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Shakespeare’s Language Tricks
• Because Shakespeare wrote nearly 400 years
ago, the way he writes presents problems for
modern readers.
•
• Most of Shakespeare’s play lines are actually
written in poetry verse.
• Although they don’t usually rhyme, they do
have a set rhythm called METER (or flow)
• Rhythym = Meter = Flow!
• To achieve flow/rhythm in the play, Shakespeare
manipulates syllables.
• Syllable = 1 sound unit
How many syllables are in these words?
• Rainbow
Creation
Sam
Happy
Words are arranged in the play so that some of
the syllables are stressed (said more loudly)
than other syllables and put into a pattern.
• Here’s the pattern:
•
dah DUM dah DUM dah DUM dah DUM
• Here’s how we write it on paper:
• U
I
U
I
U
I
U
I
U
I
dah DUM dah DUM dah DUM dah DUM dah DUM
• How many total syllables is this?
• In Shakespeare’s plays,
2 syllables ( U I ) is called an iamb
*What does 1 iamb sound like?
Example: this is 1 poetic line of the play
Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
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•
•
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Count out the meter (the beat) = dah DUM
Mark the syllables = number them below each sound unit
Label each iamb = U I
How many IAMBS are there in each line?
• This pattern of 5 iambs for each line of
Shakespeare’s plays is called Iambic Pentameter
5 iambs = iambic penta meter
5 Tricks to decoding Shakespeare:
• Trick #1: do the Yoda!
• Turn your words around a bit
• A gloomy peace this morning with it brings.
• This morning brings a gloomy peace with it.
Trick #2: Omissions
• In order to fit the iambic pentameter pattern,
words are sometimes shortened by omitting
letters.
• o’er  over
• ‘tis  it is
• ‘twas it was
Trick #3: Rare Words
• Shakespeare used words that we no longer
use to refer to people. They still exist, but
usually you only see them in church hymn
books and the Bible.
Translate these words:
thou= you
thine= your, yours
thee= you, to you
thyself= yourself
Trick #4: Rare Verbs
• Shakespeare used verb endings that we no
longer use. They still exist, but usually you
only see them in church hymn books and the
Bible.
Translate these words:
hath= has
art= are
Trick #5: Extinct Words
• Some words and phrases we no longer use at all!
Translate:
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•
•
•
•
•
•
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Anon= soon
•soft= hush
Prithee= pray to thee
mark= pay attention to, notice
Good-den= Good day
•nice= stupid
Still= always
•Jack= any guy
Hap= luck
Happy= lucky
Maid= girl/lady
Stay= wait

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