Approaching Shakespeare's late style
Brian Vickers . "Approaching Shakespeare's late style."Early Modern Literary Studies 13.3 (January, 2008) 6.1-26 <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/13-3/revmcd.htm>.
in the interest of brevity, I have based my argument up to this point on verbal elements (essentially words), charged with illustrating the stylistic capacities of discourse in general on that level; my methodological postulate is that what is true of individual elements is equally true of larger units. (p.113, n. 39)
An initial w sound begins each of the first three sentences, and the pronoun “One” that opens the fourth effectively mimics the w. Eight instances of “th” occur between the last foot of line four and the end of line six. This assertive pattern of alliterated initial consonants is augmented by further repetitions: the pairing of initial consonants, as in “thy mind / That makes,” or “thee stare ... that sigh”; the repetition of internal consonants, such as the r sounds in “stare ... Wherefore ... breaks” (5), and the assonantal and consonantal rhyming of “thy mind” (4) and “makes ... breaks” (5). Further, in addition to the p sounds that decorate lines six through eight, the appearance of a pattern is underscored by the interlocking use of “be,” “er,” and “ex” in “be interpreted a thing perplex’d / Beyond self-explication.” (p. 184)This is a purely external inventory of the ‘sonic echoes’ in this passage, implying that they exist to create ‘a pattern’. But the dramatic context is of an increasingly desperate Imogen fearing the worst as Pisanio, instead of answering her questions, merely offers her a letter to read. The key dramatic effects here are those of tempo and tone, suggesting Imogen’s imminent breakdown (‘ere wildness / Vanquish my staider senses’, as she puts it). McDonald’s scholastic catalogue of sounds without meanings or feelings is at several removes from the drama. Many passages in Shakespeare could be made to yield comparable sound-catalogues, but there is only one Imogen.
With what’s unreal thou coactive art,Here the ‘striking peculiarity in Leontes’ use of pronouns’ concerns the final it, for ‘the noun phrase to which it is related is itself a pronoun – something. That is, the semantically empty it derives from a form that is also semantically empty. Hence no interpretation attaches to it in this sentence’. (Thorne’s analysis converges with Smith’s, who had described Leontes’ language as ‘disembodied’ and ‘vacuous’.) Leontes’ impression that a positive interpretation exists merely shows his ‘tragic capacity to take his own expressions of jealousy as reports of states of affairs actually existing in the outside world’ (p. 59).
And fellow’st nothing; then ’tis very credent
Thou mayst conjoin with something, and thou dost
(And that beyond commission) and I find it.... (1.2.138-49)
This is a mistake Leontes has been making all along. The most obvious symptom of Leontes’ disturbance, the basis from which his whole jealous delusion is projected, is to be found in the use of these forms – the mistake that makes him believe that to talk about something is to talk about some thing (p. 63).I cite these essays by Jonathan Smith and J.P. Thorne as examples of the illumination that can result when a critic focusses on dramatic language as both the embodiment of an individualized character and the instrument of interaction with their world. Thorne makes two additional point relevant to Russ McDonald’s scholastic, generalized approach to the language of the Romances. First, that ‘it seems that in his later plays Shakespeare was making an increasingly successful attempt to reproduce in his dialogue the effect of actual speech, with all its hesitations, repetitions, and syntactic irregularities’ (p. 64). This awareness of language as the instrument of social exchange in the real world, whether of Shakespeare’s day or our own, is sadly lacking in McDonald’s work. Secondly, and even more aptly,
It is important that one should not try to judge the writing in Shakespeare’s later plays in terms of a single criterion, but attempt, as far as possible to relate the (in fact) extreme diversity in the writing of these plays to the wide range of dramatic effects they achieve. (p. 64)Any scholar considering embarking on a study of Shakespeare’s late style can be reassured that a good treatment of it is still much needed.
 Shakespeare’s Late Style. By Russ McDonald (Cambridge, New York, and Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2006). X+260pp. £48;$85. ISBN 0521820685.
 See, e.g., Brian Vickers, Shakespeare, Co-Author. A Historical Study of Five Collaborative Plays (Oxford, 2002), discussing Titus Andronicus (with Peele), Timon of Athens (Middleton), Pericles (Wilkins), King Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen (Fletcher). See also Vickers, ‘Incomplete Shakespeare: denying co-authorship in 1 Henry VI’, Shakespeare Quarterly 58 (2007): 311-52.
