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English - Reading Shakespeare - Shakespeare's Language

In studying a Shakespearean play you need to identify the language type.

Shakespeare used three styles of writing in his dialogue: poetic verse, prose and blank verse.

Poetic Verse

With the help of similes and metaphors, the basis of this kind of poetic language is the comparison.

Similes and metaphors form part of the play’s imagery.

Prose or ‘ordinary language’

Used for:

Minor characters in the play.

For comic exchanges between characters.

It can be used by characters of all ranks to develop the plot or to provide important information about a character or event.

Reading aloud – letters, proclamations...

Shakespeare employed a wide variety of linguistic devices, including:








Blank Verse

The basic form of dramatic verse used by Shakespeare.

The rhythm pattern of blank verse is close to the stresses of spoken English.

Technically blank verse consists of unrhymed iambic pentameters.

Iambic pentameters: a line of ten syllables, of which five are stressed:

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks

Rhythm Pattern = ti tum ti tum ti tum ti tum

Rhymed Verse

Shakespeare sometimes used a pattern of rhymed lines – the iambic pentameter with rhyme. The rhymes usually in pairs and are known as rhyming couplets.

Rhymed verse is used to:

End scenes and for emphasising the closing of an action.

Emphasise a particular atmosphere, or indicate that something is different.

In Twelfth Night, Olivia declares her love for ‘Cesario’, in a rhymed speech:

‘I love thee so that maugre all my pride,

Nor wit nor reason can my passion hide’

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