In William Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream, what are some stylistic devices used in Act 2, scene 1and what are some effects created by the devices?
In the quotation that begins "Either I mistake you" and that ends "Here comes Oberon!" ii.i
Very early in Act 2, scene 1 of William Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a fairy recognizes puck and asks if his recognition is correct. Puck replies that it is and details some of his mischievous exploits. Among the literary devices used in this exchange are the following:
- assonance, as in “shape and making”
- alliteration, as in “bootless” and “breathless”; “bear” and “barm”; “filly foal”;
- lines balanced in structure, as in
The wisest aunt, telling the saddest tale . . .
- balanced adjectives, as in the line just quoted and also in “shrewd and knavish sprite”
- use of regular iambic pentameter rhythm, as in this line:
Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite
- Repetition, as in the use of “make” in the sixth and seventh lines of the passage
- Anaphora, as in the placement of “I am” and “I jest” at the very beginnings of adjacent lines
- Strong emphasis on the first syllables of verbs placed at the very beginnings of lines, as in “Neighing”
- Lengthy use of iambic rhythm in order to emphasize the interruption of that rhythm, as in the following passage:
Thou speak'st aright;
I am that merry wanderer of the night.
I jest to Oberon and make him smile
When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile,
Neighing in likeness of a filly foal . . .
The effect of many of these devices is to call attention to the rhythms, sounds, and music of the lines, which give the lines a sense of artful design. Shakespeare often uses variation in iambic pentameter rhythm in order to emphasize important words when they do arrive (as in the last quotation), and he also often departs from strict iambic rhythm so that the entire passage sounds more natural, more like actual speech, and less like completely artificial phrasing. All in all, this passage achieves a splendid balance between obvious design and apparent spontaneity.