 See Brian Vickers, The Artistry of Shakespeare’s Prose (London, 1968, 2005), pp. 36-8.
 E.A. Abbott, A Shakespearian Grammar (London, 1886??); Jonathan Hope, Shakespeare’s Grammar (London, 2003); N.F. Blake, The Language of Shakespeare (London, 1983) and A Grammar of Shakespeare’s Language (London, 2002).
 Hilda M. Hulme, Explorations in Shakespeare’s Language. Some Problems of Lexical Meaning in the Dramatic Text (London, 1962); Paul A Jorgensen, Redeeming Shakespeare’s Words (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1962); R.W. Dent, Shakespeare’s Proverbial Language. An Index (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1981); David Crystal and Ben Crystal, Shakespeare’s Words. A Glossary and Language Companion (London, 2002).
 William Empson, Seven Types of Ambiguity (London, 1930); ‘Honest in Othello’, The Structure of Complex Words (London, 1951), pp. 218-49; M.M. Mahood, Shakespeare’s Wordplay (London, 1957). See also Herbert A.Ellis, Shakespeare’s Lusty Punning in ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ (The Hague, 1973); William C. Carroll, The Great Feast of Language in ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ (Princeton, NJ, 1976); Keir Elam, Shakespeare’s Universe of Discourse. Language-Games in the Comedies (Cambridge, 1984).
 See, e.g., Sister Miram Joseph, Shakespeare’s Use of the Arts of Language (New York, 1947); Brian Vickers, ‘Shakespeare’s Use of Rhetoric’, in K. Muir and S. Schoenbaum (eds.), A New Companion to Shakespeare Studies (Cambridge, 1971), pp. 83-98; George T. Wright, ‘Hendiadys in Hamlet’, PMLA 96 (1981): 168-93.
 John Porter Houston, Shakespearean Sentences. A Study in Style and Syntax (Baton Rouge, LA, 1988); F.W. Ness, The Use of Rhyme in Shakespeare’s Plays (New Haven and London, 1941).
 George T. Wright, Shakespeare’s Metrical Art (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1988); Marina Tarlinskaja, Shakespeare’s Verse - Iambic Pentameter and the Poet’s Idiosyncrasies (New York and Frankfurt, 1987).
 Madeleine Doran, Shakespeare’s Dramatic Language (Madison, WI, 1976); Shakespeare’s Styles. Essays in honour of Kenneth Muir, ed. Philip Edwards, Inga-Stina Ewbank and G.K. Hunter (Cambridge, 1988); V. Salmon and E. Burness (eds.), Reader in the Language of Shakespearean Drama (Amsterdam/Philadelphia, 1987).
 This is the organizing principle in my book on Shakespeare’s prose (note 2).
 See Edward Dowden, Shakspere, his mind and art (London, 1877); Lytton Strachey, ‘Shakespeare’s Final Period’, The Independent Review, 3 (1906), reprinted in Books and Characters (London, 1922), pp. 49-69.
 ‘Genius, all over the world, stands hand in hand, and one shock of recognition runs the whole world round’. Hawthorn and his mosses (1850).
 See Vladimir Propp, Morphology of the Folk-Tale , tr. L. Scott, 2nd edn. rev. L.A. Wagner (Austin, TX, 1968), and Brian Vickers, Towards Greek Tragedy (London, 1973.), pp. 183ff.
 McDonald shows no knowledge of the scholarly literature identifying the stylized structure of the Greek novel as the main influence on Shakespeare’s romances.
 See, e.g., Brian Vickers, Appropriating Shakespeare. Contemporary Critical Quarrels (New Haven and London,1993); John M. Ellis, Literature Lost. Social Agendas and the Corruption of the Humanities (New Haven, 1997); Daphne Patai and Will H. Corral (eds.), Theory’s Empire. An Anthology of Dissent (New York, 2005).
 The evasions and self-contradictions behind this claim were exposed in a classic essay by Richard Levin, ‘Feminist Thematics and Shakespearean Tragedy’, PMLA, 103 (1988): 125-38, giving rise to a counter-attack by 24 feminist critics and a cogent reply by Levin in PMLA, 104 (1989): 77-9. Both texts are reprinted in Levin, Looking for an Argument. Critical Encounters with the New Approaches to the Criticism of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries (Cranbury, NJ, and London, 2003), pp. 29-54.
