language

Shakespeare’s Dramatic Language

Rhetoric, Wordplay, Forms

Slide 2

Shakespeare’s Language

Shakespeare’s Language

Source of pleasure


Obstacle to appreciation?

Slide 3

Qualities of Shakespeare’s verse

Qualities of Shakespeare’s verse

Density and richness

Characters express thoughts through abundant, powerful images and metaphors

Figurative language: pleases the mind and senses - expresses one idea in terms of another

Connotative imagery: highly suggestive network of pictures and ideas resonating with other images, ideas, themes in play

Slide 4



There’s husbandry in heaven,

Their candles are all out. Take thee that too. [Gives him his belt and dagger.]

A heavy summons lies like lead upon me,

And yet I would not sleep. (2.1.4-7)

Slide 5

A reading

A reading

Banquo speaks to his son Fleance

Heaven = an economical household in which all sources of light are extinguished

Powerful force (like lead) summons Banquo to sleep - but he cannot

Lines have resonance: husbandry, candles, summons, lead

Dagger appears in next few lines and later in the play

Slide 6



Banquo foreshadows the hallucinated dagger that appears in Macbeth’s soliloquy

Also the actual dagger Macbeth carries away from the murder

End of scene - ringing bell summons Macbeth to commit the murder

Lead - heaviness, foreboding the shadows the early scenes

Slide 7

Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth

Goes mad

Fears the dark

Carries a candle

Darkness - moral darkness -evil - principal theme of the plays

Slide 8

Early Modern English

Early Modern English

Technical difficulties for modern readers

verbs with inflected endings

hath, doth, goeth

forms were in transition from medieval to modern

pronoun problem - thee, thou, thy, thine

familiar vs formal - thou and you

Katherine and Petruchio

Slide 9



Another stumbling block for modern readers

Linguistic exuberance of the age

Lyle’s Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit

Shakespeare’s vocabulary: 29,000 words (twice that of the average student)

Many of his words have since dropped/changed from common usage: bisson (blind), proper (handsome), cousin (kinsman), silly (innocent)

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