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Analysis: Tough-o-Meter

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(8) Snow Line

Let's face it. The ornate and formal language in Measure for Measure makes this one of Shakespeare's tougher reads. The Duke's opening speech alone is enough to give us a headache:

Of government the properties to unfold,
Would seem in me to affect speech and discourse;
Since I am put to know that your own science
Exceeds, in that, the lists of all advice
My strength can give you: then no more remains,
But that to your sufficiency as your Worth is able,
And let them work. The nature of our people,
Our city's institutions, and the terms
For common justice, you're as pregnant in
As art and practise hath enriched any
That we remember.

In case you haven't noticed, the Duke really likes to make speeches more complicated than they have to be. Once we take a closer look at the passage we can see that the Duke is basically saying this: "If I were going to talk about the qualities a person needs to be a good governor, I would sound like I enjoy talking for its own sake. [He's got that right!] I can't help but recognize that you [Escalus] know a lot more than I do about governance, our people, and our laws and institutions."

Before you go into panic mode, we should point out that not everyone talks like this and the Duke's style of speech is something that we can and do get used to as we read the play. Check out "Writing Style" for more on this.

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