- 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
- Religious/ philosophical context
- Theatrical context
Verse and prose in Othello
Like most of Shakespeare’s plays, much of Othello is written in blank verse, i.e. lines that on the page resemble lines of poetry but which do not rhyme nor have a dominant rhythm when spoken aloud. However, there are still patterns to be found in blank verse. The general metre is iambic pentameter, i.e. five ‘feet’ of two syllables each, an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one. For example, ‘The native act and figure of my heart’ (Act 1 Scene 1) is a line of perfect iambic pentameter.
As blank verse is the linguistic vehicle for the majority of the play, the exceptions to it take on interesting meanings and implications.
Verse versus prose
In Shakespeare’s day, verse was considered to be of higher status than prose and therefore carried greater significance and moral worth. Prose was for everyday speech, but verse was of a more formal nature and usually spoken by more noble characters. So when a passage is of no particular importance, such as Act 2 Scene 2, the text will often be written in prose.
The high moral points of the play are all spoken in rhythmic verse. For example, in Act 2 Scene 1, Cassio speaks a prayer for Othello’s safety which (with the elision of ‘powerful’ to two syllables) is in iambic pentameter:
Great Jove, Othello guard,
And swell his sail with thine own powerful breath,That he may bless this bay with his tall ship,
This speech demonstrates Cassio to be a virtuous person who has faith in divine protection, of which Shakespeare’s audience would approve.
Unrhymed verse, in lines of ten syllables with an underlying stressed / unstressed rhythm.
The device, frequently used at the ends of lines in poetry, where words with the same sound are paired, sometimes for contrast ' for example, 'breath' and 'death'.
The musical effect of the repetition of stresses or beats, and the speed or tempo at which these may be read.
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.
A line containing five metrical feet each consisting of one stressed and one unstressed syllable.
In written text, the ordinary plain form of language, not organised into verse form. It is often contrasted with the term 'poetry'.
The image of God on his throne in heaven surrounded by his angels and ministers to whom he makes announcements and where he may be petitioned.
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