Reading Shakespeare's As You Like It
Reading Shakespeare's As You Like It

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Reading Shakespeare's As You Like It

Glossary

Alliteration
The repetition of the same letter at the beginning of words that are close together (e.g. ‘look you lisp’).
Blank verse
Unrhymed lines of verse, often in an iambic pentameter, the most common metre in English and the metre used in most of the verse sections in As You Like It. (‘Metre’ is the general technical term for the underlying regular rhythm or beat that a poem may adopt.) A regular line of an iambic pentameter consists of ten syllables, each made of five two-syllable sections (or ‘feet’); in each foot, an unstressed syllable is followed by a stressed syllable (creating a ‘di-dum’ effect). In practice, however, many works in iambic pentameter use rhythm much more flexibly than this; often, for example, in the first foot of a line, the stressed syllable will come first.
Classical
In this course the word ‘classical’ is used to refer to the ‘classical’ period of ancient Greece and Rome. ‘Classical literature’ therefore simply means ‘literature produced in ancient Greece and Rome’.
Coup de théâtre
A sudden, startling and dramatic thing that happens in a story (usually in a play) and that is designed to make a big impact on the audience. French for ‘blow (or hit, or stroke) of the theatre’.
Court
The extended household of a monarch or, as in As You Like It, a duke. A court consists of servants, officials and hangers-on hoping for favours from the ruler. In Shakespeare’s time, the royal court was based at Whitehall in London but travelled with the monarch; it was at the centre of political life.
Deus ex machina
Literally, in Greek and Roman drama, ‘god from a [stage] machine’, a god brought in at the last minute to resolve a challenging plot situation. The phrase has come to be used metaphorically to mean the use of anything artificial or improbable to resolve the plot of a story.
Enjambment
In poetry, the running over of a sentence or phrase from one line to the next.
First Folio
The first book to bring together in a single volume a collection of plays by Shakespeare. Including 36 plays and prepared by two old theatrical colleagues of Shakespeare, John Heminges and Henry Condell, it appeared in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death. The term ‘folio’ refers to the size of the book: it is a large-format volume in which each sheet of paper is folded only once down the middle, forming two leaves, or four pages.
Genre
French for ‘kind’ or ‘type’. A genre is a category or type of literature (‘comedy’ or ‘tragedy’, for example) with its own forms and conventions.
Golden Age
An imaginary past time of perfect, idyllic happiness.
Irony
If a piece of writing is ‘ironic’, its actual meaning is something a bit different from the literal meaning of the words. When Rosalind says to Jaques that it is good to be a post, she does not literally mean that it is good to be a post.
Masque
An indoor entertainment, often at court, involving lavish scenery and costumes, special effects, music and dancing, often on a mythological theme in praise of the monarch.
Melancholy
A depressed state of mind, fashionable in Shakespeare’s England. It was associated with black, disordered clothing, folded arms and a floppy hat.
Metaphor
A figure of speech implying that two things are similar, but without using a word such as ‘like’ to compare them explicitly. ‘All the world’s a stage’ is an example. By contrast, a simile is a device that highlights the fact that a comparison is taking place by using words such as ‘like’ and ‘as’ (‘The world is like a stage’).
Pastoral
A genre of literature dating back to ancient Greek and Roman times involving a countryside setting and characters who are shepherds or shepherdesses. Pastoral literature often involves a contrast between the corruption, greed and decadence of cities and the innocence of the countryside.
Puritan
In Shakespeare's time, a term of abuse for a religious extremist; a person who insisted on the importance of moral ‘purity’ and ‘pure’ Protestant (i.e. anti-Catholic) doctrine and who was opposed to such ‘sinful’ things as theatrical performances.
Reformation
A movement in Christianity that began in the 1500s aiming to ‘reform’ the Roman Catholic Church, getting rid of corrupt practices, and which led to the creation of a new ‘Protestant’ type of Christianity. About 30 years before Shakespeare was born, England broke away from the Roman Catholic Church and became a Protestant country. In the Europe of Shakespeare’s day, religious differences were also political differences, and Catholic countries (like England’s then greatest enemy, Spain) went to war with Protestant ones.
Renaissance
French for ‘rebirth’, this is the name often given to the period in which Shakespeare was writing. It refers to the revival of interest in ancient Latin and Greek writings that occurred in the Italy of the 1300s and spread across Europe over the following two centuries.
Satire
A genre of literature, dating back to ancient Greek and Roman times, that involves criticism and mockery of human foolishness and wrongdoing.
Syllogism
A logical method of making arguments that Shakespeare would have heard about at school. A syllogism involves three statements: two statements agreed to be true (‘premises’) and a third that follows logically from the other two (a conclusion). For example: ‘Shakespeare wrote As You Like It and Hamlet (first premise). As You Like It and Hamlet are plays (second premise). Therefore Shakespeare wrote plays (conclusion)’.
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