Why All The Rhyme?

      As I was reading Act one scene one of Richard II, I realized that there were a lot of lines that were rhyming. Characters would just tend to start rhyming their lines when the scene became more emotional, or when they were trying to get a strong statement across. A good portion of this rhyming can be seen in the end of scene one in the first act. During this part of the scene Richard II is trying to mediate the situation between the two noblemen. For example Richard’s lines are “Good uncle, let this end where it begun;/ We’ll calm the Duke of Norfolk, you your son.” (around line 152). I found this to be quite interesting at the time, since the scene did not start off this way. It made me wonder why Shakespeare would want the actors to have these lines at that particular moment in the scene and not the entire scene?
      As I started the second and third scenes of act one, I would notice this rhyming technique in many other places. I think that this technique says a lot about what Shakespeare wanted us to take from these lines. When I think of rhyming I automatically think of poems, and their importance of words to get the full meaning of what is being said. I really wanted to analyze this rhyming technique so I chose to pick the passionate lines of the Duchess, in the very end of act one, scene two. At this point in the scene the Duchess is trying to persuade John of Gaunt to avenge her husband Thomas of Glouceste’s death. The Duchess says “Yet one word more: grief boundeth where it falls,/ Not with the empty hollowness, but weight:/ I take my leave before I have begun,/ For sorrow ends not when it seemeth done./ Commend me to thy brother, Edmund York…..” I really felt that when she delivered these lines the amount of pain and anger in her voice really comes through. Shakespeare may have her rhyme these lines as an indicator of what is to come from her revengeful mourning. Almost as a hint to the readers that this is a major foreshadow of something that will happen in the play. This reminds me of something like a key to a map. When John replies back to the Duchess and refuses her and says that the punishment is up to God,  I noticed that his lines before and after her did not rhyme. Perhaps telling the audience that he may change his mind, because there is not as much passion to his lines as the Duchess has. The same can be said for the beginning lines in which Richard II is trying to break up the arguing of the gentlemen Thomas and Henry. The rhyming here is insinuating that the argument is the basis of event to follow in the play. It is not until after Henry and Thomas’ long speeches of how they have been betrayed by one another that Richard II lines begin to rhyme. Maybe to say that Richard II did not think the argument was serious until he really felt the passion between their speeches.
        A lot can be said about these lines in the play and their true meaning. There are many ways to interpret what Shakespeare is trying to say by rhyming these particular lines. Is it merely for emotional purposes, or could it have a hint of foreshadowing for the readers to decipher?  I’m curious to see if my theories on what will happen in the play from interpreting these lines will come true.


5 thoughts on “Why All The Rhyme?

  1. Jacey Lawler

    I definitely noticed the great use of rhyming in Acts I and II of Richard II. I think they are wonderful, beautiful, and useful in helping the reader/audience member pick up on the importance of a scene. It is almost as if Shakespeare highlights these lines for us and says “pay attention to this!”. The rhyme scheme assists in conveying the emotional nature of the characters as well as foreshadowing what is to come. The strong rhythm adds a certain element of continuation and movement, and has helped me as a reader to analyze the action and words used. Another example that continues with your thoughts on high emotions, occurs at the end of a speech by Bolingbroke: “Or sound so base a parle, my teeth shall tear/The slavish motive of recanting fear,/And spit bleeding in his high disgrace/Where shame doth harbor, even in Mowbray’s face” (1.1.192-5). The slant rhyme and full rhyme convey that same passionate element that you mentioned in the Duchess’ speech.

  2. Ally Farzetta

    I, too, share your fascination with this rhyming "phenomena." If there's one major thing I've learned about the writing style of Shakespeare it is that nothing is meaningless or a coincidence. There are COUNTLESS clues in his text that are meant to help both the audience and the actors who are playing the characters. I think we can surmise that rhyming, like we see in Acts I and II of Richard II, as well as alliteration, assonance, repetition, and lists were all carefully utilized by Shakespeare and I love playing detective as I read or listen. When we do notice rhyming,or any other literary devices, it can definitely help us identify heightened emotion. I look forward to finding more of Shakespeare's clues while I continue on with Richard II.

  3. Cyrus Mulready

    Wonderful attention to the language here, Nicole! You are right to note Shakespeare's use of rhyme, and it's certain that he has some purpose to it. It does provide emphasis on the lines. It could also be a cue for actors waiting for entrances (as in the end of a scene, for instance). Sometimes Shakespeare uses it to add playfulness to the language (as in a comedy). I'm not sure what to make of these examples. Richard becomes very playful with language as the play goes on, and perhaps this is an early indication of that tendency?

  4. kateconti

    This is a really interesting discovery you have found in the reading. I think nothing should be over-looked and it is unlikely that Shakespeare wasn't using language in any way possible to get his point and his characters points across. It is evident that the rhyme scheme is a tool that Shakespeare uses to show emotion but the fact that these lines are scattered throughout the play and actual rhyme when read together is really interesting. Shakespeare was a brilliant man and I would not be surprised if there was hidden foreshadowing in this detail of the text. I like the idea that it is like a key to a map. That makes sense and makes the play exciting to read.


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