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Home :: Archive :: 2014 :: January ::
Scanning Shakespeare's Verse

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.044  Wednesday, 22 January 2014

 

[1] From:        Anthony Burton < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         January 21, 2014 at 3:09:32 PM EST

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Scanning Shakespeare's Verse 

 

[2] From:        Peter Groves < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         January 21, 2014 at 5:45:25 PM EST

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Scanning Shakespeare's Verse 

 

[3] From:        Kurt Daw < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         January 21, 2014 at 6:00:45 PM EST

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Scanning Shakespeare's Verse 

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Anthony Burton < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         January 21, 2014 at 3:09:32 PM EST

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Scanning Shakespeare's Verse

 

Some problems just aren’t nails, which is why we don’t bring our hammers into orchestra pits or hospital operating rooms. Like any great creative artist, Shakespeare mastered the conventions of his time and then violated or ignored them for the surprise, contradiction, irony, slap in the face, or whatever other effect he intended.

 

And by the way, down at the ASC Blackfriars Conference in Staunton Va. this fall, one of the early morning teaching exercises involved eleven people standing in a row to represent the syllables of “To be or not . . .”, which we recited first in straight iambic pentameter and then repeated, each time with a different variations on the strictly iambic stress. What a wonderful variety of plausible, performable, and interesting assortment of possibilities and possible effects on subsequent lines and issues from that brief exploration! 

 

Sure, iambic pentameter is the default meter from which to begin any reading of Shakespeare’s lines, and scansion the tool for doing so; but it can only be a starting point from which to approach the job of interpretation and, like a jazz musician, explore the possibilities implied by the printed words themselves, or the situation, or the character speaking, and the musician’s (i.e., reader’s) own way of looking at things—flavored by four hundred years of new biases and aesthetic tastes unknown at the time of composition. 

 

So, setting up a rigid armature of iambic pentameter as a test for the authority of one text over another is simply one more way of overruling Shakespeare, consigning him to a Procrustean bed whenever his protean creativity is too much for one’s own. 

 

Where’s Theseus when you need him?

 

Tony B.

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Peter Groves < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         January 21, 2014 at 5:45:25 PM EST

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Scanning Shakespeare's Verse

 

Gerald Downs’ apparently more reliable Q2 version of the lines I quoted reveals God to be an early-adopting animal rights activist, forbidding not (as we thought) suicide but “seale slaughter”. If he were to look at some scholarship a little more recent than Van Dam, Dover Wilson and Harold Jenkins, he would find a widespread view that F1 represents (as it clearly does in this line) not a corruption but a revision of Q2. But even if we were to dismiss F1 as a witness, there still remain in Q2 three FECs in this one speech (four, actually, because I overlooked “Must I remem{ber}: || why she would hang on him,”—though the more reliable Q2 unaccountably has “should” here). Having a barrow to push (or an axe to grind) will always corrupt the intellectual processes of scholarship.

 

Ros Barber, too, could try reading something more recent and more scholarly on the subject: if not my Rhythm and Meaning in Shakespeare: A Guide for Readers and Actors (since she’s ignored everything I’ve said so far) then perhaps George Wright’s excellent and highly-regarded Shakespeare’s Metrical Art. Either book will introduce her to the fact that Shakespeare does indeed make use of silent beats, though not in the way suggested by Bob Projansky (lines with silent beats remain pentameters).

 

Peter Groves

Monash University

 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Kurt Daw < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         January 21, 2014 at 6:00:45 PM EST

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Scanning Shakespeare's Verse

 

While agreeing with Ros Barber in principle, I think it is worth noting that Projansky’s method of explaining the caesura after a “soft ending” is just an alternative (and I would say more strained way) of describing the SOUND of the line. Identifying the extra syllable and its accompanying pause as a metrical foot with a stressed silent syllable seems bizarre when describing meter but would sound to the ear exactly the same as the more widely accepted description, right?

 

Kurt Daw

 
 

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