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Various of the “love speeches” in William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night can be analyzed not only in terms of the meter they use but also in terms of the other literary devices they employ. Consider, for instance, the following lines of the speech by Viola in Act II, scene 2. In the following quotation, the stressed syllables boldfaced and the unstressed syllables are not:
Viola. I left no ring with her: what means this lady?
Fortune forbid my outside have not charm'd her!
She made good view of me; indeed, so much,
That sure methought her eyes had lost her tongue,
For she did speak in starts distractedly.
She loves me, sure; the cunning of her passion
Invites me in this churlish messenger.
None of my lord's ring! why, he sent her none.
I am the man: if it be so, as 'tis,
Poor lady, she were better love a dream.
Other features of this passage include the alliteration of “Fortune forbid,” the assonance of “I am the man,” the paradoxical and metaphorical phrasing of “her eyes had lost her tongue,” and the enjambment involved in the smooth movement from “passion” to “Invites.”
A passage later in the same speech can be similarly analyzed:
How will this fadge? my master loves her dearly;
And I, poor monster, fond as much on him;
And she, mistaken, seems to dote on me.
What will become of this? As I am man,
My state is desperate for my master's love;
As I am woman,—now alas the day!—
What thriftless sighs shall poor Olivia breathe!
O time! thou must untangle this, not I;
It is too hard a knot for me to untie!
The word “monster” is an example of a metaphor; “she . . . seems . . . me” exemplifies assonance; “am man” combines assonance and alliteration; and “time” seems to involve personification. Note the absence of enjambment here.
Finally, similar analysis can be performed on the following exchange between Olivia and Viola:
- Olivia. Nor wit nor reason can my passion hide.
Do not extort thy reasons from this clause,
For that I woo, thou therefore hast no cause,
But rather reason thus with reason fetter,
Love sought is good, but given unsought better.1395
- Viola. By innocence I swear, and by my youth
I have one heart, one bosom and one truth,
And that no woman has; nor never none
Shall mistress be of it, save I alone.
And so adieu, good madam: never more
Will I my master's tears to you deplore.
The most prominent feature of this passage, unlike the earlier ones, is the heavy emphasis on rhyme. One notices also the heavy emphasis on the repetition of “reason” and “one,” as well as the balanced construction of the last line of Olivia’s speech and the first line of Viola’s. More alliteration appears, for example, in “never none,” and assonance appears in “that no woman has.” Viola’s speech uses a remarkable amount of enjambment.
Although some of the metrical patterns outlined above can be disputed, for the most part Shakespeare sticks, in this play, to the use of regular iambic meter. Relatively few variations occur.
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