Speech Patterns in Shakespeare

Speech Patterns in Shakespeare

Shakespeare's deliberate shift of speech patterns in a Midsummer Night's Dream
153
views

Language develops, increases, and changes with age. Shakespeare displays four distinct speech patterns in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, each showing a different point in life. Hermia, Lysander, Helena, and Demetrius as the young lovers undergo speech development as they begin the play in rhyming, buoyant, youthful even immature iambic pentameter and progress to mature, sophisticated, rational, blank verse. Bottom, Quince, Flute, Snout, Snug, and Starveling as the amateur actors begin the play in lofty, blundering, comical prose and regress to bumbling, childish, disorderly couplets when they are performing Pyramus and Thisbe. Perhaps Shakespeare employs these contrasting speech patterns to suggest that age can cause speech to both progress and regress, depending on the circumstances surrounding the speaker(s).

The young lovers’ irrationality at the beginning of the play parallels their circumstances similar to how the amateur actors’ perceived loftiness parallels their situation. Hermia, Lysander, Helena, and Demetrius are caught in a web as Hermia and Lysander are in love, Demetrius loves and intends to marry Hermia, and Helena loves Demetrius. Egeus decrees that Demetrius and Hermia must marry, which angers Helena. In attempt to satiate Helena by disclosing her plan of flight with Lysander, Hermia says “Take comfort: he no more shall see my face./Lysander and myself will fly this place./Before the time I did Lysander see/Seemed Athens as a paradise to me./O, then, what graces in my love do dwell/That he hath turned a heaven unto hell” (Shakespeare 1.1.207-212). Here, Hermia speaks in rhymed verse and exaggerates that Athens has become hell to her because the laws restrict her from marrying Lysander. Shakespeare sets up Hermia’s speech pattern in this instance to reflect what fools people are in love. In a similar fashion, Helena has the first soliloquy of the play and develops her plan by saying “I will go tell him of fair Hermia’s flight./Then to the wood will he tomorrow night./Pursue her. And, for this intelligence…/To have his sight thither and back again” (1.1.253-258). Helena’s plan is so irrational that it is comical since she plans to tell Demetrius, who loves Hermia, where Hermia is, which would encourage him to go get her. The plan itself is ludicrous and the rhyming pattern that Shakespeare employs emphasizes the childish irrationality. Similarly, the amateur actors feature a character who tries to employ lofty, advanced, eloquent speech, but ends up blundering many words: Bottom. Bottom fills his speech with misuses of words, poorly constructed periodic diction, and speaks in prose. Shakespeare may have had Bottom speak in prose to show his lower socioeconomic status, which is emphasized by his blundering speech. Dialogue between Quince and Bottom quickly reveals how Bottom pretends to know more than he does, which is reflected in Bottom’s speech patterns. Quince says “Marry, our play is “The most lamentable comedy and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe”, which reveals Quince’s own ignorance (1.2.11-13). To this declaration, Bottom replies “A very good piece of work, I assure you, and a merry”, despite the fact that Pyramus and Thisbe is a tragedy (1.2.14-15). Later in the same scene, Bottom asks who Pyramus is, showing that he did not really read the play, so essentially he is talking out of his bottom. At the beginning of the play, Bottom reveals himself to be a trope of the person who tries to advance social classes. Shakespeare shows the circumstances of the young lovers and amateur actors through their diction.

About to emerging or emerging from the woods, the young lovers’ speech patterns mature and become more refined, rational, and precise, showing how much they have aged in a metaphorical sense. Theseus, the symbol of Athenian law, and Egeus finds the young lovers sleeping on the ground. Demetrius best exemplifies the shift to maturity that all of the young lovers have when he says “My lord, fair Helen told me of their stealth,/Of this their purpose hither to this wood,/And I in fury hither followed them,/Fair Helena in fancy following me” (4.1.167-170). Gone is the rhyme scheme that added a level of childishness to the verse, now Demetrius speaks calmly and rationally, lacking the agitation that he had previously. Shakespeare here suggests that part of aging is having piece of mind, which is reflected in their speech patterns. Before the young lovers were entangled with each other and not simply paired off, which caused irrationality, anger, and jealousy. Now that the young lovers are together in couples, the jealously melts away and what is left is a mature type of love that today would be identified with marriage. Shakespeare shows that as the situation requires it, the young lovers became more mature as they tried to convince Theseus to let them marry who they want to marry. By showing how people can learn to adapt their speech to situations, Shakespeare perhaps may be arguing that age can correlate to higher rationality in speech.

