« PreviousContinue »
the shorter lines may be regarded as extra-metrical. It will be noted that the short line is especially frequent in the more passionate speeches : e.g. i. 4. 299, ii. 4. 286, and iv. 6. 112-129.
The broken speech ending is a characteristic of the later plays.
4. APPARENT VARIATIONS
Many apparent irregularities are due to difference of pronunciation in Shakespeare's time.
(a) Accentual. · The accent has changed in many words: e.g. Shakespeare always has aspéct (ii. 2. 112), importune (iii. 4. 166) and sepulchre - the verb — (ii. 4. 134). Retinue has the accent on the second syllable in i. 4. 221, and observants has it on the first in ii. 2. 109 — the only occasions in Shakespeare in which these words occur in verse. Consort, as a noun in the sense of company, is accented on the last syllable (ii. 1. 99).
Certain words had not a fixed pronunciation. It is often only by the position of the word in the verse that we can decide on which syllable the accent falls. Thus the noun sepulchre has usually the accent on the first syllable, but in Richard II, i. 3. 196, it is pronounced, like the verb, with the accent on the second syllable. Similarly revenue in i. 1. 139 and ii. 1. 102, but révenue in Richard II, i. 4. 46; éxtreme (iv. 6. 26), but extrémest (v. 3. 136). Note also sincere in ii. 2. 111. In general an adjective preceding a noun of one syllable, or a noun accented on the first syllable, is not accented on the last. A striking example of this accentual change is found in Henry VIII, v. i. 132:
Might córrupt minds procure knaves as corrúpt. The same change invariably takes place in such two-syllabled adjectives as complete, exact, obscure, extreme, sincere, etc. The pronunciation which now survives is generally that which represents most closely the Latin quantity. The English accentuation of these Romance words tended in Shakespeare's time to make the stress fall on the first syllable; but the influence of Latin has frequently in Modern English restored the accent to its original place.
(6) Syllabic. — (1) A vowel may be lost before a consonant at the beginning of a word: e.g. 'scape, 'gainst, 'bove; and's for and his,'t for it, 's for his (i. 4. 114), for us (iii. 4. 110), and for is (iv. 6. 163). Cf. this' for this is (iv. 6. 187). The same omission takes place within a word (syncope):
1 See Schmidt's Shakespeare Lexicon, vol. ii, Appendix,
a. In the inflexion, as in the past tense and past participle, in the second person singular, as mean'st (ii. 2. 114), in the possessive, as Phæbus' (ii. 2. 114), and in the superlative ('st for est). These shortened forms become more and more common in Shakespeare.
b. In the second last syllable of words of three syllables accented on the first: e.g. courtesy (ii. 4. 182) and majesty (i. 1. 151), though ma-jęs-ty (v. 3. 299). This contracted pronunciation has become fixed in such words as business, medicine. It is most commonly caused by a “vowel-like” (see (3) below).
(2) Two vowels coming together may coalesce, whether in the same word or in adjacent words : e.g. influence (ii
. 2. 113), radiant (ii
. 2. 113), material (iv. 2. 35), violent (iv. 7. 28), immediacy (v. 3. 65), society (v. 3. 210), the expense (ii. 1. 102), the untented (i. 4. 322). Royal and loyal are generally dissyllabic.
There is no definite pronunciation of the terminations -ion, -ious, -eous, etc. Thus we find conditi-on (iv. 7.57), but benediction (iv. 7. 58), and gorge-ous (ii. 4. 271) but gorgeous (ii. 4. 272). The contracted pronunciation that now in vogue — is the more common in Shakespeare's verse, though the dissyllabic pronunciation was recognized throughout the seventeenth century.?
(3) The liquids l, m, n, and r have the function of either a consonant or a vowel, and are therefore called “vowel-likes."
a. By the consonant (non-syllabic) function they may cause the loss of a syllable, either immediately before or after: e.g. amorous (i. 1. 48), murderous (ii. 1. 64), stubborn (ii. 2. 134), pelican (iii. 4. 77), memories (iv. 7. 7), temperance (iv. 7. 24), victory (v. 1. 41), countenance (v. 1. 63), prisoners (v. 3. 75), interest (v. 3. 85), privilege (v. 3. 129), absolute (v. 3. 300). Also in words of four syllables : e.g. unfortunate (iv. 6. 68), desperately (v. 3. 292), and particular,(v. 1. 30), though partic-u-lars (i. 4. 286).
b. By the vowel (syllabic) function they may form a new syllable: e.g. entrance, sometimes written enterance, through, sometimes written thorough, hel-m (iv. 7. 36), but helm (iv. 2. 57), light-n-ing (iv. 7. 35), but light-ning (ii. 4. 167).
The vowel-like ó frequently resolves a preceding long vowel or diphthong into two syllables : e.g. such words as hour, hire, fire are sometimes dissyllabic.
(4) Sometimes a consonant, usually th or v, coming between two vowels is omitted, the vowels coalescing; in these cases the second vowel is followed by r or n. Thus even (adv.) is generally
1 The mark (.) under a vowel means that it is mute.
a monosyllable; so also ever, never, over, often written e'er, ne'er, o'er. The th is often omitted in whether (sometimes written where), rather, etc.
