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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: January ::
Re: Iambic Pentameter
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0032  Friday, 5 January 2001

From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Friday, 5 Jan 2001 12:40:37 -0000
Subject: 11.2252 Re: Iambic Pentameter
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.2252 Re: Iambic Pentameter

In early December, Peter Groves wrote:

> Spoken language has a subtle and complex
> system of signifiers at its disposal, in which
> timing differences of as little as 0.03 seconds
> can make a subliminal distinction in how we
> perceive. How, for example, do we mark the
> enjambment in "Signior Anthonio, many a time
> and oft / In the Ryalto you have rated me"?
> Inexperienced readers either read it as prose
> (which seems a bit hard on poor old Shakespeare)
> or come down with a thump on "oft" as though it
> had a comma after it, producing the pleonastic
> adverbial phrase "many a time and oft" (and limiting
> the rating to the Rialto).

I found this a convincing argument that Shylock meant

(a) "many times, and, what's worse, quite a few of them in the Rialto,
you have rated me"

rather than

(b) "many times in the Rialto you have rated me"

That is, I preferred to think Shakespeare avoided the pleonasm "many a
time and oft". But here are three other occasions on which he used it:

1H4 1.2.49 SIR JOHN Well, thou hast called her to a reckoning many
1H4 1.2.50 a time and oft.

CYL 2.1.95 SIMPCOX'S WIFE Most true, forsooth, and many time and oft
CYL 2.1.96 Myself have heard a voice to call him so.

JC 1.1.37  MURELLUS Knew you not Pompey? Many a time and oft
JC 1.1.38  Have you climbed up to walls and battlements,
JC 1.1.39  To towers and windows, yea to chimney-tops,
JC 1.1.40  Your infants in your arms, and there have sat
JC 1.1.41  The livelong day with patient expectation
JC 1.1.42  To see great Pompey pass the streets of Rome.

So the less-interesting paraphrase of Shylock's "many a time and oft /
In the Ryalto you have rated me", the (b) paraphrase above, is the right
one, isn't it?

Gabriel Egan
 

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