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Rhetoric aimed to teach pupils how to argue persuasively and how to analyse other people’s speeches and writing in order to understand what they were saying, to reply to them effectively, and, at times, to learn from their use of language.
How does Shakespeare speak of style? Among his twenty thousand or so words, ‘style’ is not especially prominent, occurring fewer than twenty times. The range of those few uses, however, is wide enough to show the complexity of the concept, and to suggest how vital it is for his work even when it goes unnamed.
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, does it. Likewise, Peter Quince, carpenter of Athens. They write for actors. And writing for actors, they tell us something about how the playwright who’s written them writes for actors.
The power of Shakespeare's complex language - his linguistic playfulness, poetic diction and dramatic dialogue - inspires and challenges students, teachers, actors and theatre-goers across the globe. It has iconic status and enormous resonance, even as language change and the distance of time render it more opaque and difficult. The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare's Language provides important contexts for understanding Shakespeare's experiments with language and offers accessible approaches to engaging with it directly and pleasurably. Incorporating both practical analysis and exemplary readings of Shakespearean passages, it covers elements of style, metre, speech action and dialogue; examines the shaping contexts of rhetorical education and social language; test-drives newly available digital methodologies and technologies; and considers Shakespeare's language in relation to performance, translation and popular culture. The Companion explains the present state of understanding while identifying opportunities for fresh discovery, leaving students equipped to ask productive questions and try out innovative methods.