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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: October ::
Re: *AYL* -- Verse and Prose
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0769.  Friday, 25 October 1996.

(1)     From:   David M Richman <
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        Date:   Thursday, 24 Oct 1996 10:44:46 -0400DT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0767 Q: *AYL*

(2)     From:   Ed Pixley <
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        Date:   Thursday, 24 Oct 1996 14:11:09 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0767 Q: *AYL*


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David M Richman <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 24 Oct 1996 10:44:46 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 7.0767 Q: *AYL*
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0767 Q: *AYL*

I have a few speculations--that's all they are--which we probed when we
produced *As You Like It* a few years ago.  Much of the play is given over to
satire of love-poetry, and of conventional attitudes toward the business,
pleasure, and pain of wooing.  Ganymede, for he most part, is a creature of
prose; Phebe and Silvius conduct themselves mostly in verse. When the action
requires greater intensity and precision, verse is employed--as in the ritual
declarations in V, ii, that Ganymede compares to the howling of Irish wolves
against the moon.  Jaques's weighty meditation in II, vii is in verse, though
his scenes of mockery are in prose.  The formal banishment of Rosalind by
Frederic is conducted, as it must be, in verse.  Much Ado, another play that
mocks courtly conventions of love, contains a high proportion of prose.

David Richman
University of New Hampshire

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Pixley <
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Date:           Thursday, 24 Oct 1996 14:11:09 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 7.0767 Q: *AYL*
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0767 Q: *AYL*

I believe there is no generalizable answer to this very important question.  My
own experience has been that whenever Shakespeare (or Jonson or Moliere)
switches from prose to verse or back to prose, the dramatic situation is in
some way informed by that switch, but that each instance demands its own
analysis.  In a quick look at _AYLI_, the first instance of verse that I find
occurs at I:2, l. 220, when the Duke learns that Orlando's father is his enemy.
The Duke's abrupt switch into verse suggests to me his introducing a more
formal, perhaps stiffer, attitude into what had been, till then, a quite
informal atmosphere. When Celia, Rosalind, and Orlando continue the scene in
verse, their formality is probably not from the same reserve as the Duke's, but
may suggest a caution against exposing their inmost feelings too directly, as
prose might do.  Rosalind, for example, does not identify that "more" that she
could give nor the "more" that he has "overthrown," and Orland asks

        What passion hangs these weights upon my tongue?
        I cannot speak to her, yet she urged conference. ll. 260-61

Though these two examples hardly establish a pattern, they are the first and
only two I looked at in response to your question about a play that I have
never previously studied with the verse/prose question in mind. I think that,
more often than not, examining any such verse/prose shifts will yield important
insights into what is happening to the characters dramatically.

I predict that, more often than not, whenever you find a verse/prose shift in
Shakespeare, that shift will provide insights into what is happening to the
characters dramatically at that moment.

By the way, don't be embarrassed that you have not asked this question before.
The paucity of criticism on the subject suggests that you are in overwelmingly
good company.

Happy analyzing,
Ed Pixley
SUNY-Oneonta
 

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