The Oxford English Dictionary credits Shakespeare with introducing nearly 3,000 words into the English language. Scholars estimate Shakespeare’s vocabulary at between 25,000 and 29,000 words, nearly twice that of the average college student. The normal working vocabulary of a speaker of English is around 5,000 words. Just a few phrases that didn’t exist before Shakespeare: • • • • • • • • • • • • • It’s Greek to me Vanished into thin air Budge an inch Green-eyed jealousy Played fast and loose Tongue tied Hoodwinked In a pickle Knitted your brows Fair play Slept not a wink Too much of a good thing Seen better days • High time • The long and short of it • The game is up • The truth will out • Lie low • Your own flesh and blood • Crack of doom • Foul play • Teeth set on edge • In one fell swoop • Without rhyme or reason You quote Shakespeare all the time! The Language • Both written and spoken language use rhythm a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables: Hello, my name is Jennifer. Hel/lo, /my /name /is /Jen/ni/fer. \ - \ \ - \ Hel/lo, /my /name /is /Jen/ni/fer. In everyday speech, the rhythm is informal (has no set structure). • A formal pattern of rhythm is called meter. • Blank verse: Blank verse is unrhymed but uses a formal pattern of rhythm or meter. In the English language, blank verse is iambic pentameter. Iambic pentameter Pentameter (penta = 5, think pentagon) means there are five poetic feet. In iambic pentameter each of these five feet is composed of two syllables: the first unstressed; the second stressed (10 syllables total). The following is a line from one of Shakespeare’s most famous sonnets: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Count the syllables…which are stressed and which are unstressed? Answer: - \ - \ \ - \ \ Shall /I/ com/pare / thee / to / a / sum/mer’s/ day? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Note there are 10 syllables, in an unstressed, stressed pattern. Practice: The following are the first two lines of Romeo and Juliet. Are they in Iambic Pentameter? Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, Two/ house/holds, /both /a/like/ in/ dig/ni/ty, In/ fair/ Ver/o/na,/ where/ we/ lay /our/scene, Yes! Why do we care? We care, because it impacts how you read the play. New readers have a tendency to pause at the end of a line, whether there is reason to or not! You must read Shakespeare just like you would read anything else and most importantly… PAY ATTENTION TO PUNCTUATION! This is an excerpt from Romeo and Juliet: BENVOLIO: I do but keep the peace: put up thy sword, Or manage it to part these men with me. It is ONE sentence! So why is it on two lines? Because it is written in iambic pentameter – if he’d continued the line, there would be too many syllables. I / do/ but /keep /the /peace: /put/ up/ thy /sword, Or/ man/age /it /to/ part /these /men /with /me. Shared lines: FRIAR LAURENCE: Go with me to the vault. I dare not, sir My master knows not but I am gone hence; And fearfully did menace me with death, If I did stay to look on his intents. BALTHASAR: Again, because it is Iambic pentameter. The two characters are sharing the ten syllables. Is the whole thing written in Iambic pentameter?? No. Shakespeare writes either in blank verse (iambic pentameter), in rhymed verse or in prose. Verse – another word for poetry. Prose – regular writing Rhymed Verse BENVOLIO: See, where he comes: so please you, step aside; I'll know his grievance, or be much denied. Prose Prose is regular writing. Often you will see servants talking in prose. This is to distinguish the “upper class” characters who speak in verse (fancy) and the regular Joe who speaks in prose (plain speech). Common contractions found in Shakespeare. • • • • • • • • • • 'tis = ope = o'er = gi' = ne'er = i' = e'er = oft = a' = e'en = it is open over give never in ever often he even Other Words • Art = are • Ere = before • Hence= here • Thee, thou, thy = you • Thine = your • Wert = were • Wherefore = why • But = except • Choler = anger Other important information: Character’s names: Benvolio: Meant to be associated with the word “Benevolent” which means kind, caring, compassionate, etc. Mercutio: Meant to be associated with “Mercury.” Mercury is a Roman god known for being charming, great with words and a trouble maker. Also, the substance Mercury is used in thermometers – it is sometimes called “quick silver.” This is appropriate because of Mercutio’s swift word play, and because he has a temper (thermometers measure temperature – that’s where the word temper comes from). • Tybalt: Mercutio calls Tybalt “the prince of cats.” This is a reference to an old story that Shakespeare’s audience would have known where the main character named Tybalt was, indeed, a prince of cats. Also significant because cats are quick and light on their feet, but also easily angered and territorial. • Nurse: This is Juliet’s nurse-maid. Literally, she “nursed” Juliet as an infant (rich people didn’t do their own breast feeding – they hire a wet nurse). She is more like a mother than a servant/nanny to Juliet. • Friar Lawrence: A friar is a holy man and member of the church. Much like a priest or minister. Terms • Prologue: The word means “before speech.” The audience is meant to receive hints about what they will be watching in this play. Think of it as a movie trailer.