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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: December ::
Re: Hermia
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2767  Thursday, 6 December 2001

[1]     From:   Roger D. Gross <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 5 Dec 2001 11:16:39 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2743 Re: Hermia

[2]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Monday, 3 Dec 2001 13:02:10 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2723 Hermia

[3]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 5 Dec 2001 15:08:08 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2743 Re: Hermia

[4]     From:   Peter Groves <
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        Date:   Thursday, 06 Dec 2001 11:07:58 +1100 (EST)
        Subj:   RE: SHK 12.2743 Re: Hermia

[5]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 5 Dec 2001 23:35:44 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2743 Re: Hermia


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roger D. Gross <
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Date:           Wednesday, 5 Dec 2001 11:16:39 -0600
Subject: 12.2743 Re: Hermia
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2743 Re: Hermia

Variable pronunciation is one of Shakespeare's most common practices.
He has a variety of devices which help him to maintain his very regular
metrical scheme.  See Dorothy Sipe, SHAKESPEARE'S METRICS, for a clear
demonstration of one of these strategies.  She demonstrates that he had
two or three forms for many of his words and used the one most
convenient for his immediate rhythm.  ('bated and abated for example)

The primary reason that most productions of Shakespeare's plays are
spoken as prose is that we have not bothered to learn his basic metrical
scheme and his pronunciation.

"Hermia" is, indeed, a variable pronunciation name, 2 or 3 syllables as
need be.  So is Demetrius, so Helena.   Although there is more of this
variability in DREAM than in most other plays, the practice can be found
in most of them.

One of Shakespeare's most consistent variations is what I call his
"Last-Word Variation".  It is his practice, more often than not, to
extend a name by one syllable when it appears as the last word in a
verse line.  ROH-myoh is the standard pronunciation of Romeo's name but
it is always ROH-mee-OH when it ends a line or, in one case when it is
at a full stop in mid-line.   Juliet, however, is always JULE-yeht,
because it never appears in a stopped position.

The practice of variability is so common and consistent as to be
undeniable.  I have the numbers on almost all of it if anyone has a
questions about a particular name or word.

I'm no doubt repeating myself from a post several years ago but here are
some of the variable names we most often mispronounce.

The norm for Petruchio is puh-TROOK-yo  (which is a pattern common to
all of the names which end in io, eo, ia.   But when it is in last
position, it is puh-TROO-kee-OH

One we have trouble with is Antony.  Many actors really bludgeon this
one, saying AN-thuh-NEE.   The norm is ANT-nee but it in occasionally
AN-tuh-NEE.   In one speech, both pronunciations occur withing two verse
lines.

Other names with Last-Word Variations:  hy-PEER-yuhn (Hyperion),
GLEHN-dahr (Glendower),  AIR-yuhl  (Ariel)   CHAR-myuhn (Charmian),
EETH-yope (Ethiope) graht-ZYAH-noh (Gratiano).   Et cetera.

We must not rely on general impressions of the nature of verse for our
standards or on the evidence of one line or one script in making these
judgements.  It takes a comprehensive study of the verse form and of all
of Shakespeare's practice.

Sorry to sound so assertive.

Roger Gross
U. of Arkansas

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Monday, 3 Dec 2001 13:02:10 -0500
Subject: 12.2723 Hermia
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2723 Hermia

I don't know if Paul Gross is still an active member of the list, but he
earlier sent us a lot of his work on Shakespearean names clearly
indicating that names that end with two vowels, such as Hermia and
Romeo, can be dissyllabic or trisyllabic at need, though the trisyllabic
forms tend to appear at the end of lines.  There is at least one medial
trisyllabic Hermia in the passage Mike Jensen is curious about, "Not
Hermia, but Helena I love" (2.2.112); note that here the name precedes a
strong midline adversative pause.

Prosodically,
Dave Evett

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Wednesday, 5 Dec 2001 15:08:08 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 12.2743 Re: Hermia
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2743 Re: Hermia

I seem to think, admittedly without any evidence to back this up except
intuition, that the difference in the scansion of the name is merely to
fit a line.  Granted, sometimes such things carry meaning and purpose.
However, Shakespeare seems to have no qualms about doing this in many of
his plays. In All's Well, Helen is alternatively known as Helen and
Helena.  Either there are some errors in the printing, or the names were
simply accepted as interchangeable. I suppose that sometimes two or
three syllables flow better than the other and the choice was made to
use one. Just my opinion...

