What are Prose and Verse? | Text Detectives | Royal Shakespeare Company


Shakespeare writes in a combination of prose
and verse, prose is a conversational way of speaking which doesn’t have a set rhythm or
structure, verse is the defined biorhythm and can rhythm, although often doesn’t. What is prose? If you look at it on a page, it’s not in sort
of distinct lines, it’s like, sort of takes up all of the page. So, visually it doesn’t
feel like it’s got any structure necessarily, okay. It doesn’t, it’s not in iambics is it? It’s
not in iambics, so it doesn’t necessarily have a kind of strict rhythm to it. So let’s
take a look at Act 3 Scene 2 which is a small brief exchange between Hamlet and Ophelia
just before the play within a play. Ophelia can you have a little wonder around and Jamie
you are just going to follow Ophelia and just read scene as you go. So, have a little wondered,
you can wonder into all this space around here, go. HAMLET
Lady, shall I lie in your lap? Lying down at OPHELIA’s feet
OPHELIA No, my lord.
HAMLET I mean, my head upon your lap?
OPHELIA Ay, my lord.
HAMLET Do you think I meant country matters?
OPHELIA I think nothing, my lord. Let’s try that the other way and just again
notice what you notice and Jamie off you go. HAMLET
Lady, shall I lie in your lap? Lying down at OPHELIA’s feet
OPHELIA No, my lord.
HAMLET I mean, my head upon your lap?
OPHELIA Ay, my lord.
HAMLET Do you think I meant country matters?
OPHELIA I think nothing, my lord. I felt like two different characters but in
the same situation like, one please go away, like I don’t want to talk like this with you
in public, this is so awful, and the other one is like, what’s going on like, can you
just explain like, so interesting. It highlights both avoiding something, with
this in prose, it feels like there is subtext which I think, as an actor, it’s quite important
to think, oh it’s prose, we need to work out what is happening underneath here. Doing things where you are just sort of following
each other can revel to you what the sub-text is or give you options of what the sub-text
might be. When a character speaks in verse or prose,
Shakespeare is making a choice, and that choice can tell us a lot about the character in that
moment, what they want, why they want it, how they go about getting it, put together
these choices can also show what kind of character they are The structure that verse gives us in terms
of the fact that we’ve got the heartbeat, we’ve got the internal rhythm of the character,
we’ve got the structural thoughts in terms of whether there running on or whether they
are end stopping, whether they are using rhyme, the antisepsis that comes within that, it’s
almost like the structure of verse, helps to highlight the inner workings of the character,
whereas when we’re just in prose, as you say there is a lot of other things we need to
be defective like about.

One thought on “What are Prose and Verse? | Text Detectives | Royal Shakespeare Company

  1. Man, I'm doing GCSE english and I know more about the structure of literature than this lot. Do actors genuinely get paid to speak loudly at upper class people on a stage? This is not European culture, it's just being pretentious.

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