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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: October ::
Re: *AYL* -- Verse and Prose
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0772.  Monday, 28 October 1996.

(1)     From:   Pervez Rizvi <
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        Date:   Monday, 28 Oct 96 12:53:15 GMT
        Subj:   Prose/verse split in AYL

(2)     From:   Rick Jones <
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        Date:   Monday, 28 Oct 1996 09:25:45 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0769 Re: *AYL* -- Verse and Prose


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pervez Rizvi <
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Date:           Monday, 28 Oct 96 12:53:15 GMT
Subject:        Prose/verse split in AYL

I agree with Ed Pixley that switches between prose and verse are made because
of dramatic requirements, not just casually. I had a browse through AYL and it
seems to me that the verse/prose changes there are explicable:

(i) All comic passages are in prose, as they are in other plays. This accounts
for all of Touchstone's speeches and a high proportion of Rosalind's speeches,
both with Celia and Orlando.

(ii) Duke Senior's speeches are in verse because he is a nobleman and must
speak in a formal, 'high' style rather than 'vulgar' prose.

(iii) The romantic passages between Rosalind/Orlando and Pheobe/Silvius are of
course in verse.

(iv) Jacques' speeches are in verse when he is speaking 'philosophically', e.g.
the seven ages of man speech, in prose when he is indulging in his brand of
humour, e.g. with Touchstone.

I accept that this adhoc explanation is open to refutation and I'm sure it
doesn't account for everything, e.g. why scene 1.1 is in prose. Perhaps someone
can improve on it.

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rick Jones <
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Date:           Monday, 28 Oct 1996 09:25:45 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 7.0769 Re: *AYL* -- Verse and Prose
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0769 Re: *AYL* -- Verse and Prose

I wanted to add just a brief expansion to the comments of David Richman and Ed
Pixley, both of whom make good points.  I tell actors to watch for any changes
in the verse (or prose) as *possible* indicators of a change in the action of
the scene, and I use the declarations scene (V.ii) in AYLI as the primary
example.  The scene (or, rather, the French scene) starts in blank verse,
interrupting a prose conversation between Orlando and Ros/Gan.  The first line,
Phebe's "Youth, you have done me much ungentleness," is irregular (or at least
awkward), suggesting the transition.  Thereafter, with the exception of several
"feminine endings," the verse pattern is clean iambic: but we switch back and
forth between pentameter and trimeter, and (most significantly) Ros/Gan's "And
I for no woman" is in *prose*, surrounded by the most conventional iambics
imaginable (I'd be tempted to pronounce "Phebe" as one syllable to push the
point even further).  Thus not only Ros/Gan's lines, but their form, undercuts
the pretentious romanticism of the other characters and suggests, just
possibly, that there may be more to love than conventional declarations of it.

BTW, I wish I could say I noticed on my own that the shift to prose happens
before "Why do you speak too..."  Alas, I didn't.  Cicely Berry has an
excellent discussion of the scene in *The Actor and His Text* in the original
English publication].

Rick Jones

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