When the amateur actors begin their production, their speech patterns regress to a child-like and even ridiculous state. Even though the amateur actors act out a play that someone wrote down and are not speaking from their composition of words, the version of the play they are using is anything, but the original story. Shakespeare intentionally parodies Pyramus and Thisbe to underline the ridiculousness of the amateur actors. The actors speak in couplets, which creates a childish effect. Furthermore, a character besides Bottom blunders and says “This is old Ninny’s tomb” (5.1.277). Here, Flute was referring to Ninus, but instead calls him Ninny, which invokes a childlike manner. Later in the scene, Bottom as Pyramus dies an overdramatic death in which he proclaims “Now am I dead” yet proceeds to talk for a few more lines (5.1.316). The continuation of speech at this point emphasizes the overdramatic scene and the comical nature it brings. The amateur actors fancy themselves real actors that are going to put on a serious production, but the end result is laughable. It is as if they are children playing adults. Shakespeare shows this regression for two reasons. The first reason is to make fun of non-professional theatre companies. The second reason is to show that when placed in certain situations, people’s speech can regress to the irrational. The amateur players’ shift from prose to couplets shows how while the young lovers grew up, the amateur players became younger.

Shakespeare uses shifts from rhyme to unrhymed and prose to poetry to show different types of aging. While people generally perceive aging as getting older, Shakespeare shows that it is possible to age backwards or become younger. The amateur players and young lovers serve as the contrasting examples of this as they simultaneously age, but in different directions. Shakespeare suggests that irrationality and rationality are signs of age and shows that through his use of shifting speech patterns.

Cover Image Credit: Mendelssohn

Popular Right Now

To The Senior Graduating High School In A Month

"What feels like the end, is often the beginning."
36284
views

It wasn’t too long ago that I was in your shoes. Just a little over a year ago, I was the senior that had a month left. One month left in the hometown that I grew up in. One month left with the friends that I didn’t want to leave. One month left in the place that I had called “my school” for the past four years. You are probably thinking the same things I thought whenever it came down to only 30 days left. You’re probably scared, nervous, worried, or anxious. Maybe you’re like me and are dying to get out of high school, ready to start a new chapter. Or maybe you aren’t so ready yet. Maybe you’re wishing for a little more time.

As scary as it is, this month you have left will fly by. You’ll blink and you’ll be standing in your cap and gown, waiting for your name to be called to receive your diploma. You’ll look back on your last four years at your school and wonder why time went by so fast. It’ll be bittersweet. However, trust me when I say that you have so much to look forward to. You are about to begin taking the steps to build your future. You are going to grow and learn so much more than any high school class could teach you. You are going to meet amazing people and accomplish amazing things. So, as scared as you might be, I encourage you to take that first step out of your comfort zone and face this world head on. Chase your dreams and work towards your goals. You are smart. You are brave. You are capable of achieving amazing things. All your life, the lessons you have learned have prepared you for this point in your life. You are more than ready.

There are times when you will feel alone, scared, or confused. There are times when it won’t always be easy. But those are the times when you will shine the most because I know you will work through whatever problems you may face. Don’t think of the bad times as a terrible thing. Use them all as learning experiences. As author Joshua Marine once said, “Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”

You might think that this is the end. However, it’s not. This is only the beginning. Trust me when I say that the adventures and opportunities you are about to face are nothing compared to high school. Whether you are going to college, going to work, or something else, this is the beginning of your journey called life. It will be exciting, it will be terrifying, but it will all be worth it.

