User:Mosborne Ashs School Nz/Temp/Language use.odt

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Shakespeare’s Use of Language.

The Basics:

Lines which end with punctuation, indicating a pause are called END STOPPED.

eg.And your large speeches may your deeds approve,

That good effects may spring from words of love.

Thus Kent, O Princes, bids you all adieu;

He’ll shape his old course in a country new.(I.i.184)

Lines without punctuation indicating a pause are called RUN-ON LINES. The practice of running on lines is called ENJAMBEMENT.

eg. …and by the happy hollow of a tree

Escaped the hunt. No port is free, no place

That guard and most unusual vigilance

Does not attend my taking(II.ii.172)


In verse, each line can be broken up into a number of “feet” (or bounces) A foot is a unit of two or three syllables. Most of Shakespeare’s poetry is written using the “Iambic” foot, which is two syllables, one light then one heavy.

eg.Prithee go in thyself, seek thine own ease.

The number of feet in a line is also important. Different words are used to describe how many feet are in a line.

One footMonometer“Prithee”

Two feetDimeter“Prithee go in”

Three feetTrimeter“Prithee go in thyself,”

Four feetTetrameter“Prithee go in thyself, seek thine”

Five FeetPentameter“Prithee go in thyself, seek thine own ease.”

Almost all of Shakespeare’s writing uses the IAMBIC PENTAMETER. Not only did he write delicately intricate plots and incredible poetry, he also fitted almost every line into this rhyme scheme.


Sometimes Shakespeare uses rhyme at the end of his lines.

Unrhymed lines are called BLANK VERSE

eg.Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile;

Filths savour but themselves. What have you done?

Tigers not daughters, what have you performed?(IV.ii.40)

Two consecutive rhyming lines are called a COUPLET.

eg.The weight of this sad time we must obey

Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.(V.iii.322)

Prose vs. Pentameter

Traditionally, prose is used to indicate the speech of madmen, Fools or clowns and people of lower classes. In Hamlet, we can see this in a modified form: Hamlet’s ‘mad’ speeches, and his conversations with the lowly grave diggers are in prose, yet


eg.This is the foul fiend Flibbertigibbet: he begins at curfew and walks to first cock; he gives the web and the pin, squinies the eye and makes the harelip.(III.iv.111)

Couplets in Iambic Pentameter:

eg.When we our betters see bearing our woes,

We scarcely think our miseries our foes.(