Which characters—and for what possible reason—speak in prose and which speak in verse in the play Julius Caesar?

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You can see a clear illustration of the differences between Shakespeare's prose-speaking characters and his verse-speaking ones in the opening scene of the play. Flavius, who is a patrician-class character, comes into a street which is populated by—as the stage directions tell us—"Commoners." The audience, however, is not given these stage directions. As such, they are given clues in what the characters say as well as how they say it in order to understand what is going on in this scene, who is speaking to whom, and what kind of people they are.

Flavius speaks in verse. His verse also doesn't rhyme. Shakespeare, for the most part, constrained rhyming verse to certain positions. For example, at the end of a scene to give a sense that a conclusion has been reached. However, if you sound out what Flavius says, he is speaking in regular meter (an iambic pentameter common to all of Shakespeare's works). This meter indicates that he is a man of class and authority.

Immediately, the audience would have understood that this makes him different from the commoners that he is speaking to. They speak in prose, with no defined rhythm or meter. This indicates that they do not have the authority Flavius has: he is superior to them, according to the class divisions of Rome.

Shakespeare uses this technique throughout all of his plays. His major characters generally speak in verse while servants and lower-class characters will speak in prose. It is intended as a cue for the audience.

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This was a common technique by Shakespeare that he used in many of his plays. In JC, in addition to the commoners speaking prose, Casca (who wishes to sound simple to those around him) speak in prose as does Brutus when address the commoners after the assassination (most likely in an attempt to speak "at their level". It is at this point in the play that Shakespeare is really able to highlight the difference between prose and verse as Antony addresses the crowd in verse which places himself in higher standing than his listeners - an automatic placement of leadership!

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Typically, Shakespeare used prose and verse to indicate class or social standing. For example, in Act I, Scene 1, Flavius and Murellus are speaking to a carpenter and a cobbler. Because Flavius and Murellus have been elected as tribunes (representatives) for the working class, they are now of a higher social standing; therefore, Flavius and Murellus speak in verse whereas the commoners speak in prose. Note in Act I, Scene II, the characters are all speaking in prose because they are all of a higher social standing.

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