“what’s past is prologue”

The Tempest II, 1, 247

This section offers brief observations on the poetic diction of each play. Each entry notes the percentage of prose and/or verse in a given play, as well as the amount of rhyming verse, if significant. It also includes a sampling of contractions and of words that expand to fulfill the demands of the meter. Examples of words that require an unusual stress on either their first or second syllables follow. For example, revenue is pronounced today with a stress on its first syllable but often requires a stress on its second syllable in Shakespeare.

All’s Well That Ends Well

The amount of prose and verse in this play is almost equal. In the gulling of Parolles, the soldiers speak linsey-woolsey or choughs’ language which are nonsense sounds meant to intimidate and frighten. Parolles understands the sounds as belonging to the Muskos regiment. This may indicate a Russian flavored pronunciation. Lustick is possibly Dutch, while Mort du vinaigre! is French. Capriccio, which scans to three syllables, is Italianate. The s in rope’s @ IV, 2, 38 stands for “us.” Some of the contractions include I’ve for I have, you’ve for you have, I’d for I would, and he’d for he had. Soldier expands to three syllables @ III, 2, 68. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include enjoined @ III, 5, 90, perfect @ IV, 4, 4, and perspective @ V, 3, 48. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include exploit @ I, 2, 17, contract @ II, 3, 177, and assay @ III, 7, 44.

Antony and Cleopatra

90 percent of this late play is in verse. There are many epic caesuras and the highest number of shared lines of all of the plays. The text has numerous contractions including he’d for he had, th’art for thou art, th’ast for thou hast, and I’ll for I will. Words that expand include million, Asia, affections, and instruction. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include condemned @ I, 3, 49, cement @ II, 1, 48 and III, 2, 29, and combating @ III, 13, 79. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include revenue @ III, 6, 30, seaside @ III, 11, 20, triumphing @ II, 8, 16, and record @ IV, 9, 8.

As You Like It

While more than half of the play is in prose, 10 percent of the play is in rhyme, some of which affords comic possibilities, including Celia’s reading of Orlando’s verse, which forces rhymes like ge/pilgrimage and slave/have. The pronunciation of Goths is akin to GOHTS in order to make the pun with goats. Sound @ V, 2, 26 is often emended to indicate a pronunciation of SWOONED. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include antique @ II, 3, 57 and upon @ IV, 3, 150. Words with a primary tress on the second syllable include exile @ II, 1, 1, translate @ II, 1, 19, and confines @ II, 1, 24. Dials scans to one or two syllables. Words that expand include promotion, intermission, observation, and eputation. Theatre expands to three syllables @ II, 7, 137, as does wrestler @ II, 3, 70.

The Comedy of Errors

65 percent of this play is in blank verse with few variants. Slightly more than 20 percent of the verse rhymes. Words that expand include patience, violently, contagion, Asia, and children. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include buffet @ II, 2 157 and travail @ V, 1, 402. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include bedtime @ I, 2, 28, sometimes @ II, 2, 26 and compact @ II, 2, 160 and III, 2, 22.

Coriolanus

Approximately 75 percent of this play is in verse. As with other late plays, the verse has many variations including epic caesuras, short lines, and hexameters. Contractions include I’ve for I have, you’ve for you have, and I’d for I would. Words that expand include malicious, preparation, assembly, and violent. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include antique @ II, 3, 114, extreme @ IV, 5, 70, and cement @ IV, 6, 86. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include record @ IV, 6, 50 and increase @ III, 3, 114.

Cymbeline

80 percent of the play is in blank verse. Some of the words that expand are complexion, soldiers, and malefactions. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include exquisite @ III, 5, 71, diseased @ I, 6, 123, and impious @ III, 3, 6. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include contents @ II, 2, 2 7, maintop @ IV, 2, 320, and exiled @ IV, 4, 26 and V, 4, 59. Needle scans to one syllable@ I, 1, 168. Diamond, used throughout the play, can be two or three syllables.

Hamlet

Two-thirds of the play is in blank verse and just under 30 percent is in prose. Some of the words that expand are complexion, soldiers, and malefactions. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include complete @ I, 4, 52, secure @ I, 5, 61, and absurd @ III, 2, 57. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include character @ I, 3, 59, exploit @ IV, 7, 63, and absent @ V, 2, 336. Courage @ I, 3, 65 is kuh-RAHJ. Tropically @ III, 2, 229 is either TROH-pik-lee in reference to the word trope or TRAA-pik-lee if punning on The Mousetrap, the play within the play. As’s @ V, 2, 43 may be AAZ-iz to pun with “asses.” Chanson @ II, 2, 409 could perhaps be the French shahn-SOHN, though the English CHAAN-suhn works equally well in this prose passage.

