Why did Shakespeare's noble characters speak in iambic pentameter while commoners spoke mainly in blank verse or prose?
A. To make the noble class sound silly and snobbish so that the commoners in the audience could laugh at them
B. To demonstrate his own intelligence and prove that he was also a part of the noble class
C. To show that Shakespeare respected the nobility and held the lower classes in contempt
D. To create a distinction between the educated nobility and the coarse lower classes
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1. First, Shakespeare wrote his plays in blank verse featuring iambic pentameter because that was the style of the day. Think of it as a way for an author to show off--and it really is quite impressive if one thinks about it. There are very few authors who can create characters and plots as rich as Shakespeare's and write their lines in a consistent meter.
2. Secondly (I think that this might be what you are asking), when Shakespeare's characters speak in verse (iambic pentameter), they are usually the noble (aristocratic) characters, and their speech represents their high culture and position in society. If you simply look at one of Shakespeare's plays, you can often tell when the commoners are speaking because their lines will go from margin to margin (this is true, too, of nobles who are acting like commoners--whether they're involved in evil schemes, losing their minds, or are drunk!). In contrast, Shakespeare's other characters' lines should sound and look different to you--they should sound "sing-songy" and should look like poetry with uneven lengths.
A good example of this is from Othello. When Iago is speaking to his peers or to those in position of authority over them, his speech is in verse, but when he is plotting and talking to Roderigo (especially at the play's beginning), his lines are not in iambic pentameter--this represents the bawdy nature of his speech and, in truth, the baseness of his character.
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Quite a lot of playwrights in Shakespeare's time wrote in iambic pentameter.
Shakespeare varied between iambic pentameter and prose to show us a little about the characters who were speaking.
Iambic pentameter is also known as "verse" or "blank verse". It is more lyrical than verse.
Generally, Shakespeare made his noble or well-bred characters speak in verse to show how refined they are. Characters of a lower station in life would speak in prose.
However, sometimes, Shakespeare would mix this up to show a change in the mood or the mind of a character.
For example, in Hamlet, Hamlet generally speaks in verse - as is befitting a Prince of Denmark. However, when Hamlet becomes mad, he begins to speak in prose. This shows a disorderly state of mind, since Hamlet has supposedly gone crazy and now cannot order his thoughts well enough to speak in verse.
Using prose also serves as comic relief and hints at more serious matters to come - for which iambic pentameter would be used instead.
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