To convey a sense of argument, imagery and perspective, authors use various types of language, syntax and vocabulary to achieve this. An extract from Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, a soliloquy from Hamlet, by William Shakespeare and Ode to Autumn, by John Keats all have a number of striking similarities between them, as well as a few differences, which will be analysed to show.
Unlike Hamlet and Autumn, the extract from Jane Eyre, doesn’t have any particular argument, but the use of language is similar to that of Keats and to some extent Hamlet. Jane Eyre is a character existing in a narrative in the first person, as is Hamlet in his soliloquy. This brings a sense of identification and realism to the reader, “I did not feel the cold, though it froze keenly” (Bronte, p143) indicated the narrator’s feelings and experience. The narration is written in the past tense, “in those days I was young” (p143) to add to the affect of a recollection and to bring the sense of an autobiography.
Jane is not an omniscient narrator, like Hamlet, therefore the reader can see things she does not, such as the gloomy significance of the extract and how it is an indication of her future relationship with Mr Rochester, and Thornfield. The whole of the novel is written in elaborate, complex sentences, which perhaps is the author’s way of demonstrating Jane’s intelligence and eloquence. The style of language and it usage is similar to that of Keats. Bronte uses active verbs such as “rising moon” and “blended clouds” (p143) and “noise” breaking out, and integrates them into the elegant prose to bring a sense of movement to Jane’s surroundings. An idea of sound is also achieved by the use of onomatopoeic words such as “tinkle of the nearest stream” and “whispering” (p143) this brings a sensuous aspect to the prose, something that Keats also manages to achieve in his Ode to Autumn. There is even a small degree of alliteration “wave wanderings” (p143) something, which Keats also uses.
The imagery in Jane Eyre is plentiful, for instance the moon is personified as female, “The rising moon . . . she looked over Hay” (p143) the images are conjured up through pictorial descriptions used by Jane, as with Keats. We get the impression that Thornfield is slightly intimidating, we know the hall is “grey and battlemented” (p143) and that the woods are “dark”. The descriptions of the town in the distance hills are insightful, “blue smoke” is sent up from the few chimneys and Jane claims she can hear “plainly its thin murmurs of life.” (p143) Jane dwells on the effects of the industry beyond, “metallic clatter” can be heard, as the foreground and the backgrounds appear to merge, the “solid mass of crag” invokes images of trees in the near and far distance. Jane herself says that, “tint melts into tint.” (p143) It is an image of a Victorian town full of industry, which would have been bourgeoning in 1847 when Jane Eyre was originally written.
There is a slight dark and light contrast in the extract. Jane gives the impression that it is just after sunset, the sun has gone down “sank crimson” (p143) and it is “dusk”. The rookery is said to be “dark” as is “the great oak” and the childhood thoughts Jane recalls. Contrastingly she describes the moon as “brightening momently” and that the horizon is “sunny”. Alongside her dark childhood reminisces, Jane recollects “fancies bright,” from this we get a sense of Jane’s ability to find brightness in a dark, dusky atmosphere. Jane is in the denouement of autumn heading toward winter, like Keats, but conversely she does not share his sense of sadness or regret.
Ode to Autumn is similar to Jane Eyre in its depiction of autumn, however it is more a valedictory poem, a fond farewell to the season. It is a literary poem full of description, similar to Jane Eyre. The language is set out to achieve balance. Critic Helen Vendler (1983, p32) noted the “symmetry and parallelism” used in the syntactical units of each stanza. For instance, in stanza one Keats deals with the parting of high autumn with “mellow fruitfulness” and “maturing sun”. (Keats, p197) He then reflects on the feelings of late autumn with its “winnowing wind” and “half-reaped furrow”, (p197) and ends with the remaining baroness in stanza three, “soft dying day” and “stubble plains”(p197).