Henry IV Part One

More than 40 percent of the play is in prose; the remainder is in blank verse with a small amount of rhyming verse. Prisoners, used throughout the play, scans to either two or three syllables. Power usually scans to one syllable. Glendower frequently scans to two syllables. Words that expand include transformation, expedition, determination, and suggestion, as well as impatience, soldier, and physicians. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include frontier @ I, 3, 19 and exact @ IV, 1, 46. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include allies @ I, 1, 16 and portent(s) @ II, 3, 59 and V, 1, 20.

Henry IV Part Two

This play features the highest percentage of prose of any of the histories. Words that expand include rebellion, religion, destruction, foundation, commotion, and ocean. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include access @ IV, 1, 78, instinct @ I, 1, 86, and retail @ I, 1, 32. Pistol’s fantastical language contains a blend of Italian and French.

Henry V

57 percent of this play is in verse. Some of the words that expand are invention, million, convocation, ocean, and preparation. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include perfected @ I, 1, 69, largess @ IV, Cho, 43, and Dauphin @ I, 2, 222 and throughout the play. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include exploits @ I, 2, 121′, assay @ I, 2, 151, and sinister @ II, 4, 85. Note that Lewis always scans to one syllable, and Charles often scans to one syllable.

Henry VI Part One

The play is almost entirely in verse. It contains few variants and has the lowest number of short and shared lines of any of the plays. Some of the words that expand are faction, proclamation, religion, apprehension, coronation, leopard, creature, and marriage. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include complete @ I, 2, 83, forlorn @ I, 2, 19, and travail @ V, 4, 102. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include precinct @ II, 1, 68 and reflex @ V, 4, 87. Charles always scans to one syllable except @ IV, 4, 26.

Henry VI Part Two 

82 percent of this play is in blank verse. Words that expand include subornation, execution, ambition, patience, country, and statue. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include stigmatic@ V, 1, 215, forlorn @ II, 4, 45 and @ III, 2, 77 (if poisonous is two syllables), and corrosive @ III, 2, 403. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include suspect @ III, 2, 139 and edict @ III, 2, 258. Henry scans to either two or three syllables. Note that the Elizabethans probably pronounced Walter @ IV, 1, 14 as something like “water.” It may be necessary to adopt this pronunciation to make complete sense of the passage.

Henry VI Part Three

The play is almost entirely in verse. Words that expand include rebellion, succession, and apprehension. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include Archbishop @ IV, 3, 53, horizon @ IV,7, 81, and farewell @ V, 7, 45. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include forecast @ V, 1, 42 and crossbow @ III, 1, 6.

Henry VIII

More than 95 percent of the play is in verse. Some of the words that expand are meditations, commission, business, and pernicious. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include July @ I, 1, 154 and Archbishop throughout. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include discourser @ I, 1, 41, advertise @ II, 4, 176, and travail @ V, I, 71.

Julius Caesar

The majority of this play is in verse. Words that expand include destruction, insurrection, and emulation. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include construe @ I, 2, 45 and I, 3, 34, upon @ I, 2, 171, and mischievous @ II, 1, 33. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include sometimes @ II, 1, 285, exploit @ II, 1, 317 and 318, and portents @ II, 2, 80. The word not’st @ V, 3, 22 means “to note.” Funeral, soldier, and prisoner scan to two or three syllables.

King John

This is one of the few plays written entirely in verse. Words that expand include usurpation, occasion, generation, protection, desolation, minion, ocean, and destruction. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include hospitable @ II, 1, 244, presage @ III, 4, 158, supreme @ III, 1, 155, and Milan @ V, 2, 120. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include sunset @ III, 1, 110 and seaside @ V, 7, 91. Needle @ V, 2, 157 elides to one syllable. The word iron, used throughout the play, is frequently disyllabic.

King Lear

70 percent of the play is in verse. The text has numerous shared lines and hexameters and the most short lines of all the plays. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include sincere @ II, 2, 100, lamentable @ IV, 1, 5, and proclaimed @ IV, 6, 222. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include revenue @ II, 1, 100, contents @ II, 4, 33, and defects @ IV, 1, 20.

Love’s Labor’s Lost

Only 21 percent of this early play is in blank verse. 43 percent is in rhyme. Words that expand include affections, lamentation, and reformation. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include complete @ I, 1, 133, profound @ IV, 3, 163, and peremptory @ IV, 3, 221. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include sometimes @ IV, 1, 30, retails @ V, 2, 318, and content and contents @ V, 2, 515. Holofernes’s vocabulary is Latinate and effulgent. His pedantry values silent consonants so that words like debt are pronounced DEHBT. The text abounds in puns and features honorificabilitudinitatibus, the longest word in Shakespeare.

