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Shakespeare

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an introduction to iambic pentameter and prose

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Shakespeare

  1. 1. An introduction to Iambic Pentameter
  2. 2. Iambic pentameter is meter that Shakespeare nearly always used when writing in verse. Most of his plays were written in iambic pentameter, except for lower-class characters who speak in prose.
  3. 3. Iambic Pentameter Iamb- 2 syllables Pentameter- Meter with 5 So how many syllables are in a line of Iambic Pentameter?
  4. 4. Iambic Pentameter has: • Ten syllables in each line • Five pairs of alternating unstressed and stressed syllables • The rhythm in each line sounds like: ba-BUM / ba-BUM / ba-BUM / ba-BUM / ba-BUM
  5. 5. If music be the food of love, play on u / u / u / u / If mu- / -sic be / the food / of love, u / / play on
  6. 6. Rhythmic Variations In his plays, Shakespeare didn’t always stick to ten syllables. He often played around with iambic pe .
  7. 7. Feminine Ending Sometimes Shakespeare added an extra unstressed beat at the end of a line to emphasize a character’s sense of contemplation. This variation is called a feminine ending and Hamlet’s famous question is the perfect example: To be, / or not / to be: / that is / the ques- / -tion
  8. 8. To be, / or not / to be: / that is / the ques- / -tion Inversion Shakespeare also reverses the order of the stresses in some iambi to help emphasize certain words or ideas. If you look closely at the fourth iambus in the Hamlet quote above, you can see how he has placed an emphasis on the word “that” by inverting the stresses.
  9. 9. Prose Run-on lines (unlike iambic pentameter) No rhyme or metric scheme The qualities of everyday language Lower class characters spoke in prose.
  10. 10. Hint: You can easily spot dialogue written in prose because it appears as a block of text, unlike the strict rhythmic patterns of Shakespeare’s verse.
  11. 11. EXAMPLE of prose: Puck. If we shadows have offended, Think but this and all is mended, That you have but slumber'd here While these visions did appear. And this weak and idle theme, No more yielding but a dream, Gentles, do not reprehend: If you pardon, we will mend. And, as I am an honest Puck, If we have unearnéd luck Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue, We will make amends ere long; Else the Puck a liar call: So, good night unto you all. Give me your hands, if we be friends, And Robin shall restore amends. [Exit. --William Shakespeare A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act V, Scene 1
  12. 12. Why did Shakespeare use prose? To tell us something about his characters. Many of Shakespeare’s low-class characters speak in prose to distinguish them from the higher-class, verse-speaking characters. However, this should be treated as a general “rule of thumb”.
  13. 13. To suggest a character’s mental instability In King Lear, Lear’s verse deteriorates into prose as the play unfolds to suggest his increasingly erratic mental condition. We can also see a similar technique at work in Hamlet. For example, one of Hamlet’s most poignant speeches is delivered entirely in prose, even though he is a Prince:
  14. 14. To create comic effect Some of Shakespeare’s low-class comic creations aspire to speak in the formal language of their superiors, but do not have the intelligence to achieve this and therefore become objects of ridicule.
  15. 15. To make dialogue more realistic Many short, functional lines like “And I, my lord,” and “I pray you leave me” are written in prose to give the play a sense of realism. In some longer speeches, Shakespeare allowed the audience to identify more closely with his characters by using the everyday language of Elizabethan England.
  16. 16. Let’s take a look at the prince’s speech from Act 1 Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet. Is it written in iambic pentameter or prose?
  17. 17. PRINCE Rebellious subjects, enemies to peace, Profaners of this neighbour-stained steel,-- Will they not hear? What, ho! you men, you beasts, That quench the fire of your pernicious rage With purple fountains issuing from your veins, On pain of torture, from those bloody hands Throw your mistemper'd weapons to the ground, And hear the sentence of your moved prince. Three civil brawls, bred of an airy word, By thee, old Capulet, and Montague, Have thrice disturb'd the quiet of our streets, And made Verona's ancient citizens Cast by their grave beseeming ornaments, To wield old partisans, in hands as old, Canker'd with peace, to part your canker'd hate: If ever you disturb our streets again, Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.
  18. 18. PRINCE Rebellious subjects, enemies to peace, Profaners of this neighbour-stained steel,-- Will they not hear? What, ho! you men, you beasts, That quench the fire of your pernicious rage With purple fountains issuing from your veins, On pain of torture, from those bloody hands Throw your mistemper'd weapons to the ground, And hear the sentence of your moved prince. Three civil brawls, bred of an airy word, By thee, old Capulet, and Montague, Have thrice disturb'd the quiet of our streets, And made Verona's ancient citizens Cast by their grave beseeming ornaments, To wield old partisans, in hands as old, Canker'd with peace, to part your canker'd hate: If ever you disturb our streets again, Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace. What are these words that are in BOLD?? Simply contractions used to fulfill iambic pentameter!
  19. 19. For example: Hymns in church and other songs do the same thing! Can you think of an example?
  20. 20. Now, prose… Puck. If we shadows have offended, Think but this and all is mended, That you have but slumber'd here While these visions did appear. And this weak and idle theme, No more yielding but a dream, Gentles, do not reprehend: If you pardon, we will mend. And, as I am an honest Puck, If we have unearned luck Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue, We will make amends ere long; Else the Puck a liar call: So, good night unto you all. Give me your hands, if we be friends, And Robin shall restore amends. [Exit. A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act V, Scene 1
  21. 21. Now… Take your Shakespearean monologue and re-write it skipping lines. Write the stressed, unstressed symbols where they should go. Look up any words you may not know.

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