Antithesis: Playing With Opposites



To be or not to be…

You’ve heard it so many times that you may have forgotten to listen to the significance of these words. In these six words Shakespeare gives us two complete opposites: existing and not existing. This use of a word (or sentence) being placed against another to form a balanced contrast is known in rhetoric as ANTITHESIS.

Antithesis is a huge part of Shakespeare’s language. Nearly ever character uses it. Shakespeare was well educated in the art of rhetoric and forming an argument. Naturally, this is reflected in his character’s speech.

In antithesis you must “set the word itself Against the word” (Richard II, V.v) for a variety of different effects. A comparison of two antithetical or opposite thoughts can show a lot to the actor and audience alike. Two opposing ideas in a line can show a the scope of thought in a characters mind. Hamlet in the above quotation is contemplating two very serious ideas. Antithesis also very clearly and precisely illustrates though words the character’s meaning.

In MacBeth the witches chant “Fair is foul, and foul is fair.” And later MacBeth comments on the occasion, “So foul and fair a day I have not seen.” Foul and fair are two opposites and set against each other. What kind of day is it? You’d think this doesn’t make sense, but think to some of your own experiences. Have you said anything like that?

“She’s so mean, but I love her anyway.” “That class is great but I hate going.” “I shouldn’t eat it, but I can’t stop!” These all have antithetical elements in them. Each of these sentences are very dramatic. Explanation can be had for all of these but it isn’t necessary. When you put the two antithetical thoughts together in such a short phrase, you get drama. “I really enjoy our relationship together on occasion because we do fun things together such as swimming, shopping, watching movies and other things but you really have some habits that thoroughly annoy me at time as well and I’m conflicted with how I feel about you.” Where’s the drama there? How about “I love and hate you.” Whoa. NOW I want to know more about this relationship. DRAMA!

Shakespeare is great at crafting these concise and dramatic sentences together to create something the audience and actor alike can really sink their teeth into.

Not all are complete opposites though. “Our father’s love, is to the bastard Edmund / As to th’ legitimate” (King Lear, II.i). The opposite ideas here are the legitimate versus the bastard son. But Edmund us comparing his father’s love between them. One, or the other. When Marc Anthony says “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him,” (Julius Caesar, III.ii) he is setting bury and praise against one another even though they’re not opposite ideas.

Some acting books could go on for chapters about antithesis and rightly so. It’s pretty darn important for being able to play Shakespeare’s text. It’s a tool that the author has left you to use EVERYWHERE YOU CAN. Don’t neglect it. Antithesis will serve you well.

Posted on

 

9 comments

  1. literacles Sep 25, 2010

    Another good example, which impresses me very much, is to be found on Julius Caesar Act III Scene III, where, questioning Cinna the Poet, one plebeian asks,
    “As a friend or an enemy?”, which, as you put eloquently, shows us clearly “the scope of thought in a characters mind”; as we can clearly see from his pharase, the scope of the plebeian’s mind ia limited to friends and enemies.

  2. Celesta Connors Oct 26, 2010

    Skip Hop Studio Diaper Tote Bag is awesome.So quite a few pockets – and also not really these little, useless pockets, either. Almost all of the actual storage compartments are a fantastic size and truly aid maintain every thing organized. The handles are a excellent length and fit nicely more than the actual shoulder; the tackle shoulder straps additionally stay place on my arm, which is essential when you’re holding a infant. The tote looks great, too. Not as well fancy, but not too casual. (I’ve it in black) The material is soft (can’t assume of a far better word) so it’s straightforward to squeeze in to tight spaces – but yet it is sturdy. I’ve a Fleurville Lexi tote and I really like it, too, but this bag is actually type of stiff. I assume this Skip*Hop may grow to be my daily tote. It’s a little bit big – so if you’re not in to huge hand bags this may perhaps be superior as an over-night baby diaper tote.

  3. chicago top restaurants Apr 15, 2011

    Now you will have your new site and you’re eager to begin making some sales! But, how can you make sales in the event you should not have excessive volumes of holiday makers to your web site?

  4. pizza stone Jan 25, 2013

    When an individual decides to make the transition from eating meat to being a true
    vegan, many of the usual things they once enjoyed
    go out the window. The grill unfortunately is a risky place to cook meals,
    and also the griddle can be a great present towards
    the wellbeing aware. It is not like ordinary dough, it is not supposed
    to be soft as a baby’s bottom.

  5. Heidelberg Kindergeburtstag Apr 17, 2013

    Post writing is also a fun, if you know after that you can write otherwise it
    is difficult to write.

  6. ashdesignsonline.com Apr 20, 2013

    I actually needed to show this specific article, “Antithesis:
    Playing With Opposites | The Bard Blog – Shakespeare Info” with my personal close friends
    on facebook .com. I reallybasically sought to disperse your fantastic writing!
    Thanks, Deanne

  7. http://www.flashdaweb.com/resources/dolphin/all-dolphin-seo-plugin-modification/ Oct 20, 2013

    Great post. I am going throuyh a few of these
    issues as well..

  8. learn to play guitar Jan 30, 2014

    Interestingly, most individuals right now are not even mindful of small carb meals
    which can give them healthy and balanced way of living if they abide by a ordinary routine of
    consumption on a weekly basis. Be careful not to burn out your blender by making your smoothie too thick.
    Smoothies are made of fresh fruit and veggies which are
    full of diverse vitamin and minerals.

  1. This is and is not Cressida… « Troilus and Cressida

Leave a reply