The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0599 Thursday, 28 February 2002
Date: Wednesday, 27 Feb 2002 18:44:20 -0800
Subject: 13.0580 Re: "Chastely"
Comment: Re: SHK 13.0580 Re: "Chastely"
Larry Weiss writes,
> Actually, when the word is used as a verb, the stress is on the second
> syllable, as in "absent thee from felicity awhile." It seems awkward,
> but the word might be a verb here: A direction to the widow to make
> sure her daughter is not present.
You are, of course, correct and that possibility had not occurred to
me. I still think the inverted foot following a syntactic break at the
fourth foot of the line is very unusual. "Never, never, never, never,
never" is the only other example that comes to mind. If you chance upon
another please let me know.
There is one further possibility. If "chastely" is scanned as two
syllables and "absent" as an adjective (AB-sent), then the final
unstressed syllable in "absent" may be considered extra-metrical. To
Shakespeare's ear, the pause following (absent or after) might then be a
full metrical foot rather than a half. This, too, would be unusual. I
don't think he normally permits himself a stressed syllable after an
extra-metrical syllable in the medial position of the line. Macbeth's
line "That shake us nightly: better be with the dead" (3.2) might be
such an instance. Unless he is hearing "with the" as a single metrical
position (or "better", which is also possible), the "ly" in "nightly" is
It's all very nit-picky, isn't it? There is so much flexibility in the
verse that it's hard to know what WS might have been hearing that
satisfied his own ear (or if one is simply dealing with an oversight).
Cheers! David Wallace
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