The Taming of the Shrew Contents
- Shakespeare, William
- 1564 - 1582: William Shakespeare's Stratford Beginnings
- 1582 - 1592: William Shakespeare's Marriage, Parenthood and Early Occupation
- 1592 - 1594: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 1
- 1594 - 1611: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 2
- 1594 - 1611: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 3
- 1611 - 1616: William Shakespeare - Back to Stratford
- Social / political context
- Religious / philosophical context
- The theatrical context
- The Taming of the Shrew Induction Scene 1
- The Taming of the Shrew Induction Scene 2
- The Taming of the Shrew Act 1 Scene 1
- The Taming of the Shrew Act 1 Scene 2
- The Taming of the Shrew Act 2 Scene 1
- The Taming of the Shrew Act 3 Scene 1
- The Taming of the Shrew Act 3 Scene 2
- The Taming of the Shrew Act 4 Scene 1
- The Taming of the Shrew Act 4 Scene 2
- The Taming of the Shrew Act 4 Scene 3
- The Taming of the Shrew Act 4 Scene 4
- The Taming of the Shrew Act 4 Scene 5
- The Taming of the Shrew Act 5 Scene 1
- The Taming of the Shrew Act 5 Scene 2
Blank verse, prose and rhyme
During the sixteenth century, the form known as blank verse was introduced into English drama. This enabled playwrights to vary the kind of language spoken by their characters, and hence to allow the audience to hear different patterns of language for different purposes.
In addition, Shakespeare as a playwright did not simply use prose - the usual style of writing and speech, in which, for example, this information (apart from quotations) is written - but also verse.
This is usually defined as ‘unrhymed iambic pentameter’. To understand this, it is necessary to realise that most English words of more than one syllable have a stressed syllable:
- when we say the word ‘messenger’ we slightly stress the first syllable
- in ‘occasion’ and ‘invisible’ we stress the second
- in ‘satisfaction’ the third.
A predominance of words which have the same stressed syllable means that a pattern emerges — for example the well-known chant from Macbeth:
‘Double, double, toil and trouble,
Fire burn and cauldron bubble’.
More on stresses: Small words such as ‘and’ and ‘the’ are usually unstressed. ‘Fire’ was pronounced as two syllables in Shakespeare’s time.
The commonest stress pattern in spoken English is where one unstressed, or weak, syllable is followed by a stressed, or strong, one – for example: ‘He knew he had to go to school today.’ This is called iambic rhythm.
Playwrights realised that, by using this natural inclination in a more organised way, they could simultaneously suggest real speech and yet introduce a more formal, organised pattern to their language.
More on varying the pattern: Of course, if the pattern was never varied from this weak/strong one it would sound dreadful — the sort of sing-song that Shakespeare parodies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream when Bottom thinks he is proclaiming great verse:The raging rocksAnd shivering shocksShall break the locksOf prison gates. …’
However, an underlying iambic rhythm forms the basis of much Shakespearean speech:
‘Or rather say the cause of this defect’ …
‘What’s Hecuba to him or he to her?’….
‘What’s Hecuba to him or he to her?’….
The opposite pattern (strong/weak rather than weak/strong) is known as a trochaic rhythm or metre, for example, ‘Cloudy weather reaching Northern Ireland ….’
More on trochaic metre: In the chant of the Weird Sisters from Macbeth, we can hear that Shakespeare uses a trochaic metre to distinguish these creatures from ordinary humans — just as he does with Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream when Puck chants:‘If we shadows have offended,Think but this and all is mended…’These chants also differ from most Shakespearean speeches in that:
- they have only eight syllables to the line, as opposed to ten
- they are in rhyme.
Lines with ten syllables, in five groups of weak/strong beats, are known as pentameter, from the Greek word for five.
So, lines written in iambic rhythm, with five groups of weak/strong beats — pentameter — but unrhymed, are called blank verse.
The attributes of verse
Shakespeare’s language is shaped by an awareness of the rhythms of spoken early modern English shaped into memorable verse.
Unrhymed verse, in lines of ten syllables with an underlying stressed / unstressed rhythm.
In written text, the ordinary plain form of language, not organised into verse form. It is often contrasted with the term 'poetry'.
A line containing five metrical feet each consisting of one stressed and one unstressed syllable.
The term for the style of English language being used from the sixteenth century, at the time Shakespeare was writing.
The particular measurement in a line of poetry, determined by the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables (in some languages, the pattern of long and short syllables). It is the measured basis of rhythm.
The shape / organising principle of a piece of writing, particularly applied to poetry.
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