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THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE: SHAKESPEARE'S IMAGERY

Figures of Speech:
Shakespeare uses figures of speech, i.e. imagery or word pictures, to do the following:
  1. say more about points made in dialogue and action
  2. reinforce and enhance the audience's ideas of the characters
  3. magnify or draw attention to themes/issues in the text
To do this he uses:
  1. similes: comparisons using 'as' or 'like': "The moon is like a balloon"
  2. personification: giving human feelings to animals or inanimate objects
  3. metaphors: stronger comparisons saying something is something else: "The moon is a balloon."
  4. extended metaphors: a metaphor that is used extensively throughout a passage.
  5. oxymorons: these are words and phrases that you would not expect to see in pairs to cause an effect. As soon as Juliet hears that Tybalt, her cousin, has been killed by Romeo, her grief and outrage is tempered by her disbelief that Romeo could carry out such a deed:
    "Fiend angelical, dove-feathered raven, wolvish-ravening
    lamb, ...A damned saint, an honourable villain!"
    (Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, scene 2, lines 75-79)
  6. motifs: characters, themes or images which recur throughout a text. For example, disguise is a running idea in "Twelfth Night". In "Macbeth" there are several motifs. One is 'fair and foul' and another is 'sleep'. To the Weird Sisters, who characterize evil, what is 'ugly' is 'beautiful', and what is 'beautiful' is 'ugly': "Fair is foul and foul is fair." Macbeth and Lady Macbeth reign in restless ecstacy after mirdering King Duncan. Macbeth soon says to illustrate the sleep motif:
    "Me thought I heard a voice cry, 'Sleep no more!'
    Macbeth does murder sleep - the innocent sleep,
    Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care,
    The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
    Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course
    Chief nourisher in life's feast."
    (Macbeth, Act 2, scene 2, lines 34-39)
  7. An extended example of Shakespeare's use of imagery:
    In the following speech from King Lear, Kent is enquring of a Gentleman whether Cordelia, the daughter of King Lear, has been upset by a letter describing her father's condition.

    Kent Gentleman:
    "O, then it mov'd her?
    Not to a rage. Patience and sorrow strove
    Who should express her goodliest. You have seen
    Sunshine and rain at once: her smiles and tears
    Were like a better way. Those happy smilets
    That play'd on her ripe lip seem'd not to know
    What guests were in her eyes, which parted thence
    As pearls from diamonds dropp'd.. In brief,
    Sorrow should be a rarity most belov'd,
    If all could so become it."
    (King Lear, Act 4, scene 3)

    The gentleman attempts to describe Cordelia's conflicting emotions in a number of ways.
    First he uses personification to make the struggle in her mind between patience and sorrow seem more vivid. He then moves on to metaphors of sunshine and rain to express these emotions. In order to give an impression of the strength of her emotions, he again uses personification to characterize the smilets (small smiles) that played on her lips, and the tears that were guests in her eyes. Finally, he uses a simile to describe the richness and beauty of Cordelia's tears, which part from her eyes as pearls from diamonds dropp'd.
    This moment is moving. It is an example of Shakespeare's dramatic technique that he has Cordelia's reaction described rather than calling upon an actor to play it.



Assignment regarding an extended metaphor:
Read Portia's speech from 'The Merchant of Venice' and answer the question that follows.

Portia:
The quality of mercy is not strain'd;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's.

What are the 'qualities of mercy' according to this extended metaphor?


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