Rhythm and rhyme

Silhouettes of Lorenzo and Jessica hold hands and repeat the words ‘In such a night’.

The mood and social status of a character can often be determined by the rhythm of their speech. Those with a higher social status often speak in lines of 10 syllables (or blank verse) whereas servants, such as Launcelot Gobbo, speak in prose. However, prose is also used to show that higher status characters are angry or upset.

Analysis of rhythm and rhyme in the play

Question

Why does Shylock change from speaking in blank verse to prose in Act 1 Scene 3?

Shylock is angry about the inequality between the treatment of Jews and Christians in Venice.

He says:

Shylock
I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?
Act 3 Scene 1

His anger is highlighted by the use of prose which reflects the direct and emotional nature of his outburst.

Question

How does Shakespeare make use of rhyme and repetition to show a connection between characters?

Shakespeare uses repetition when Lorenzo and Jessica are talking in Belmont. They are in love and their language is playful and echoes each other. In Act 5 Scene 1 they each begin their sentences with In such a night… emphasising their togetherness.

Listening task – rhythm and rhyme

In Act 5 Scene 1, Jessica and Lorenzo are in Belmont talking about their love for each other.

Question

Which phrase does each character repeat?

In such a night.

Question

What does Lorenzo compare Jessica to?

A little shrew.