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Copy of Shakespeare Prose & Verse
Transcript of Copy of Shakespeare Prose & Verse
Shakespeare used two forms of language in his plays. They were;
Verse is basically the writing in Shakespeare that resembles traditional poetry. There are two varieties: 'rhymned verse' or 'blank (un-rhymned) verse'
All lines of verse have a similar number of syllables, and so will look about the same length.
Verse has a recognisable rhythm pattern, which is often 'iambic pentameter': a ten syllable line with alternatine accents. (da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM)
Who speaks verse?
The upper class characters in Shakespeares plays tend to speak in verse, as it is seen as the more formal and refined method of speech.
Some other uses for verse include...
To emphasise romance. Rhyming verse especially is more romantic than either blank verse or prose. As such it used extensively in plays like 'Romeo and Juliet'.
As the lyrics to a song.
When giving advice to a moral. Strong, rhythmic speech will be more sentient and carry more weight than prose would.
In prologues, epilogues, choruses and plays-within-plays.
An example from Macbeth...
Lady Macbeth speaks in verse in the beginning of the play then switches to prose near the end. This establishes character by showing her change in mindset and attitude.
"Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be What thou art promised;"
These are the powerful opening lines of Lady Macbeth. In these beginning acts she is ruthless and ambitious. She even says...
“That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here” (Act 1, Scene 5)
showing that when she hears that king Duncan will be staying in her castle that night she wishes she were a man so she could kill Duncan herself. In the last two acts however, you see a change in Lady Macbeth when she starts going crazy with guilt.
In these acts she begins to speak in prose showing her decline to the mindset of the lower class. Her overpowering guilt leads to her demise when she commits suicide.
Prose is the writing in Shakespeare that looks almost like writing in a normal book.
Prose has the same properties as everyday language.
No particular rhythm pattern.
Looks like a normal paragraph.
Who speaks prose?
As a rule of thumb, Shakespeare generally used prose for the lower class characters. This was to distinguish them from the more refined, verse-speaking aristocrats. This is not always the case, however, as one of Hamlet's most important speeches was written in prose, despite the fact he is a prince.
Evidently Shakespeare did not just use prose to distinguish class. Some other uses for prose include...
To make conversations seem more realistic. In Shakespeare's time most plays may have been written in verse, but the public spoke as they do today - in prose. Using prose made the characters more relatable to audiences.
To create comic effect. Some of the lower class characters attempt to use formal language while still speaking in prose, often getting it horribly and humourously wrong. In 'Much Ado about Nothing', Dogberry attempts to make a report to Leonato that "our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended two auspicious persons." What he meant to say was "our watch, sir, have indeed apprehended two suspicious persons."
To cause doubt about the speaker's sanity. After a long scene of verse, an unexpexted paragraph of prose would seem rambling. For example; King Lear's verse gradually deteriorates over the course of the play in to verse, in parallel with his worsening mental condition.
An example from Macbeth...
"Knock, knock, knock! Who’s there, i' th' name of
Beelzebub? Here’s a farmer that hanged himself
on the expectation of plenty. Come in time, have
napkins enough about you, here you’ll sweat for ’t."
(Act 2, Scene 3)
This is an example of the porter talking in prose. He
talked this way because he was of lower class, explaining
why he was just a doorman, and because he was also intoxicated.