So, as you walk out of your high school for the very last time, I encourage you to take a deep breath. Relax. You’ll always have the memories to look back on from high school. But your time is now, it begins today. Embrace it.

Cover Image Credit: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1152445/images/o-HIGH-SCHOOL-GRADUATION-facebook.jpg

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

A Beginner's Guide to Milwaukee Sports

Part I: The Bucks

269
views

Being a college student in Milwaukee has its perks, especially for sports fans. Now, while some may have brought their hometown teams to college, others (myself included) may have warmed up to the Cream City teams without knowing much about them. If this is the case for you, then these pointers can help you start enjoying Milwaukee basketball without looking and sounding like a bandwagon fan.

Quick History

www.nba.com

Here are some facts about the Bucks that can make you feel more knowledgeable about the franchise:

- They have only won one championship (back in 1971) and have lost one NBA Finals series (1974) (Land of Basketball)

- They have only had one* MVP-caliber player in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (#33) during the 1971, 1972, and 1974 seasons (Land of Basketball)

- Other Notable Players Include: Oscar Robertson (#1), Sidney Moncrief (#4), Jon McGlocklin (#14) and Ray Allen (#34) (Land of Basketball)

*Giannis Antetokounmpo may win the MVP award this year

sited: https://www.landofbasketball.com/teams/milwaukee_bucks.htm

Gear Up

https://twitter.com/bucksproshop/status/982026548705415168

This one is a bit of a no-brainer. Wearing team's colors or spirit wear is a must, especially if you're going to a game. Most items like hats and t-shirts are perfectly acceptable, and these are great if you're not trying to break the bank. Buying your gear from a sporting goods store will usually be cheaper than buying them from the team store (the main one of which is located in Fiserv Forum). Most online stores like NBA.com, Fanatics, Fansedge, and sometimes even the team's online store will have sales on sports gear, so getting a good deal on team wear is always a plus!

A Word of Caution: Jerseys

All three of these players are not part of the 2018-2019 roster and #77 and #3 have been reused by current players Ersan Ilyasova (#77) and George Hill (#3)

www.nba.com

If you're willing to go the extra mile, buying a jersey can really get you into locked in and pumped for the live action. However, it should be kept in mind that official Nike NBA jerseys range from $110-$250, so they definitely are an investment. While there are other options available like the FastBreak jerseys by Fanatics, they are a simpler (still official) knockoff of the Nike jerseys. Also; beware buying sale jerseys. There are usually three reasons why jerseys are ever on sale (aside from a storewide sale): a player is injured, a player doesn't play much and is about to be traded, or a player has been traded. While there is nothing wrong with having the jersey of a player who went on to another team (like Kareem and Allen), you are not exactly going to get brownie points for wearing a Jabari Parker or a Thon Maker jersey anytime soon.

Know The Current Squad

Fiserv Forum, Home of the Milwaukee Bucks

www.nba.com

Everyone in Milwaukee has heard of Giannis Antetokounmpo, but who else is part of the supporting cast?

Starting Five for the 2018-2019 Milwaukee Bucks (Basketball Reference):

- #6 Eric Bledsoe at Point Guard

- #13 Malcolm "The President" Brogdon at Shooting Guard

- #22 Khris "Money" Middleton at Small Forward

- #34 Giannis "The Greek Freak" Antetokounmpo at Power Forward

- #11 Brook "Splash Mountain" Lopez at Center

Student Perk

www.nba.com

Using your university email, you can get special discount ticket offers for home games by signing up for the Bucks' Student Rush Program. Tickets usually start at $15 per ticket, and the seats available may depend on who the Bucks are playing (and how well they are doing during the season).

Get Involved and Have Fun!

Mascot Crawl GIF by NBA - Find & Share on GIPHY Giphy

Don't be afraid to get into it! The Bucks are an amazing team to watch and they love Bucks Nation. In addition to cheering at games, going to team events and player appearances can be great ways to make memories and even get an autograph or two!

Are You a Bucks Fan Now?🦌

media1.tenor.com

I think Giannis would agree!

Related Content

Facebook Comments