Who speaks in only prose in Scene 1 Act 1?William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In the opening scene of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, it is the carpenter and the cobbler who speak in prose as it was customary for the Bard to use prose with the characters from the lower classes. This use of prose indicates class as well as providing the groundlings dialogue that can be easily understood and enjoyed by them. Here are examples from Scene 1 of Act I:

COBBLER:

A trade, sir, that, I hope, I may use with a safe conscience, which is indeed, sir, a mender of bad soles.

FLAVIUS:

What trade, thou knave?  Thou naughty knave, what trade?

COBBLER:

Nay, I beseech you, sir, be not out with me:  yet, if you be out, sir, I can mend you.

Because the commoner, the cobbler, speaks literally, but the tribunes think there is a pun being made on the word soles and the cobbler says that he can "mend" them, Flavius becomes angry at what he perceives as insolence.  This miscommuncation, thus, provides humor for all classes in the audience.

It is interesting to note, too, that later on Casca speaks in prose in Scene 2 in order to be understood by the commoners, as does Brutus in Act III when he addresses the Romans in explication of the conspirators' motives after Caesar's assassination. 

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gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

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As was mentioned in the previous post, the cobbler and carpenter speak in prose throughout Act One, Scene 1. Prose is simply language in its ordinary form without metrical structure. Shakespeare typically reserved prose speech for characters who occupied the lower-class throughout his plays. In Act One, Scene 1, two tribunes, Flavius and Murellus, criticize the commoners for supporting and celebrating Julius Caesar's triumphant return to Rome. Flavius and Murellus occupy a higher social class than the two commoners they are addressing and use blank verse to speak to them. Blank verse is typically spoken in iambic pentameter and is not rhyming. One easy way to visually determine whether the dialogue is written in prose or verse is to notice if there are any "hard returns" in the middle of the passage. Prose speech is written like an ordinary paragraph, and the standard rules for capitalization apply. In contrast, there are "hard returns" in the middle of paragraphs, and the first letter of each line is capitalized when the dialogue is written in verse. Blank and rhymed verse are also written with a recognizable meter.

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