Language of Elizabethan Drama


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An introduction to Shakespeare - the grammar and wording in the plays. Email me if you'd like shell-notes for this.

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Language of Elizabethan Drama

  1. 1. Elizabethan Drama Why does this stuff sound so strange?
  2. 2. Pronouns <ul><li>2nd Person: Thee *Thou *Ye </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They mean “you” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Thou and Thee: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ Casual” version of “you” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Used among friends, and low class people </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Can be used to “talk down” to someone, and in love poetry… </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>d. “Thy” and “thine” = “your” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You / Ye </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>More formal </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Used among upper class / polite company </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>c. Used when talking “up” to someone </li></ul></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Verb Forms <ul><li>“ T” endings (art, hast, etc) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Used with 2nd person (you/thou) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ th” endings (hath , doth, etc.) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Used with 3rd person (he / she / it) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ If thou loves t me” = “If you love me” </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. II. This stuff is poetry! <ul><li>(No, people back then didn’t really talk like this - Just ask Nick Bottom) </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>1. It is Iambic Pentameter </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Each line has ten syllables ( pent = 5, and meter = a metric foot, or 2 syllables, so pent-meter is 5 x 2, or 10 syllables) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Stress is on every other syllable - soft, then hard. Da DUM da DUM. Iambic simply means it does this. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>So, a line of iambic pentameter is 10 syllables that go da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Example: </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Now fair Hip po ly ta , our nup tual hour </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Draws on a pace . Four hap py days bring in (I.I. 1-2) </li></ul></ul></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>2. Iambic Pentameter can take 2 forms: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Rhymed Verse : endings of lines rhyme </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Often used for “love discussions, and by romantic or magic people / creatures </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Example: </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>By the sim pli ci ty of Ve nus’ doves </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>By that which knit teth souls and pros pers loves </li></ul></ul></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>Blank Verse , where lines do not rhyme </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In MND, most upper class people speak this way. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Example: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Or if there were a sym pa thy in choice , </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>War death or sick ness did lay siege to it , </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ma king it mo men ta ny as a sound , </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Swift as a sha dow, short as a ny dream </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(I.I. 143-146) </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. How on earth do you write ENTIRE PLAYS in this format???
  9. 9. It’s Easy…. <ul><li>Cheat! </li></ul>
  10. 10. How to cheat like an Elizabethan: <ul><li>Rearrange word order. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Example: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Thou hast sung at her window by moonlight: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Here, the syllables aren’t iambic… so, we write it this way: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Thou hast by moon light at her win dow sung </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>2. Leave out some syllables (make contractions) </li></ul><ul><li>a. Example: </li></ul><ul><li>“ Quenched in the chaste beams of the watery moon </li></ul><ul><li> And the imperial voteress passed on” </li></ul><ul><li>Each line has eleven syllables so, to make it pentameter, we write it this way: </li></ul><ul><li>“ Quenched in the chaste beams of the wat’ry moon </li></ul><ul><li> And the imperial vot’ress passed on” </li></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>3. Leave out some words </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Example: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Ay there it is.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ I pray thee, give it to me” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Here, two lines combine into 1 line of iambic pentameter, but it has 1 too many syllables… so, we do this: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Ay there it is.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ I pray thee, give it me ” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Now it’s 10 syllables… </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Why write all this stuff in poetry?
  14. 14. In MND, it ISN’T all poetry! <ul><li>a. Poetry is used in specific situations: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>i. Upper class people use iambic pentameter. They may also rhyme when: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>They are discussing love / romance </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The speaker is magical / non-human </li></ul></ul></ul>
  15. 15. <ul><li>b. Prose is used in specific situations: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lower class people speak “normally” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>This is how “real” Elizabethans would have sounded on the streets of England. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ Here is the scroll of every man’s name which is thought fit, through all Athens, to play in our interlude before the Duke and the Duchess on his wedding day at night.” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Notice how it’s not very different from us today? </li></ul></ul></ul>
  16. 16. That’s It! <ul><li>So, as you read the play, use this information to help you understand WHAT they are saying and WHY they are saying it… </li></ul><ul><li>Good Luck! </li></ul>