Rated of 5
by John Barton
This is a wonderful book: an absolute delight. Thankfully though it is writtenby a human being. Consequently it is not unflawed.
The author makes the mistake of assuming that Shakespeare, was written using printed punctuation marks. She makes this assumption early in her introductory chapter. Any classically trained actor will tell you that this was almost certainly not the case. Infact Shakespeare probably holds the key to the whole punctuation debate and within this posited argument, lies Lynne Truss' second flaw.
Punctuation, rather than being the "stitching" of language as she suggests, is in fact the stitching of language in its written mode. Punctuation is the means of giving all of those printed symbols the printed equivalent of breathing spaces. Too few people read much anymore, despite the fact that (as she rightly points out) many people now text on mobile 'phones and also append missives to web pages etc. We are used to the spoken word with all of the inflexions and breaks that punctuation mnarks are intended to replicate.
The point about Shakespeare is thus readily absorbed I trust. With the exception of "Lear", Shakespeare is written (or rather composed) in Iambic verse. Most scholars will know that iambic pentameter is that style of verse where ten beats represent the syllables of a thought or clause, di da di da etc. Few people ever question why it is not called DECA( ten) meter, as opposed to PENTA (five)meter. Di Dah di Dah is, as any classically trained verse speaker will tell you, a "foot".In speaking verse, a pause or cesura (ie comma) may be employed after two feet and in some rare cases a single foot. These cesurae and the use of upward inflection at the end of a line, is why the iambic medium was employed by Shakespeare; to aid otherwise illiterate actors in their learning process. It is the very reason why Shakespeare's early modern English becomes such a stumbling block for those of us brought up to read the printed version of the upward inflection and cesura, even though we don't comprehend them, any more.
This little sidetrack debate though should not detract from what is a book of great charm. Long live Lynne Truss and Victor Borge
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