Intro to Shakespeare

You must finish reading Hamlet by the end of the 3.3 Poetry Analysis assignment, as the remaining assignments will focus on the play.


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Reading Hamlet is different from other types of reading you have been doing so far in the course. The language is different because it is from a different era, and a common mistake is to think that we need to understand every word and phrase. Not so! Drama is meant to be seen, and visualizing the actions of the characters is of utmost importance.

At this point, as you read through Hamlet, focus on understanding what the surface plot is to the story and the relationship of the characters to each other. When you get to the study section of Hamlet, you will have the opportunity to dig deeper into the meaning behind the play.


Iambic Pentameter


Much of Shakespeare's writing is done in poetic form, so it will read differently from a novel, essay, or modern drama. One of the keys to understanding Shakespeare is that he is a master of iambic pentametera particular rhythm used in metrical lines of poetry, especially in traditional verse and verse drama. Iambic pentameter relates very similarly to one's heartbeat: da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM. Perhaps this is why Shakespeare's sonnets are renowned: they appeal to one's emotions through the rhythm of the words!

Shakespeare writes in free or blank verse. It is important to pay close attention to the punctuation in Hamlet , as an idea or a train of thought does not often conclude at the end of the line but, where the punctuation ends, which is called enjambment.

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More simply put, iambic pentameter is verse (free or blank) with ten syllables per line that are "mostly" arranged as iambic pairs. An iamb is a pair of syllables that go da-DUM (so words like alas, enough, today). Pentameter means five pairs of syllables to a line.

Melissa Grey is forty-one today!

This is a line of iambic pentameter because it goes Me-LISS-a GREY is FOR-ty ONE to-DAY. (da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM).

A skillful poet, such as Shakespeare, can make variations in the pattern to emphasize a particular word, as breaks in the rhythm tend to stand out. Along with iambic pentameter, Shakespeare's use of figurative language aids in his skillful weaving of Hamlet: a tragic tale of murder, revenge, incest, and corruption.



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