Shakespeare Should Learn How to Count!

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From Sharon Hamilton's Esssential Literary Terms:

“Editors also indent blank verse lines that are shared between two or more speakers and number them as one line, to show that the dialogue reflects a close meeting of the characters’ minds” (Hamilton 238).

Almost every time I have read a Shakespeare play in school and then been required to quote things from the text, I invariably am confused by the line numbers.  I’d count out the lines and do my best to figure out the line number of what I wanted to quote and then there would be more lines then possible numbers.  In the end, I would be so frustrated trying to uncover the answer to this mystery that I would just use a different quote.  But no more, Hamilton has explained the cause of my predicament.  Some lines share line numbers if they are related.  For example, one set of shared lines in Romeo and Juliet “show how closely attuned Romeo and Juliet are to one another’s thoughts and rhythms, almost as if their hearts are synchronized” (Hamilton 238).  It is comforting to know that Shakespeare (and the modern editors of his work) actually do know how to count, and in fact, that they are purposefully choosing to share the lines for very good reasons.     

1 Comments

Stephanie Wytovich said:

Greta, you make a good point! I had always wondered that as well, and it wasn't until I read it that the lightbulb in my head finally went off! I also think that this is one of those instances where people break rules, or slightly tweak them, in order to reiderate their point.

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