Macbeth

80 percent of the play is in verse. It has a high number of shared lines as well as numerous epic caesuras and short lines. Some of the words that expand are execution, reflection, entrance, and monstrous. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include humane @ III, 4, 76, largess @ II, 1, 14, and obscure @ II, 3, 55. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include th’access @ I, 5, 42, pretence @ II, 3, 127, and exploits @ IV, 1, 144. Weird, spelled “weyward” in the Folio and used throughout the play, scans to one or two syllables, as does Glamis. Scone, which is the last word of the play, formerly rhymed with one.

Measure for Measure

60 percent of the play is in blank verse. There are frequent epic caesuras and short lines. Contractions include we’ve for we have, we’re for we are, I’ve for I have, it’s for it is, and th’art for thou art. Words that expand include commission, evasion, approbation, profanation, and Russia. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include unsoiled @ II, 4, 155, compelled @ II, 4, 57, and Chastisement @ V, 1, 255. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include assay @ I, 4, 76, access @ II, 2, 19, and record @ II, 2, 40. Prayer and Friar scan to one or two syllables. Note that use is a noun @ I, 3, 26.

The Merchant of Venice

Almost three-quarters of the play is in blank verse. 5 percent is in rhyme. Contractions include you’re for you are, I’m for I am, you’d for you had, and I’ve for I have. Words that expand include opinion, occasions, Christian, and companions. Words that have a primary stress on the first syllable include outside@ I, 3, 98, obscure @ II, 7, 51, and unthrift @ V, 1, 16. Words that have a primary stress on the second syllable include aspect@ I, 1, 54, obdurate @ IV, 1, 8, and highways @ V, 1, 263. To get the maximum effect out of the rhyming joke @ V, 1, 305, consider pronouncing clerk with the English pronunciation KLAHRK starting at IV, 1, 392. LeBon @ I, 2, 50 is probably “bone.” Shylock might play with the word pirates as PEYE-raats @ I, 3, 22.

The Merry Wives of Windsor

86 percent of this play is in prose. Within the small amount of verse, some of the contractions are I’d for I had, they’re for they are, and we’ve for we have. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include extreme @ IV, 4, 11 and unclean @ IV, 4, 56. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include midnight @ IV, 4, 28, contents @ IV, 6, 13, and character @ V, 5, 71 (if flowers is one syllable). See dictionary for buffet.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Rhyming verse accounts for 45 percent of this play. Words that expand include patience, dissension, derision, affection, confusion, and imagination. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include rheumatic @ II, 1, 105 and misprised @ ill, 2, 74. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include edict @ I, 1, 151, midnight @ I, 1, 223, and compact @ V, 1, 8. Note that childing @ II, 1, 112 means pregnant or fruitful.

Much Ado About Nothing

Prose accounts for more than 70 percent of this play. Words that expand include affection, complexion, gracious, apparitions, ostentation, and patience. Words that have a primary stress on the first syllable include betwixt @ IV, 1, 82 and unknown @ IV, 1, 133. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include discourse @ III, 1, 5 and propose @ III, 1, 12.

Othello

Almost 80 percent of the play in verse. It has more epic caesuras than any other play, as well as numerous shared lines and short lines. Contractions include I’m for I am, I’d for I had, we’re for we are, and he’s for he is. Words that expand include estimation, patience, satisfaction, and apprehension. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include profane @ I, 1, 114, cashiered @ II, 3, 357, secure @ IV, 1, 71, and antique @ V, 2, 217. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include demonstrate @ I, 1, 61 and III, 3, 431, affects @ I, 3, 263, and portents@ V, 2, 45.

Pericles

Almost 60 percent of the play is in blank verse. There are a large number of short and shared lines in those parts of the play attributed to Shakespeare. Words that expand are perfections, companion, marriage, nation, and diamond. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include respite @ I, 1, 117, entreat @ II, 4, 45, and travail @ III, Cho, 52 and III, 1, 14. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include edict @ I, 1, 112, access @ II, 5, 7, and relapse @ III, 2, 110.

Richard II

The play is entirely in verse. 20 percent of the verse rhymes and sometimes has the potential for comic effect. For example @ V, 3, 119, pardonne moi seems to rhyme with destroy, which might indicate the pronunciation. Words which expand include physician, incision, admonition, succession, proportion, correction, and patience. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include complot @ I, 3, 189, perspectives @ II, 2, 18, and delectable @ II, 3, 7. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include record @ N, 1, 230, contents @ V, 2, 38 and sepulcher @ I, 3, 196. High way is two words with the second word in the stressed position @ I, 4, 4. Note that bounty expands to three syllables @ II, 3, 67 and tears is TAIRZ @ III, 3, 57.

Richard III

More than 98 percent of this early play is in verse. Contractions include I’d for I had, I’m for I am, and you’ve for you have. Some of the words that expand are promotion, patient, and indignation. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include curtailec @ I, 1, 18, excuse @ I, 2, 84, accessary @ I, 2, 191, and supremt @ III, 7, 118. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include abjects @ I, 1, 106, suspects @ I, 3, 88 and III, 5, 32, and obdurate @ I, 3, 346 and III, 1, 39.

