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Macbeth Glossary
Enter Lady Macbeth, reading a letter (1.5.1)

A.C. Bradley, in his hugely popular analysis of Shakespeare's great tragedies, makes some fascinating points about Shakespeare's intermittent use of prose:

"The speeches of the Porter, a low comic character, are in prose. So is the letter of Macbeth to his wife. In both these cases Shakespeare follows his general rule or custom. The only other prose-speeches occur in the sleep-walking scene, and here the use of prose may seem strange. For in great tragic scenes we expect the more poetic medium of expression and this is one of the most famous of such scenes. Besides, unless I mistake, Lady Macbeth is the only one of Shakespeare's great tragic characters who on a last appearance is denied the dignity of verse."

"Yet in this scene also he adheres to his custom. Somnambulism is an abnormal condition, and it is his general rule to assign prose to persons whose state of mind is abnormal. Thus, to illustrate from [other tragedies], Hamlet when playing the madman speaks in prose, but in soliloquy, in talking with Horatio, and pleading with his mother, he speaks verse. Ophelia in her madness either sings snatches of songs or speaks prose. Almost all Lear's speeches, after he has become definitely insane, are in prose: where he wakes from sleep recovered, the verse returns." (Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy. New York. St. Martin's Press, 1966. [p.p. 335-6])

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