Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: May ::
Re: Accents
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1242  Monday, 6 May 2002

[1]     From:   Peter Groves <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Saturday, 04 May 2002 08:13:51 +1000 (EST)
        Subj:   RE: SHK 13.1231 Re: Accents

[2]     From:   David Wallace <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Saturday, 04 May 2002 02:49:44 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1231 Re: Accents


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Groves <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Saturday, 04 May 2002 08:13:51 +1000 (EST)
Subject: 13.1231 Re: Accents
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.1231 Re: Accents

> David Wallace proposes that rhythm in Shakespearean verse is determined
> merely by the polysyllabic words.  It is true (as a glance at any
> dictionary that oftens guidance about pronunciation will show), that
> NAtive ENglish SPEAkers learn where to place stress in POlysylLAbics.
> But the rules that govern English phonology (and that can be seen
> operating in *Beowulf*, *The Canterbury Tales*, and *Murder in the
> Cathedral* as well as in *Hamlet*, are more complex than that.  Process
> Mr. Wallace's own ordinary quotidian speech through an oscillograph and
> you will observe that in almost every utterance, he stresses-that is,
> expends relatively more vocal energy on-monosyllabic active VERBS,
> NOUNS, substantive adjectives and adverbs (those that further relate the
> other WORDS in the sentence to the LARGE WORLD rather than to each
> other), and interjections.  (I USE the simplistic LIST of PARTS of
> SPEECH with which MOST of us are familiar.)  He almost always FAILS to
> STRESS monosyllabic articles, prepositions and particles, and
> conjunctions.  SOME words (auxiliary verbs, pronouns, relational
> adverbs) are sometimes stressed, sometimes not.  And special
> circumstances (like the ones that govern the first phrase in the
> previous sentence) can shift stress from, say, a noun to a modifier,
> according to principles that we also learn.  Poets from Caedmon on have
> understood this, whether they were working in alliterative, accentual,
> strict metrical, or free verse forms.  Within some forms, indeed,
> including early modern iambic pentameter, the metrical principle itself
> sets up expectations that determine whether middling words get stressed
> or not: this shows most clearly in the work of writers to whom strict
> meter is still relatively novel-Nicholas Grimald, most high school
> sophomores (college sophomores, in fact) trying to write love songs to
> other high school sophomores-who use lots of inversions and pleonasms to
> make the lines fit the meter.  By the same token, more sophisticated
> writers (e.g.  the Shakespeare of *Cymbeline*) can feel free to depart
> quite widely from the metrical norm, and still expect that norm to be
> perceived.  What it all means is that it is possible for alert readers
> to determine with a fairly high certainty the stress rhythm of a given
> line of verse, and thereafter to ascertain whether a metrical principle
> is at work.  There will, however, be opportunities for disagreement.
>
> Prosodically,
> David Evett


1       I've /just been to the /LIBrary.

2       I've just /BEEN to the /library.

The <Sonnets>, to take one example, are full of lines that are
unmetrical unless contextually determined focus and contrastive accent
are taken into account:

As he takes *from* you, I ingraft you new       (15.14)

By adding *one* thing to my purpose nothing     (20.12)

And every faire with *his* faire doth reherse,  (21.4)

And then beleeve me, *my* love is as faire      (21.10)

And what is't but mine owne when I praise *thee*?       (39.4)

Be it lawfull I love *thee* as thou lov'st those,       (142.9)

And so on and so on ...

Peter Groves

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Wallace <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Saturday, 04 May 2002 02:49:44 -0700
Subject: 13.1231 Re: Accents
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1231 Re: Accents

  David Evett writes:

> David Wallace proposes that rhythm in Shakespearean verse is determined
> merely by the polysyllabic words.

I'm not proposing that the rhythmic character of the line is determined
"merely' (or solely) by the stress contained in polysyllabic words. I am
suggesting that the consistent pattern of iambic pentameter is governed
by the position of stress in polysyllabic words. The stress in
polysyllabic words consistently falls in the 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th, and
10th metrical positions (counting syllables, not "feet"). The stress may
be inverted following a syntactic break (period, comma, conjunction
etc.). Scan virtually any line of ten syllables and you will see that
this is so. Perhaps I can discuss lines of more than ten syllables
another time. But, for the moment, scan a few hundred ten-syllable lines
and you will see that this holds true. It is a pattern because it
repeats itself and its variations are predictable.

                                     > It is true (as a glance at any
> dictionary that oftens guidance about pronunciation will show), that
> NAtive ENglish SPEAkers learn where to place stress in POlysylLAbics.
> But the rules that govern English phonology (and that can be seen
> operating in *Beowulf*, *The Canterbury Tales*, and *Murder in the
> Cathedral* as well as in *Hamlet*, are more complex than that.

I am an enthusiast not a scholar. I cannot really comment on *Beowulf*
or *The Canterbury Tales* as I am unfamiliar with Old and Middle
English. I haven't a copy of *Murder in the Cathedral* at hand.

