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also have the effect of bringing back into the too pale and formal English of modern times a large number of pithy and vigorous phrases which would help to develop as well as to reflect vigor in the characters of the readers. Shakespeare used the English language with more power than any other writer that ever lived — he made it do more and say more than it had ever done ; he made it speak in a m re original way; and his combinations of words are perpetual provocations and invitations to originality and to newness of insight.” — J. M. D. MEIKLEJOHN, M.A., Professor of the Theory, History, and Practice of Education in the University of St. Andrews. SHAKESPEARE'S GRAMMAR
SHAKESPEARE lived at a time when the grammar and vocabulary of the English language were in a state of transition. Various points were not yet settled ; and so Shakespeare's grammar is not only somewhat different from our own but is by no means uniform in itself. In the Elizabethan age, “ Almost any part of speech can be used as any other part of speech. An adverb can be used as a verb, “They askance their eyes'; as a noun, “the backward and abysm of time'; or as an adjective, 'a seldom pleasure.' Any noun, adjective, or intransitive verb can be used as a transitive verb.
You can • happy' your friend, ‘malice' or .foot' your enemy, or
fall' an axe on his neck. An adjective can be used as an adverb; and you can speak and act easy,''free,'excellent'; or as a noun, and you can talk of fair' instead of beauty,' and 'a pale' instead of a paleness. Even the pronouns are not exempt from these metamorphoses. A “he' is used for a man, and a lady is described by a gentleman as “the fairest she he has yet beheld.' In the second place, every variety of apparent grammatical inaccuracy meets us. He for him, him for he; spoke and took for spoken and taken; plural nominatives with singu
lar verbs; relatives omitted where they are now considered necessary ; unnecessary antecedents inserted ; shall for will, should for would, would for wish; to omitted after I ought, inserted after I durst ; double negatives ; double comparatives ( more better,' etc.) and superlatives ; such followed by which, that by as, as used for as if ; that for so that; and lastly some verbs apparently with two nominatives, and others without any nominative at all.” – DR. ABBOTT's Shakesperian Grammar.
Shakespeare's plays are written mainly in what is known as blank verse; but they contain a number of riming, and a considerable number of prose, lines. As a rule, rime is much commoner in the earlier than in the later plays. Thus, Love's Labor's Lost contains nearly 1100 riming lines, while (if we except the songs) Winter's Tale has none. The Merchant of Venice has 124.
In speaking, we lay a stress on particular syllables ; this stress is called accent. When the words of a composition are so arranged that the accent recurs at regular intervals, the composition is said to be rhythmical.' In blank verse the lines consist usually of ten syllables, of which the second, fourth, sixth, eighth, and tenth are accented. The line consists, therefore, of five parts, each of which contains an unaccented, followed by an accented syllable, as in the word "attend." Each of these five parts forms what is called a foot or measure; and the five together form a pentameter. " Pentameter" is a Greek word signifying “five measures. This is the usual form of a line of blank verse. But a long poem composed entirely of such lines would be monotonous, and for the sake of variety several important modifications have been introduced.
(a) After the tenth syllable, one or two unaccented syllables are sometimes added ; as “Me-thought I you said I you neither lend I nor bor i row.”
(6) In any foot the accent may be shifted from the second to the first syllable, provided two accented syllables do not come together. “Pluck' the young suck'ling cubs'l from the'l she bear'."
(©) In such words as “yesterday," "voluntary, esty," the syllables -day, -ta-, and -ty falling in the place of the accent, are, for the purposes of the verse, regarded as truly accented.
“ Bars' me I the right' \ of voll- un-ta'lry choos'ling."
(d) Sometimes we have a succession of accented syllables; this occurs with monosyllabic feet only.
“Why, now, blow wind, swell billow, and swim bark."
(e) Sometimes, but more rarely, two or even three unaccented syllables occupy the place of one ; as —
“He says he does, I be-ing then I most flat|ter-ed."
(5) Lines may have any number of feet from one to six.
Finally, Shakespeare adds much to the pleasing variety of his blank verse by placing the pauses in different parts of the line (especially after the second or third foot), instead of placing them all at the ends of lines, as was the earlier custom.
N.B. — In some cases the rhythm requires that what we usually pronounce as one syllable shall be divided into two, as fi-er (fire), su-er (sure), mi-el (mile), etc. ; too-elve (twelve), jaw-ee (joy), etc. Similarly, she-on (-tion or -sion).
It is very important to give the pupil plenty of eartraining by means of formal scansion. This will greatly assist him in his reading.