Chapter 5. Decoding the parentheses in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus

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Though it has been pointed out that Shakespeare uses the figure parenthesis“extensively, especially in his later plays” (Joseph 1947: 57), it hasbeen more often marginalized, if not totally neglected. The present papercontends that parenthesis contributes greatly to characterization and thedevelopment of conflicts in dramatic texts. Through a detailed analysisof its use in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, this paper attempts to illustrate the significance ofparenthesis. At the rhetorical level, parenthesis may have the dual functions ofvarying and amplifying as differentiated by Adamson (1999). For example, aparenthesis may take the form of a noun phrase in apposition to its antecedentas a way of varying and it may take the form of a non-restrictive relative clauseas a way of amplifying, and therefore helps achieve diverse rhetorical effectsand convey rich rhetorical meanings. For this reason, a functional study of thesubjective and interpersonal function of parentheses can provide clues to a deeper understandingof speaker-hearer relationship, hence of overall dramatic characterizationand conflict management.


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