Own topic: Comment on the purpose of Shakespeare’s use of poetry in The Winter’s Tale. What is the effect?
Image obtained from: https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2016/05/12/darkness-and-radiance-winters-tale/
Shakespeare cleverly incorporates poetry within The Winter’s Tale in order to musically capture and represent progressions within the play. There is a transition from a more conversational tone in act I scene 1 to the use of iambic pentameter in act 1 scene 2:
Nine changes of the wat’ry star hath been
The shepherd’s note since we have left our throne
Without a burden. Time as long again
Would be filled up, my brother, with our thanks,
And yet we should for perpetuity
Go hence in debt. And therefore, like a cipher,
Yet standing in rich place, I multiply
With one “We thank you” many thousands more
That go before it.
The excerpt above from act 1 scene 2 amplifies that poetry allows for certain aspects to stand out and it also provides a shift into something more musical. Picturesque speaking is used to capture movement and rhythm. The “wat’ry star” is a metaphor for the moon that reveals the passage of time. When examined in conjunction with the poetic technique of enjambment in the first few lines, it becomes clear that poetry is used in order to represent some of the meanings it intends to convey. The use of continuation from line to line symbolises the continuation of time as well as the continuation of thanks that Polixenes later emphasises in the excerpt.
There are also instances in the play where poetry is used to show the transition from harmony into disharmony. Poetry is also used in Leontes’ aside in act 1 scene 2 in order to present to the audience a language of emotional disturbance that is indicative of his building jealousy. The alliteration and assonance in “paddling palms and pinching fingers” creates sound that is evocative of hostility and tension. As the words are read, you can imagine Leontes spitting them out of his mouth with aggression. There is also the break in language in “we must be neat- not neat, but cleanly, captain”, which signifies the instability and turbulence that Leontes experiences at the stage of the play. Enjambment is also used symbolically throughout this aside to represent his continuing spiral into a hole of jealousy and rage. The inconsistency between this continuing enjambment as well as breaks in language, helps the audience to somewhat experience the confusion and emotional turmoil that Leontes becomes enveloped by.