AP/EN 3535 Shakespeare
Creating Character Identities through Prosodic Devices in A Midsummer's Night Dream
ESSAY INSTRUCTIONS: We have spoken in class about Shakespeare's ability to use language to create, shape, and differentiate characters in a multitude of ways. These include socio-cultural markers such as rank, class, sex, age, intelligence, education, and occupation, as well as markers of the inwardness of psychological, emotional, and ethical attitudes that shape the characters from scene to scene. Analyze how Shakespeare uses tone, diction, register, and other prosodic devices to describe two characters in the same play, paying special attention to how the characters are differentiated along the lines above.
In A Midsummer's Night Dream by William Shakespeare, each character is given a specific personality and identity through many literary devices. These markers create unique qualities in each character, enabling them to be easily recognizable and clearly fulfilling a particular archetype or role. Shakespeare cleverly uses prosodic devices such as diction, tone, and register to distinguish his characters in this play, ensuring that those belonging to the upper class and lower class are quite visibly distinct from one another. This is most evidently displayed in the dialogue of the characters Theseus and Nick Bottom, who are members of the aristocratic and plebeian classes, respectively. While Theseus speaks with such eloquence and advanced poetry, Bottom, a "rude mechanical," uses ordinary prose; the particular way that both male characters express themselves through dialogue is an obvious sign of the vast differences between them, from their social status to their education level. By ingeniously and creatively using prosodic markers throughout A Midsummer's Night Dream, each character's social location is undoubtedly defined, suggesting that there is a huge disparity between the upper and lower classes. Thus, A Midsummer's Night Dream serves to inform the audience that the dialogue that one uses is a strong indicator of our backgrounds, and in order to escape from scorn and ridicule, one must speak with the utmost care and articulateness.
Theseus is introduced in Act I, Scene I of the play with all of the pomp allotted to his station. His dialogue is filled with such advanced and complex poetry that it far outshines those around him, except for his fair queen.
From his opening lines, it is apparent that Theseus is from the noble class as he is not speaking in prose; all of his dialogue has a particular format that defines it as poetry. Shakespearean plays are usually written in iambic pentameter, specifically for characters belonging to the upper classes. Moreover, the syntactic structure of his lines all begin with a capital letter, without a doubt, indicating the use of verse in Shakespearean plays. Furthermore, Theseus' accomplished poetry demonstrates that he is a person in a position of power.