According to Mr. Fleay's calculation, there are seventy-four rhymed lines in King Lear. Shakespeare's use of rhyme gradually diminished, but he retained throughout his career the couplet at the end of a scene. There are several instances of it in King Lear, e.g. i. 2, iv. 7, v. 1, and v. 3. Rhyme also marks the close of a speech and the exit of an actor, e.g. i. 1. 257-264. In iv. 6. 284,285 it is used to mark a change of subject. It has also the closely connected purpose of giving point to the expression (e.g. i. 1. 276– 277, i. 4. 338-339); and hence it readily lends itself, by reason of this epigrammatic force, to clinching the argument and making an effective ending. The only rhymed passage of any length occurs at the end of iii. 6. It illustrates the use of rhyme in passages of moralizing or of “plaintive emotion.” Rhyme is not used in passages of passionate emotion, the tendency is rather to pass into prose, nor for narrative, nor for the development of the action of the drama.
Who with entyre affection him receav'd,
And after all an army strong she leav'd,
32. So to his crowne she him restor'd againe,
In which he dyde, made ripe for death by eld,
And overcommen kept in prison long,
IV. Sidney's Arcadia. — Book ii, chapter 10; edition of 1590, fol. 142–144.
The pitifull state, and storie of the Paphlagonian unkinde King, and
his kind sonne, first related by the son, then by the blind father. It was in the kingdome of Galacia, the season being (as in the depth of winter) very cold, and as then sodainely growne to so extreame and foule a storme, that neuer any winter (I thinke) brought foorth a fowler child : so that the Princes were euen compelled by the haile, that the pride of the winde blew into their faces, to seeke some shrowding place within a certaine hollow rocke offering it vnto them, they made it their shield against the tempests furie. And so staying there, till the violence therof was passed, they heard the speach of a couple, who not perceiuing them (being hidde within that rude canapy) helde a straunge and pitifull disputation which made them steppe out; yet in such sort, as they might see vnseene. There they perceaued an aged man, and a young, scarcely come to the age of a man, both poorely arayed, extreamely weather-beaten; the olde man blinde, the young man leading him: and yet through all those miseries, in both these seemed to appeare a kind of noblenesse, not sutable to that affliction. But the first words they heard, were these of the old man. Well Leonatus (said he) since I cannot perswade thee to lead me to that which should end my griefe, & thy trouble, let me now entreat thee to leaue me: feare not, my miserie cannot be greater then it is, & nothing doth become me but miserie; feare not the danger of my blind steps, I cannot fall worse then I am. And doo not I pray thee, doo not obstinately continue to infect thee with my wretchednes. But flie, flie from this region, onely worthy of me. Deare father (answered he) doo not take away from me the onely remnant of my happinesse: while I haue power to doo you seruice, I am not wholly miserable. Ah my sonne (said he,
and with that he groned, as if sorrow straue to breake his hearte) how euill fits it me to haue such a sonne, and how much doth thy kindnesse vpbraide my wickednesse? These dolefull speeches, and some others to like purpose (well shewing they had not bene borne to the fortune they were in,) moued the Princes to goe out vnto them, and aske the younger what they were ? Sirs (answered he, with a good grace, and made the more agreable by a certaine noble kinde of pitiousnes) I see well you are straungers, that know not our miserie so well here knowne, that no man dare know, but that we must be miserable. In deede our state is such, as though nothing is so needfull vnto vs as pittie, yet nothing is more daungerous vnto vs, then to make our selues so knowne as may stirre pittie. But your presence promiseth, that cruelty shall not ouer-runne hate. And if it did, in truth our state is soncke below the degree of feare.
This old man (whom I leade) was lately rightfull Prince of this countrie of Paphlagonia, by the hard-hearted vngratefulnes of a sonne of his, depriued, not onely of his kingdome (wherof no forraine forces were euer able to spoyle him) but of his sight, the riches which Nature graunts to the poorest creatures. Whereby, & by other his vnnaturall dealings, he hath bin driuen to such griefe, as euen now he would haue had me to haue led him to the toppe of this rocke, thence to cast himselfe headlong to death: and so would haue made me (who receiued my life of him) to be the worker of his destruction. But noble Gentlemen (said he) if either of you haue a father, and feele what duetifull affection is engraffed in a sonnes hart, let me intreate you to conuey this afflicted Prince to some place of rest & securitie. Amongst your worthie actes it shall be none of the least, that a King, of such might and fame, and so vniustly oppressed, is in any sort by you relieued.
But before they could make him answere, his father began to speake. Ah my sonne (said he) how euill an Historian are you, that leaue out the chiefe knotte of all the discourse ? my wickednes, my wickednes. And if thou doest it to spare my eares, (the onely sense nowe left me proper for knowledge) assure thy selfe thou dost mistake me. And I take witnesse of that Sunne which you see (with that he cast vp his blinde eyes, as if he would hunt for light,) and wish my selfe in worse case then I do wish my selfe, which is as euill as may be, if I speake vntruly; that nothing is so welcome to my thoughts, as the publishing of my shame. Therefore know you Gentlemen (to whom from my harte I wish that it may not proue ominous foretoken of misfortune to haue mette with such a miser as I am) that whatsoeuer my sonne (ô God, that trueth binds me to reproch him with the name of my sonne) hath said, is true. But besides those truthes, this also is true, that hauing had in lawful mariage, of a mother fitte to beare royall children, this sonne (such one as partly you see, and better shall knowe by my shorte declaration) and so enioyed the expectations in the world of him, till he was