B. Willis

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Groves <
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Date:           Thursday, 06 Dec 2001 11:07:58 +1100 (EST)
Subject: 12.2743 Re: Hermia
Comment:        RE: SHK 12.2743 Re: Hermia

> My apologies to all for stretching this into two posts, but I don't
> think I expressed myself well in today's other message.
>
> The reason I'm am interested in the scansion of the name Hermia is
> because I wonder what, if any, impact it had when the play was first
> performed, and why Shakespeare changed the name from 3 to 2 syllables.
> (Good luck on that one, Mike!)
>
> Yes, it scans as 2 syllables in the lines I mentioned, Peter and Peter;
> quite right, but in 1.1.23, for example, it scans at 3 syllables.  I
> think it is worth noting that of the 7 lines mentioned in my original
> post, 6 have a word that could be dropped so *Hermia* would scan at 3,
> and the syllables per line would still be 10.  An example is 2.2.111,
> *Content with Hermia?  No!  I do repent/*  The *No* is not necessary, so
> the change from the 3 syllables in 1.1.23 and other lines, to 2
> syllables here seems deliberate.
>
> With this is understood, let me tell you what I really want to know.
> Why make the change at all?  It is not necessary for the sense or rhythm
> of the lines.  What was gained by it, and was anything lost?  I'm also
> interested in what it means practically on stage.  Was it completely
> ignored on stage, the name always pronounced the same way?  Did the
> pronunciation shift as the scansion shifted?  If so, what does this mean
> for other lines that scan at 9, 11, or 12 syllables?  (I'll give you 8
> and 6, especially in this play.) Granted there is a certain apparent
> license about the counts, or the texts are not pure, or probably both.
> I don't know how to differentiate these in most cases.
>
> Do you see why I'm not satisfied with simply noting that the name can
> scan as both 2 and 3 syllables?  I'm looking for a bigger picture, but
> can't find the right gallery.  Please accept my apology for not making
> this clear in my first query, and for giving a rather muddled account of
> it in the my other reply.
>
> And, yes, I quite understand some of these questions may be
> unanswerable. I'd like to know if anyone has tried.
>
> All the best,
> Mike Jensen

Shakespeare isn't actually "changing" anything here: the syncopated
(two-syllabled) and full (three-syllabled forms are both available, but
the syncopated forms are most common because they sound more
naturalistic.  Where they occur, the full forms are sometimes just there
to eke out the metre of the line, but they can be put to use; in
Morocco's "Mis-like me not for my com-plex-i-on"(MV 2.1.1), for example,
the slightly archaic full form suggests his exotic otherness, as opposed
to the more usual humdrum syncopated form of Portia's dismissive "Let
all of his com-plex-ion choose me so" (MV 2.7.79).  Sometimes they can
constitute pointing of the lines: as I pointed out in my previous post,
the non-syncopation of the final "Romeo" in "Ro-meo, my Co-zen Ro-meo,
Ro-me-o" (RJ 2.1.3) instructs the actor to shout it; in "Oh, the
di-ffe-rence of man, and man (Lr. 4.2.26) the actor playing Goneril is
instructed to linger salaciously on the word (and thus on the contrast
between her lover and her husband)-normally.

If you want to go into this sort of thing in more detail you can always
(shameless plug warning) take a look at my book <Strange Music: The
Metre of the English Heroic Line>, ELS Monograph Series 74 (Victoria,
B.C.: University of Victoria, 1998).

Peter Groves

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Wednesday, 5 Dec 2001 23:35:44 -0500
Subject: 12.2743 Re: Hermia
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2743 Re: Hermia

>I think you'll find that Juliet usually scans best as two syllables
>also, Jul-yet, something that Roger Gross pointed out to me several
>years ago.
>
>Ed Pixley

This is how my late father, a Shakespeare scholar, told us to pronounce
my sister's name (after Measure for Measure).

Clifford


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