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Shakespeare part 2: imagery, poetry, rhythms, music and all people

I loved how Shakespeare appreciated imagery, poetry, rhythms, music and all people. This is what I am going to discuss in this blog, and why these particular aspects made Shakespeare so effective to this day.

Shakespearean Imagery and poetry

When you have figured out how to translate Shakespeare, you'll notice a common trend - Shakespeare is very good at being detailed. He is the king of similes and metaphors. When you look at what he compares things to, you'll find all kinds of beautiful experiences and examples.

In Midsummer Night's Dream, he looks at Helena and Hermia's relationship as being so in tune and strong with a bond like a sisterhood it is similar to:

"Both warbling of one song, both in one key,

As if our hands, our sides, voices, and minds, Had been incorporate."

They would sing together in perfect unison, perfect tune, so in sync that one would assume they were the same - together.

Isn't that marvelous? I have had many friendships in my life where we are so in tune with one another that we would know exactly how the other was feeling. It's like those funny moments with your partner when you both wear the same coloured clothing - it's like you both woke up feeling the same way about the world and share the exact same emotions that you happened to choose the same colours that best fit the mood you were in.

He also says their relationship (Hermia and Helena) are like the way a double cherry is:

So we grew together, Like to a double cherry—seeming parted But yet an union in partition— Two lovely berries molded on one stem; So, with two seeming bodies but one heart,

As we know, this instance is very unique. It is one of my favourite lines - "Like to a double cherry - seeming parted" The concept is so cute - to be two little pieces of stone fruit somehow growing together, although not completely the same, are still connected. This is like me and my best friend. We are two polar opposites in so many ways, but somehow we just work well together and have for over 20 years. We may be but cities away and have many different personality traits, but we will always be connected. Helena and Hermia are different in their one ways too. The obvious difference is appearance, but there's also their reactions to Demetrius. Hermia who is so very much in love and content eloping with Lysander could not even dream of being with Demetrius, and then there's Helena who carries a lot of desperation to be loved by Demetrius, as she puts it, "the more you beat me, I will fawn on you. Use me but as your spaniel, spurn me, strike me, Neglect me, lose me; only give me leave, Unworthy as I am, to follow you." They are so different personality wise. Hermia is pretty sure of herself and what she will do for the love in her life. Helena on the other hand is very up in arms about proving herself. Even when Demetrius is under the spell, she is puzzled by it and thinks it is a conspired game of mockery. So with all this, there are these two cherries seemly parted and yet so in tune with each other.

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day - isn't that quite a heavenly thing to say about someone. Think about how wonderful a summer's day is. Warm, vibrant, pleasant, healthy, fresh, peaceful. There are so many things that come to mind for me when I think of a summer's day. Even the delicious fruit, cold drinking water, and the heat of the sun embracing my back if I'm sunbathing. It just sings to me the word: harmony.

That is how Romeo feels about Juliet - yet he says shall I compare thee" and with that, he thinks she's even better than a summer's day. All that love and appreciation for the summer - is wrapped up in his emotions for the one he has fallen in love with.

I love that he says she is so radiant that even birds would be fooled during the night and think it was the daytime.

"Would through the airy region stream so bright

That birds would sing and think it were not night."

There are so many beautiful similes and metaphors in his plays - it really is worth taking the time to translate them.

We must remember and appreciate too that Shakespeare was first and foremost a poet, and with the knowledge I have presented to you, you can see just how much poetry is written in his plays. It's just beautiful.


Iambic Pentameter and it's full breath

I won't talk too much about this. I just think that it is particularly interesting that Shakespeare knew about how people breathe and in one single breath we can muster five iambs (stressed and unstressed syllables) within one meter or in a more simplified version five "double beats" in one breath so many of his plays that held a lot of emotion used this rhythm. Prose was used to remove the rhythm and capture the essence of high status characters and comedies; which makes sense since comedy has its own comic timing. Such careful calculation is very intelligent.

de DUM de DUM de DUM de DUM De DUM

de = u

DUM = / u / u / u / u / u /

Shakespearean Music

Shakespeare also considered tone and used musicians throughout his plays to set the tone of the scene or the scene to come. He would often have the musicians discuss how an audience or characters must feel in a moment and how the music should reflect this. When Juliet "dies" the musicians argue with Peter (a servant) as he requests a beautiful happy tune. However because of the sadness that they feel with her passing and the inappropriateness, they disagree. “Music with her silver sound” It is one of those wonderful moments where music and the musicians influence how characters feel and express themselves because of what happens in the play. When you look at how far stories have come where music is a massive component in setting the tone or undertones of a situation - it is quite cool to know that music was impactful even back then.

All people

Joining of many people together to experience love and hate as one.

What I also loved about Shakespearean text is the different types of people that loved and hated each other. It really wasn't common to discuss these kinds of relationships. Many were frowned upon even just to consider the beauty in these kinds of relationships.

Nurse and Juliet - many rich and royal families used women to nurse or bring up children. But what was never accepted was the fact that the children felt very supported and bonded well with these women. Juliet so much so that she kept a secret from her actual mother and confided in her nurse.

Othello and Desdemona - interracial relationships. I won't delve too far into this. But historically speaking, there has been taboo with this. I also want to point out, like the following example, I tread carefully around these subjects with kindness and open-mindedness.

Viola and Orsino - transgender/eunuch relationships. The idea that Viola could not be with Orsino unless she admitted she was a woman pretending to be a eunuch was an interesting concept to explore in the 16th Century. I won't delve too far into this topic either. But historically speaking, there has been taboo with this. I liked that Shakespeare was daring with his concepts and thought of the audience and that love holds no bounds. Orsino fell for Viola regardless of her disguise. I think this concept of love was powerful. I also want to point out, like the former example, I tread carefully around these subjects with kindness and open-mindedness.

Malvolio and Olivia - a servant and a daughter of a count. The thought of these two being paired up would have sent anyone into a frenzy. Yet, Malvolio saw Olivia as an equal and someone who he thought loved him. The famous scene where he tries to court her wearing yellow stockings is deemed hilarious because of his embarrassment thinking he would have a chance with someone of higher stature. Although this particular example didn't work out the way Malvolio had intended, it is a great concept where a servant was displayed as just a man in a job wanting to woe the one he loves. The way in which he does it is very left field and moronic and that is where the humour and energy of comedy shines.

Titania and Nick Bottom - the fairy queen and the ass. What more can I say about this a powerful magical fairy and a wannabe actor who is far from respected by his wife, his peers, the general public and those of high stature. Two polar opposite people/creatures falling in love with one another (even if it is through magic, in part) but there is that common theme again of Nick believing that it could happen, and just like Malvolio, he pursues it and that is where contrasts make comedy and Shakespeare shows the audience that anything is possible.


Well that's part 2. I hope as you read this blog you understand the topics expressed in here are topics to have conversations with others about. My opinions and topics can be sensitive sometimes but I think it is always important to not avoid these topics, as we have all had experiences that may relate to them and we all have opinions that may benefit others' viewpoints. I also believe that we can learn a lot from students too about sensitivities and how they feel approaching these topics. As long as we discuss with care, compassion and understanding - I think some amazing ideas and realisations can be had with children.

Time, experience, manaakitanga

Tovah O'Neill

Tovah's Tutoring Company Ltd


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