THEATRE 302: CONVENTIONS OF ELIZABETHAN & JACOBEAN
“Individual characters sometimes shift between verse & prose. Discuss several related instances from two plays in which such changes are significant to our understanding of performance, character & theme.”
The shifting between verse and prose so often used within Renaissance drama is purposefully placed in order to emphasize a particular dramatic or emotional aspect of the play, enhancing both the actors’ and audience’s awareness of various characters, themes and the performance as a whole. Both William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus exemplify the concepts of shifting between verse and prose for different desired effects, from the logical, conversational and day-to-day nature of prose, in contrast with the enchanting, emotive and often conclusive nature of verse. These effects allow characters to explore and reveal significant relationships with other characters, the mood and mental states within various scenes, and important transitions or developments in regards to the action occurring on stage.
In terms of understanding character, the shift between verse and prose within the text, can be beneficial to both the actor’s interpretation of the intended role and the audience’s understanding of the overall play. One such area that is vital for both the actor and the audience to be aware of is character relationships and the significance of various characters’ treatment of one another, with particular emphasis on social class and individual esteem.
Feste, the comical fool in Twelfth Night is a character that predominantly speaks in prose, while a number characters he converses with shift straight to verse upon his exit. An example of such an episode is when Viola “provides a perceptive analysis of [Feste]” (Wells 56) upon his exit through the use of verse. Within Feste’s prose it is insinuated that he is able to see through Viola’s...