Twelfth Night Literary Devices

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  • Created by: Megan96
  • Created on: 04-11-13 20:45

1) Verse/Prose Usage: Shakespeare wrote his plays using two different kinds of language: verse and prose. You can tell if a passage is written in verse if

a.) The words do not go all the way across the page;

b.) The first word on each line is capitalized, regardless of the sentence break;

c.) There is a regular rhythm of unstressed and stressed syllables;

d.) There are usually 10 or 11 syllables in each line.

You can tell if a passage is written in prose if

a.) the words go all the way across the page;

b.) the first word of each line does not begin with a capital unless it is the first word of a sentence;

c.) the words do not share a consistent rhythmic pattern.

As a general rule (applicable in about 95% of the cases) you can assume that

a.) upper class characters speak verse; lower class characters speak prose.

Examples: Duke Orsino in verse (almost all the time) versus Feste in prose (almost all the time)

b.) serious material will be in verse; comic material will be in prose;

Examples: Orsino explaining his passion for Olivia in verse
The phony letter that fools Malvolio is in prose

c.) noble characters will speak verse; villains will speak prose;

Examples: Sebastian speaks in verse almost always Malvolio speaks in prose almost always

d.) romantic passages will be in verse; non-romantic passages in prose.

Examples: Viola describes in verse how she would love Olivia, I, 5, 269
Feste describes in prose Malvolio’s misperception, IV, 2, 37.

Watch for places where a character changes from one form to another in the same scene, such as when Viola Act I, scene 5 changes from prose when she banters comically with Olivia to verse when she tells her how cruel and unreasonable her rejection of Orsino’s suit is. Or watch when a character switches from one form which she has consistently used to another.

2. Use of Rhyme: Almost all of Shakespeare’s verse is called blank verse, meaning there are 10 or 11 syllables in each line, in iambic pentameter (five units or feet in an unstressed/stressed pattern) and the lines areunrhymed, or blank. Sometimes Shakespeare will use verse which is rhymed with similar sounds at the end of the lines. Such rhymed passages are done to make the contents more formal or to emphasize the emotional content (Olivia’s rhymed speech on love at the end of Act I, scene 5). Rhyme and unusual rhythm can be used to evoke magical charms as in Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Or they can emphasize musical effects, as in all Feste’s songs.

3. Unusual Metaphors:


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