Short lines, why introducedSingle lines with two or three accents are frequently interspersed amid the ordinary verses of five accents. They are, naturally, most frequent at the beginning and end of a speech. These lines are often found in passages of soliloquy where passion is at its height. Thus in the madness of Lear, iv. 6. 112-29, there are eight lines of three accents, and one of two; and the passage terminates in prose. And so perhaps we should arrange “Would use his heav'n for thunder; nothing but thunder!
Merciful heaven (512),
Thou rather with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt
Split'st the unwedgeable and gnarled oak
Than the soft myrtle.
But man, proud man,
Drest in a little brief authority, &c.” M. for M. ii. 2. 110-19. So in the impassioned speech of Silvius: “If thou remember'st not the slightest folly
That ever love did make thee run into,
Thou hast not loved,” A. Y. L. ii. 5. 36. which is repeated in 1. 39 and 42. The highest passion of all expresses itself in prose, as in the earful frenzy of Othello, iv. 1. 34-44, and Lear, iv. 6. 130. Rarely we have a short line to introduce the subject. “York. Then thus:
Edward the third, my lords, had seven sons.” 2 Hen. VI. ii. 2. 9, 10. “Into his ruin'd ears, and thus deliver:
On both his knees,' &c.” Rich. II. iii. 3. 32. “Ross. (So) That now
Sweno, the Norways' king, craves composition.” Macbeth, i. 2. 59. “For Cloten:
There wants no diligence in seeking him.” Cymb. iv. 3. 19. Sometimes the verse (which is often written as prose in the Folio) closely resembles prose. It is probable that the letter J. C. ii. 3. 1-10 is verse, the last two words, "thy lover, Artemidorus," being irregular. So A. Y. L. iii. 2. 268-74. The irregular lines uttered by Cassius, when he is cautiously revealing the conspiracy to Casca, looking about to see that he is not overheard, and also pausing to watch the effect of his words on Casca, are very natural. “Unto some monstrous state.
Now could I, Casca, name to thee a man
Most like this dreadful night,
That thunders, lightens, opens graves, and roars.” J. C. i. 3. 71-74. It will also not escape notice that "now could I, Casca," and "that thunders, lightens," are amphibious sections. See 513. The following pause may be explained by the indignation of Macduff, which Malcolm observes and digresses to appease: “Why in that rawness left you wife and child
I pray you (512)
Let not my jealousies be your dishonours.” Macbeth, iv. 3. 28. A pause is extremely natural before Lear's semi-confession of infirmity of mind: “A'nd, to | deal pláinly,
I féar | I ám | not ín | my pérf | ect mínd.” Lear, iv. 7. 62. A stage direction will sometimes explain the introduction of a short line. The action takes up the space of words, and necessitates a broken line, thus: “Macb. This is a sorry sight. [Looking on his hands.]
Lady M. A foolish thought, to say a sorry sight.” Macbeth, ii. 2. 21. Macbeth may be supposed to draw his dagger after the short line: “As thís | which nów | I dráw.” Macbeth, ii. 1. 41. So after Lady Macbeth has openly proposed the murder of Duncan in the words-- “Oh, never
Shall sun that morrow see,” Macbeth, i. 5. 62. she pauses to watch the effect of her words till she continues:
Your face, my thane, is as a book where men, &c.The irregular lines in the excited narrative of the battle-- “Like valour's minion, carv'd out his passage
Till he faced the slave,” Macbeth, i. 2. 20 (so ib. 51). are perhaps explained by the haste and excitement of the speaker. This is illustrated by “Except they meant to bathe in reeking wounds,
Or memorize another Golgotha,
I cannot tell.
But I am faint, my wounds cry out for help.” Macbeth, i. 2. 41. In “As cannons overcharged with double cracks; || so they ||
Doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe,” Ib. i. 2. 37. there may be an instance of a short line. But more probably we must scan "As cánnons | o'erchárged | ." Such a short line as “Only to herald thee into his sight,
Not pay thee,” Macbeth, i. 3. 103. is very doubtful. Read (though somewhat harshly):
On'ly | to hér(a)ld (463) | thee ín | to's síght, | not páy thee.So “Lét's (us) | awáy; | our téars | are nót | yet bréw'd,” Macbeth, ii. 3. 129, 130. and the following lines must be arranged so as to make 1. 132 an interjectional line. There is a pause after "but let" in “But let--
The fráme | of thíngs | disjóint, | bóth the | worlds súffer.” Macbeth, iii. 2. 16; iv. 3. 97. and in the solemn narrative preparatory to the entrance of the Ghost: “Last night of all,
When yond same star that's westward from the pole.” Hamlet, i. 1. 35. So “And are upon the Mediterranean flote
Bound sadly home for Naples,
Supposing that they saw the king's ship wreck'd.” Temp. i. 2. 235. So M. N. D. iii. 2. 49. “Lastly,
If I do fail in fortune of my choice
Immediately to leave you and be gone.” M. of V. ii. 9. 14. “Yet I,
A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak.” Hamlet, ii. 2. 593. “I, his sole son, do this same villain send
To heaven.” Ib. iii. 3. 78. In “Dost thou hear?” Temp. i. 2. 106. "thou" is unemphatic, and scarcely pronounced. Or else these words must be combined with the previous, thus:
Hénce his | ambít | ion grów | --ing--Dóst | thou héar?