 McDonald claims that Evans ‘cannot conceal his impatience with the late work’, and that he ‘gives up on The Winter’s Tale midway into the play’ (p. 19). I hold no brief for Evans as a major critic, but ‘in fairness’, as McDonald puts it (p. 19, n. 48), it should be recorded that Evans’s final chapter (pp. 176-88) shows no impatience with these plays, indeed responds to their many variations in style with appropriate quotation and comment. Nor does he ‘give up’ on The Winter’s Tale at the point McDonald indicates (‘p. 207’; it is p. 182 in the 1952 edition), but goes on to discuss Act IV.
 Cf. pp. 30-7.
 For instance, he defines asyndeton as ‘the omission of conjunctions between words’ (p. 56), but that figure is known as brachylogia. As for McDonald’s knowledge of Latin, having quoted Quintilian’s comment that ‘Figures generated by subtraction ... aim principally at the charm of brevity and novelty’ (brevitatis novitatisque maxime gratiam petunt; 9.3.58), he seems to think that ‘gratiam’ is the nominative form of the noun (pp. 85, 94, 106). His account of the ‘Ciceronian’ movement (pp. 61-3) relies on the work of Morris W. Croll and George Williamson, unaware of two comprehensive refutations: Brian Vickers, Francis Bacon and Renaissance Prose (Cambridge, 1968), and Robert M. Adolph, The Rise of Modern Prose Style (Cambridge, MA, 1968). McDonald’s linking of this issue with the misogyny of the Church fathers is ludicrously misplaced.
 McDonald knows the book (note 8 above), since he reviewed it in Shakespeare Quarterly 40 (1989): 360, 362-3. However, he found it ‘not an easy read’, complaining about its ‘daunting charts and graphs and tables’, and ingraciously conceding that Tarlinskaja ‘demonstrate[s] statistically what we all “know” to be true: that Shakespeare’s metrical style evolved from strict to loose over the course of his career’. (We knew it, but we lacked the tools to demonstrate it.) However, when McDonald writes that her analyses of the progressive shift in emphasis from the fourth to the sixth foot provides ‘helpful evidence’ to ‘those of us interested in the sound of the line and the connection between that sound and other dramatic functions or ideas’ (p. 362; my italics), he adds an alien element to Tarlinskaja’s work, which is concerned solely with verse movement, not sound.
 Fiction and Diction (Ithaca and London, 1993), tr. Catherine Porter from Fiction et diction (Paris, 1991).
 See, e.g., pp. 34, 38, 39, 40, 54, 56, 75, 80, 90, 94-5, 98, 114, 115, 129, 140-1, 144, 149, 151, 153, 156, 159, 160, 169, 170, 173, 174, 175, 177, 178, 179, 187, 217.
 See Brian Vickers, In Defence of Rhetoric (Oxford, 1988), ch. 6, ‘The Expressive Function of Rhetorical Figures’, pp. 294-339. Other theorists listed additional feeling-states which could be represented by aposiopesis: see the index, p. 499.
 See Brian Vickers (ed.), English Renaissance Literary Criticism (Oxford, 1998), pp. 238-9, with indication of Puttenham’s sources. McDonald actually cites Puttenham’s account of the polysemous nature of this figure, giving examples from the late plays, but as if dissatisfied with Shakespeare’s local uses of it, he takes it as symbolic of the shifts of locale in the Romances: ‘“The figure of silence” represents the playful Shakespeare’s suppression of logical connectives, his asking the audience to follow the jerks and inventions of the fable’ (pp. 128-9). But many other plays have such shifts, and aposiopesis cannot be elevated to a genre-defining element.
 Shakespeare Quarterly, 19 (1968): 317-27.
 See also Bryan Garner, ‘Shakespeare’s Latin Neologisms’, Shakespeare Studies, 15 (1982): 149-70, repr. in Salmon and Burgess (note 9),
 ‘The grammar of jealousy: A note on the character of Leontes’, in A.J. Aitken, Angus MdIntosh, and Hermann Pálsson (eds.), Edinburgh Studies in English and Scots (London, 1971), pp. 55-65.