Shakespeare*s Style - our English 2DI class website!

Prose and Poetry
 Words or ideas are arranged in no fixed pattern of
strong or weak beats
 Often used for “common” speech, by lower class
 Example: Sir Toby says, “What a plague means my
niece to take the death of her brother thus? I am sure
care’s an enemy to life” (1.3.1-2).
Background: Poetry
 Up until the late 1500s, all English plays were written
in verse (poetry).
 Hence, playwrights in Shakespeare’s day were called
 Audiences in Shakespeare’s day expected to hear the
actors speak in verse.
 Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be heard (they
weren’t published in his day, and most of the
population was illiterate anyway)
 This rhythm made it easier to follow
How the rhythm works:
 Place your right hand over your heart
 You’ll feel the familiar thump: DA-DUM, DADUM, DA-DUM, DA-DUM
 This rhythm is called “iambic”
 in other words, the weak beat is first and the strong
beat is second: DA-DUM, DA-DUM
Some words with
iambic rhythm:
 Although
 Because
 Unless
 Today
 Perhaps
 For sure
 I think
 Indeed
 delight
Compare to
trochaic rhythm:
 Trochaic rhythm puts stress on the first syllable:
 Happy
 Frightened
 Lovely
 Certain
 Starving
 Roasting
 Love it
 Bring it….
 Shakespeare
How it works:
 “Pente” means “five”
 “Pentameter” means 5 strong beats per line
 In total, there will be 10 syllables per line (5 strong beats
and 5 weak beats)
 /
/  / 
 But soft what light through yonder window breaks?
(Romeo and Juliet)
 If I profane with my unworthiest hand
 This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this
 Thou chid’st me oft for loving Rosaline.
 For doting, not for loving, pupil mine.
Iambic Pentameter
 Each line of iambic pentameter can be broken down like
 O, teach (1) me how (2) I should (3) forget (4) to think (5)
 By gi- (1) ving li- (2) berty (3) unto (4) thine eyes (5)
 With love’s(1) light wings (2) did I (3) o’erperch (4) these
walls (5)
 I wish (1) my class (2) would read (3) the play(4) at home
 If on- (1) ly kids (2) could love (3) the Bard (4) like me (5)
Blank verse…
 Iambic pentameter that does not rhyme is called
blank verse
 Example:
 Rebellious subjects, enemies of 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,
 A 14 line poem
 Rhyme scheme: abab cdcd efef gg
 Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets
 Sometimes characters’ lines combine to make a
Sonnet from
Romeo and Juliet:
 ROMEO [To JULIET] If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
JULIET Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.
 ROMEO Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?
 JULIET Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
 ROMEO O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
JULIET Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.
 ROMEO Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.
 Speech spoken by one person, seemingly to
himself/herself but really to inform the audience of
his motives and to reveal true character. Often is it a
kind of internal debate.
 Example: (2.2.38-42)
 “Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
 Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
 What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
 Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
 Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
 A figure of speech in which two or more contrasting
ideas are placed beside each other, often in parallel
grammatical form.
 The purpose is to emphasize the ideas being
 Examples:
 Romeo: O brawling love! O loving hate! (1.1.172)
 Juliet: Parting is such sweet sorrow. (2.2.184)
 Actor’s comment or a short speech meant to be heard
by the audience and not by other performers
 Example: on the balcony, while Juliet is speaking to
 Romeo: [Aside.] Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at
this? (2.2.37)
Rhyming couplet
 Two rhyming lines are called a rhyming couplet
 A rhyming couplet will usually complete a long
speech or a scene
 Example:
 Hence will I to my ghostly father’s cell,
 His help to crave, and my dear hap to tell.
 (2.2.188-9)
 A reference to a historical, literary, religious,
mythological figure, event or object (the reader
makes the association)
 Example:
 “She’ll not be hit with Cupid’s arrow
 She hat Dian’s wit. (1.1.205-6)
 At lovers’ perjuries, / They say, Jove laughs. (2.2.934)
 Gibson, Rex, and Field-Pickering, Janet. Discovering
Shakespeare’s Language. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge
University Press, 1998. Print.
 “Stressing Shakespeare.” Literary Cavalcade 54.7
(2002): 10. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. 16
May 2013.