Last year, I discovered that Wordles of the first 100 lines can also illuminate something about the plays themselves, as well as what Shakespeare seems to be calling attention to in the first five minutes of a show. As I begin working on the 2012-2013 set -- Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, and The Two Gentlemen of Verona -- I've started constructing a new series of Wordles. So, as a bit of a teaser for these upcoming Study Guides, I thought I would share the discoveries I've made in these new examples.
To begin, here's Twelfth Night:
subjunctive mood, which, in a strange way, sort of highlights the impermeability and the uncertainty that dominates this play. The subjunctive mood is one of desire and doubt, wishes and maybes. Everything is "perchance;" everything exists on unstable ground when we start, and the lines of certainty only become more blurred as the play goes on.
Next up, Romeo and Juliet:
Next, The Merchant of Venice, and I'll confess, this one cracked me up:
Finally, the Wordle for the first 100 lines of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, which is interesting in a rather different way from the others:
Sir Proteus, save you! Saw you my master?
But now he parted hence, to embark for Milan.
Twenty to one then he is shipp'd already,
And I have play'd the sheep in losing him.
Indeed, a sheep doth very often stray,
An if the shepherd be a while away.
You conclude that my master is a shepherd, then,
and I a sheep?
Why then, my horns are his horns, whether I wake or sleep.
A silly answer and fitting well a sheep.
This proves me still a sheep.
True; and thy master a shepherd.
Nay, that I can deny by a circumstance.
It shall go hard but I'll prove it by another.
The shepherd seeks the sheep, and not the sheep the
shepherd; but I seek my master, and my master seeks
not me: therefore I am no sheep.
The sheep for fodder follow the shepherd; the
shepherd for food follows not the sheep: thou for
wages followest thy master; thy master for wages
follows not thee: therefore thou art a sheep.
Such another proof will make me cry 'baa.'
Proteus and Speed engage in stichomythia, the rapid exchange of lines (as do Sampson and Gregory in the beginning of Romeo and Juliet), and they layer this with punning and repetitions, including antimetabole, the repetition of words in inverted (A-B-B-A) order. The prominence of those terms in the Wordle, then, doesn't introduce us to a large overarching concept of the play, but it does hint at what the tenor of the play will be. This sort of bantering humor continues throughout the text, between many different characters.
The biggest word in this example, though, is "love" -- right from the beginning, that's what Valentine and Proteus are talking about, and that's what they'll keep talking about throughout the entire play. The tensions between romantic love, friendly love, and self-love are what drive this play, and Shakespeare opens by having his two male protagonists discuss when love is real and when it isn't, during which they repeat the word "love" seventeen times.
Since ASC Education began using Wordles as a tool in our Study Guides, we've had great responses to them. These are a great way for a teacher to begin the class discussion of the play on an accessible level, easing students away from their fear and into a discussion of the text. For more information, check out our Study Guides, available as PDF downloads or print-on-demand hard copies through lulu.com.