John Keats uses pictorial, sensuous language to convey the very nature of autumn. There are descriptions of landscape and nature throughout. The three stanzas have eleven lines each, which is one more than any of Keats’ other odes. This extra line could indicate Keats’ need to prolong the season, and his unwillingness to let it go. The language is rich and, like Hamlet and Jane Eyre, brings a sense of movement by the use of active verbs. Vines are loaded with fruit and trees are bent with apples. To add to the suggestion of movement alliterative and assonantal sounds are incorporated, as are examples of onomatopoeic words, such as “whistles” and “twitter”(p197). The continuing theme of balance is evident in Ode to Autumn due to Keats superior ability to invoke sensuous imagery, from the tactile in stanza one, “moss’d cottage trees” and “clammy cells”(p197), to the visual in stanza two, “thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind” and “thou watchest the last oozings”(p197) and finally the auditory in stanza three “hedge-crickets sing” and “full-grown lambs loud bleat”(p197)
Keats is often said to have drawn inspiration from Shakespeare and there are similarities between his odes and Shakespeare’s plays. Hamlet, described by Jacqueline Rose as “a flawed masterpiece” (Drakakis, p96), has the same notable sense of imagery and personification found in Ode to Autumn, and to a certain degree, Jane Eyre. Hamlet’s first soliloquy appears soon after, Claudius’ long-winded lies about his brother’s death. This sets up a perfect contrast between the two. The verses of the soliloquy start and stop, punctuated by expressions of pain and confusion, “flesh would melt” (Shakespeare, line 129) and “self-slaughter”(line 131). The disjointed rhythm and dislocated form follows Hamlet’s own thoughts as his inner turmoil is revealed.
Hamlet is disgusted by his mother’s remarriage, and his idea that she is sexually depraved is indicated through language and syntax. Hissing “s” sounding sibilants show his anger and disgust, “a beast that wants discourse of reason” (line 150). We get a strong sense of Hamlet’s love and admiration for his father compared to his hatred of Claudius, “Hyperion to a satyr” (line 140). Even the typical Shakespearean device of dramatic irony is conveyed in the soliloquy when Hamlet claims he is destined to suffer in silence, “But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue” (line 158) as we know, Hamlet does not hold his tongue and he does speak his mind.
The language used in Hamlet is very much a product of its time. Hamlet describes his mother “Like Niobe, all tears” (line 149) an ancient queen who wept for her dead children, but not her dead husband. His stepfather is called a “satyr”, an ancient lecherous creature. His father is described as “Hyperion” an ancient sun God. The theme of Gods and religion runs throughout the soliloquy. Hamlet mentions the “canon” (line 132), which is God’s law preventing “Self slaughter” or suicide. He pleads, “O God, God” (line 132) and mentions the “everlasting” (line 131). He also talks of “the winds of Heaven” (line 141) and “heaven and earth” (line 142). It is an indication that Hamlet sees his heavenly father before his own earthly father or stepfather, and of Shakespeare’s ability to reveal his characters thoughts.
The over riding themes found in each of the extracts is one of great imagery. In Jane Eyre, weather plays a huge part in the descriptive nature of the piece. The weather tends to act as a metaphor for what happens next in the text, which is Jane’s foreboding first meeting with Mr Rochester. The imagery found in Ode to Autumn is immense; the sensuous language drives home the very idea of autumn to the point where the whole poem could be seen as personification, as if autumn is an old, departing friend. In Hamlet the imagery is conveyed through the way Hamlet himself describes the state of Denmark as an “unweeded garden” (line 135) and that things are “rank and gross in nature” (line 136) The audience is perhaps expected to see that things are not well with the young prince, and that the situation will worsen.
Although there are no particular arguments disputed in the three extracts, it is clear that each of them is trying to achieve a sense of imagery and description. Each is concentrating on the narrator’s own thoughts and feelings on a subject. Bronte is allowing the reader to partake and enjoy in Jane’s own recollection of her time at Thornfield. Keats is portraying his own ideas and sadness at the idea of autumn’s descent, with his similar and continuing theme or all things transient. Shakespeare is allowing the audience to get a full understanding of the protagonist’s disorder and bewilderment at his mother’s supposed betrayal and his uncle’s invasion. Each text achieves its aim perfectly. In all of the extracts the audience cannot fail to understand the thoughts, feelings and atmospheres of each piece, thanks largely to the descriptive, sensuous and imaginative language devices used.
1,543 words (excluding brackets and bibliography)
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Drakakis, J (ed) (1985) Alternative Shakespeare’s. Routledge
Stone, B (1992) The Poetry of Keats. Penguin.
Vendler, H, (1983) The Odes of John Keats. Harvard University Press.