Scansion - Webster's defines scansion as "the analysis of verse to show its meter." I define scansion as
'finding the heartbeat of the verse.'
ACTING CLUE: A heartbeat has 2 beats (de-DUM), called an 'iamb' (one unstressed syllable
followed by a stressed syllable) making a metric foot. In his verse, Shakespeare
predominantly used iambic pentameter, or 5 metric feet of de-DUMs. Knowing
this, I always test a line with the heartbeat rhythm first. If the words don't match
the rhythm of de-DUM, de-DUM, de-DUM, de-DUM, de-DUM, Shakespeare wants
you to take note! He's used another type of metric rhythm (and there are 5 others)
to get your attention about a new character, change of thought, change of emotion,
contradiction in thought, etc., it's up to you to discover why.
EXAMPLE 1: "But SOFT! What LIGHT through YONder WINdow BREAKS?"
--Iambic pentameter-- (Romeo & Juliet, Act II, sc.ii)
EXAMPLE 2: "DOUble, DOUble, TOIL and TROUble."
--Trochaic Quadrimeter-- (Macbeth, Act IV, sc.i)
Separation - a word ends with the same sound as the next one begins
ACTING CLUE: Don't run them together! Chosen for a reason, each word deserves to be heard
separate from the other. Separating the words forces you to emphasize each.
EXAMPLE: "Simply I credit her false / speaking tongue..." (Sonnet 138)
Word Length - monosyllabic vs polysyllabic words
ACTING CLUE: The length of words affects the rhythm and therefore your delivery of a line.
A line with all short, one syllable words has a different rhythm and delivery
to a line filled with long, mouth-fully words. (Like Shakespeare, I, too,
shall make up words.) If word length forces you to trip, slow down.
EXAMPLE 1: "The potent poison quite o'ercrows my spirit." (Hamlet, Act V, sc. ii)
EXAMPLE 2: "To be, or not to be, that is the question..." (Hamlet, Act III, sc i)
- RHYTHMIC CLUES -