Romeo and Juliet

71 percent of the play is in blank verse, with slightly over 16 percent in rhyme. The names of the title characters frequently scan to ROHM-yoh and JOOL-yeht. Friar scans to one or two syllables. Words that expand include marriage, invocation, substantial, lamentation, and patience. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include confessor @ II, 6, 21 and III, 3, 49, unmade @ III, 3, 70, before @ V, 3, 90, and receptacle @ IV, 3, 39. Exile always stresses on the first syllable except @ III, 3, 43. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include access @ II, Cho, 9, excess @ II, 6, 33, and baptized @ II, 2, 50. Note the difference in pronunciation between raven (a bird) and ravening (devouring) @ III, 2, 76.

The Taming of the Shrew

72 percent of this early play is in blank verse.  Words that expand include impatient, instructions, patience, and million. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include commune @ I, 1, 101, largess @ I, 2, 147, and extreme @II, 1, 135. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include absent@ Ind, 2, 121, defects@ I, 2, 121, and elsewhere @ IV, 3, 6. See dictionary for politicly, satiety, extempore, and eat @ IV, 1, 184, first citation.

The Tempest

71 percent of this late play is in verse. There are numerous short and shared lines. Other possible contractions include we’re for we are, t’have for to have, and they’re for they are. Words that expand include valiant, vineyard, and celebration. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include perfected @ I, 2, 79, frustrate @ III, 3, 10, and humane @ I, 2, 346. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include extirpate @ I, 2, 125, opportune @ IV, 1, 26, and solemnized @ V, 1, 309.

Timon of Athens

Two-thirds of the play is in blank verse. Almost 20 percent of the lines are short or shared. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include austere @ I, 1, 54, condemn @ III, 5, 53, and detestable @ IV, 1, 33. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include frequents @I, 1, 117, precedent @ I, 1, 133, and aspect @ II, 1, 28.

Titus Andronicus

More than 93 percent of the play is in blank verse. There are a few Latin words as well as one anachronistic greeting in French: bon jour @ I, 1, 497. Emperor, used throughout the play, scans to two or three syllables. Words that expand include expiation, proclamations, million, impatient, spacious, execution, destruction, patience, and Empress. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include abjectly @ II, 3, 4, sequestered @ II, 3, 75, obscure @ II, 3, 77, and forlorn @ II, 3, 153. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include triumpher @ I, 1, 173, conduct @ IV, 4, 64, and gramercy @ I, 1, 498.

Troilus and Cressida

60 percent of the play is in verse. There are numerous epic caesuras and a large number of short and shared lines. The text has many multi-syllabic words that are unique to this play.  Words that expand include approbation, oration, execution, and genius. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include o’ertop @ III, 3, 164, complete @ III, 3, 180 and IV, 1, 27, and humane @ IV, 1, 20 (in an epic caesura line). Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include canonize @ II, 2, 202, characterless @ III, 2, 180, and sinister @ IV, 5, 127. Note that general and surety can be two or three syllables.

Twelfth Night

More than 60 percent of the play is in prose and just over 30 percent is in blank verse. Epic caesuras are frequent. Words that expand include country, remembrance, creatures, adorations, and distraction. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include upon @ III, 4, 198 and V, 1, 93 and adverse @ V, 1, 78. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include excess @ I, 1, 2, access @ I, 4, 15, and discourse @ I, 4, 24.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona

More than two-thirds of this early play is in blank verse. Some of the words that expand include protestation, expedition, and correction. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include perfected @ I, 3, 23, extreme @ II, 7, 22 (with fire scanning to two syllables), and lamentable @ IV, 4, 164. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include turmoil @ II, 7, 37, allied @ IV, 1, 49, and recourse @ III,1, 112.

The Two Noble Kinsmen

The majority of the play is in blank verse. Iron often scans to two syllables. Some of the words that expand include imaginations, sufficient, position, and musicians. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include farewell @ II, 2, 179 and confessed @ III, 1, 35. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include success @ V, 3, 69, record @ II, 2, 112, edict @ III, 6, 145 and 168, and sinister @ V, 3, 76. Moor @ III, 5, 117 tends towards MAWR and is towards IS to make the pun with Morris. Hercules @ I, 1, 66 is pronounced as ER-kleez.

The Winter’s Tale

More than 70 percent of this play is in blank verse.  As with other late plays, the verse has many variations including epic caesuras, short lines, and hexameters. Words that expand include confirmation, proclamations, creature, and business. Words with a primary stress on the first syllable include July @ I, 2, 168 and unknown @ IV, 4, 65 and 484. Words with a primary stress on the second syllable include allied @ I, 2, 338, something @ II, 2, 25, and contract @ IV, 4, 410.