Much Virtue in O-Oh: A Case Study

Alan C. Dessen


The ‘O, o, o, o’ that follows Hamlet’s ‘The rest is silence’ in Shakespeare’s first folio has often been derided, but this signal is found in five other Shakespeare plays and in the works of dramatists as varied as Jonson, Middleton, Fletcher, Massinger, and Brome to indicate that a figure is dying, mortally wounded, or sick, or to generate a comic effect. Shakespeare was adept at using the tools at hand, but to understand his distinctive implementation of those tools requires a working knowledge of the theatrical vocabulary shared at that time by playwrights, players, and playgoers.

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