are four distinct groups of characters in A Midsummer Night's Dream,
and they all use language in a distinctive way. Theseus and Hippolyta
speak in a dignified blank verse, which is unrhymed verse based on the
iambic pentameter line. An iambic pentameter is a line of five feet (a
foot is two syllables), in which the emphasis falls on the first
syllable of the foot.
example, see the opening lines of the play:
fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour
on apace; four happy days bring in
moon: but O, methinks, how slow
old moon wanes! She lingers my desires,
to a step-dame or a dowager
withering-out a young man's revenue.
how the heavy punctuation in line 3 slows the line down, in keeping
with the sense. Shakespeare often makes changes in the basic iambic
rhythm of the line too, to gain a variety in effect and to match the
sense. For example, the second foot of line 4 ("moon wanes") is a spondee, in which both syllables are stressed, rather than an iamb.
Theseus and Hippolyta, The four lovers often, although not always,
speak in rhyming couplets, as when Hermia speaks in Act 1 scene 1,
comfort: he no more shall see my face;
and myself will fly this place.
the time I did Lysander see,
Athens as a paradise to me.
then what graces in my love do dwell,
he hath turn'd a heaven unto a hell!
the wood, under pressure of the emotions generated by the confusing
situation, the lovers drop their rhyming couplets and speak in blank
artisans, appropriately enough, speak in prose, except when they try
their hand at the rhymed verse of "Pyramus and Thisbe."
and the fairies, and occasionally Oberon too, often use shorter
rhyming couplets. Typically these are trochaic tetrameters. The
tetrameter is a shorter line than the pentameter, consisting of four
feet rather than five. In a trochaic foot, unlike the iambic, the
stress falls on the first syllable rather than on the second. For
example, see Oberon's speech, Act 2, scene 2, lines 26-32, and
Puck's speech later in the same scene (lines 65-82), from which
these lines are taken:
the forest have I gone;
Athenian found I none
whose eyes I might approve
flower's force in stirring love.
Theseus and Hippolyta, Oberon and Titania often, although not always,
speak in blank verse, although their speech is more highly poetic than
that of Theseus or Hippolyta. It is full of imagery. If one had to
pick out the finest, most delicately expressive poetry in the play,
for example, one might choose the speeches of the fairy couple on
their first appearance, in Act 2 scene 1. Interestingly, when Titania
is in love with Bottom, she speaks mainly, although not exclusively,
in rhymed verse rather than blank verse.