                                                               > Process
> Mr. Wallace's own ordinary quotidian speech through an oscillograph and
> you will observe that in almost every utterance, he stresses-that is,
> expends relatively more vocal energy on-monosyllabic active VERBS,
> NOUNS, substantive adjectives and adverbs (those that further relate the
> other WORDS in the sentence to the LARGE WORLD rather than to each
> other), and interjections.  (I USE the simplistic LIST of PARTS of
> SPEECH with which MOST of us are familiar.)  He almost always FAILS to
> STRESS monosyllabic articles, prepositions and particles, and
> conjunctions.

I am uncertain how Professor Evett is able to describe my (vocal) speech
patterns by examining my (written) prose. The pattern I described is a
pattern of stress, not emphasis. I believe Professor Evett is failing to
make a clear distinction between these two characteristics of speech.
Again, (and I apologize if I am being tedious) any monosyllabic word may
be emphasized; a polysyllabic word may only be emphasized where the
stress naturally falls. Let us consider the short sentence "i love
you".  If I say "i LOVE you", I may be suggesting my feelings are more
intense than merely liking you. If I say "i love YOU", I may be
suggesting I love you rather than some other person. If I say "I love
you" (emphasis on "I"), I may be suggesting that I (at least) love you
even if no one else does. The emphasis changes according to the
rhetorical or dramatic occasion. The fact that emphasis is flexible
precludes it from being a constituent of a dramatic verse pattern. The
fact that stress is (largely) constant makes it a likely candidate for a
metrical pattern.  My speech and even my prose may have a pattern, but
the pattern is not a metrical one.

I agree that rhythmic patterns can be created by placing nouns, verbs,
adjectives, adverbs etc. in strategic positions in relation to articles,
prepositions, conjunctions etc. Consider the hymn *Amazing Grace" which
is "iambic" in its rhythmic character:

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now I'm found
Was blind but now I see.

The words (or syllables) we tend to emphasize are: maz grace sweet sound
saved wretch me once lost now found blind now see. The "story" of the
song remains. The words (or syllables) we tend not to emphasize are: a
ing how the that a like I was but I'm was but I. Nonsense remains. This
is how the "sing-song" quality of this verse is achieved - and rightly
so since it is meant to be sung. And given that it is often sung by many
voices in unison, this is a good strategy for such a song. Regrettably
this is the rhythmic pattern that we consistently teach school children
when we teach iambic pentameter. When these youngsters rightly point out
that this pattern does not exist in Shakespeare's dramatic verse, we
tell them that Shakespeare "breaks the rules for dramatic effect". I was
told that. I'm willing to bet a lot of list members were told something
similar. So - yes, a rhythmic character in a line or even a longer
passage can be created by using monosyllabic words. Certain monosyllabic
words in Shakespeare's verse attract *emphasis* - but do they create a
*pattern*? I say no. Does the *stress* in polysyllabic words create a
pattern? I say yes. The pattern I am advocating is evident. The
variations are predictable. The exceptions can be encompassed within
consistent restraints. (Which I would be happy to explain on some other
occasion.) I do not see that David Evett's comments, here or below,
suggest a pattern.

> SOME words (auxiliary verbs, pronouns, relational
> adverbs) are sometimes stressed, sometimes not.  And special
> circumstances (like the ones that govern the first phrase in the
> previous sentence) can shift stress from, say, a noun to a modifier,
> according to principles that we also learn.  Poets from Caedmon on have
> understood this, whether they were working in alliterative, accentual,
> strict metrical, or free verse forms.  Within some forms, indeed,
> including early modern iambic pentameter, the metrical principle itself
> sets up expectations that determine whether middling words get stressed
> or not: this shows most clearly in the work of writers to whom strict
> meter is still relatively novel-Nicholas Grimald, most high school
> sophomores (college sophomores, in fact) trying to write love songs to
> other high school sophomores-who use lots of inversions and pleonasms to
> make the lines fit the meter.  By the same token, more sophisticated
> writers (e.g.  the Shakespeare of *Cymbeline*) can feel free to depart
> quite widely from the metrical norm, and still expect that norm to be
> perceived.  What it all means is that it is possible for alert readers
> to determine with a fairly high certainty the stress rhythm of a given
> line of verse, and thereafter to ascertain whether a metrical principle
> is at work.  There will, however, be opportunities for disagreement.

I would be interested in being directed to some passage in *Cymbeline*
or elsewhere in the plays or sonnets where Professor Evett perceives
Shakespeare "depart(ing) quite widely from the metrical norm". Indeed, I
would like to know what metrical "norm" we are discussing here. Is
Professor Evett suggesting that iambic pentameter is a pattern of
alternating unstressed/stressed syllables (as in *Amazing Grace*)?

If anyone is interested in pursuing this topic in greater depth, I would
direct them to Kristin Hanson's "From Dante to Pinsky: A theoretical
perspective on the history of modern English iambic pentameter" Rivista
di Linguistica, 9.1 (1996), pp. 53-97.

Regards. David Wallace

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.