heightened language

We define heightened language or heightened text is as a more formal, emotional, or poetic way of speaking. The writer becomes a composer and choose words for their sound and power, not just their meaning. Heightened language enables words to ascend beyond everyday speech. Look for what is happening that “elevates” the moment beyond the mundane.

Often something within the language itself requires some attention.

Linguist Devices

If Shakespeare comes to mind, you’re on the right track. For example, in “Romeo and Juliet,” Shakespeare writes, “Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds.” Tarzan might say, “Gallop, steads!” You’ll notice the important words tend to be nouns and verbs. Play these as the important words and you’ll gain clarity of thought and intention.

Shakespeare does not use many adverbs, conjunctions nor prepositions, and he is quite strategic with his adjectives. With Shakespeare or other poetic drama, you’ll need to pay some attention to how the language is trying to operate so that you don’t get in your own way – adding pauses or breaking up thoughts when they are incomplete or reversing rhythms to kill momentum. 

Heightened language - Shakespearean monologue
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Chances are you’ll naturally drop certain words and emphasize others. Then speak the line like an actor keeping those important, emphasized words in mind.

You can think of poetry as a verbal, written art form that uses a heightened sense of language to convey experience, feeling, or modes of consciousness. It is also called “figurative language.” It is opposed to so-called “literal” language. Understood in the context of actual poetry, poetic language is not nice-sounding words that have no real meaning.

While that could be said of many contemporary plays, heightened language pieces use language as the primary engine of the action and stakes require you to actively pursue your character’s need through image-laden text.

heightened language dialogue vs naturalistic language

The study of literature is also the study of language. It is through such processes that the potential of a language is best recognized. A language’s lexicon doesn’t give the full picture of its power of representation; its use does. The mere lack of an abundant vocabulary renders a language weak.

Meanings of words given in a dictionary are lexical definitions. As a word may have more than one meaning, it may also have more than one lexical definition. The five lexical categories are: Noun, Verb, Adjective, Adverb, and Preposition. They carry meaning, and often words with a similar (synonym) or opposite meaning (antonym) can be found. Frequently, the noun is said to be a person, place, or thing and the verb is said to be an event or act.

If the horizons of knowledge reach out far, then an author writing in a language having a limited lexical base could also create great literature without drawing on the entire resources enumerated in the dictionary, the skilled use of phrases and idioms and the language’s inherent possibilities will provide the writer the scope to do so. The character of a language itself carries the potential for innovation. Rhetoricians have explored different aspects of this phenomenon; they have dealt with it by making use of illustrations from creative literature.

Creative Writing

When a writer is in search of new forms of representation in his language, similar exercises in other tongues may give some examples, but when it comes to actual use, it is not possible to do so outside the language’s character. The innovative use of language grants it a new dimension, enhancing its potential.

Even when there are borrowings from other languages, they must be assimilated within the representational parameters of the language. Otherwise such use of borrowed terms does not have any relevance. New thought, new worldviews will always seek avenues for expression, and the writer will be amazed by the remarkable plasticity and elasticity evident in the language. It is because of these twin conditions that the writer’s creative exercises enhance the language, enriching it further.

The arts serve as laboratory for such development. Language is strengthened by these exercises. Every creative writer has a responsibility towards their own language, which they can do by exploring the expressive potential of the language and enriching its idioms.

10 Examples of Heightened Text Monologues

These brilliantly written and complex Shakespeare monologues showcase an actor’s ability to handle heightened text.

Bassanio Monologue – The Merchant of Venice – Act III, Sc 2

O sweet Portia,     

Here are a few of the unpleasant’st words
That ever blotted paper! Gentle lady,
When I did first impart my love to you,
I freely told you, all the wealth I had
Ran in my veins, I was a gentleman;
And then I told you true: and yet, dear lady,
Rating myself at nothing, you shall see
How much I was a braggart. When I told you
My state was nothing, I should then have told you
That I was worse than nothing; for, indeed,
I have engaged myself to a dear friend,
Engaged my friend to his mere enemy,
To feed my means. Here is a letter, lady;
The paper as the body of my friend,
And every word in it a gaping wound,
Issuing life-blood. But is it true, Salerio?
Have all his ventures fail’d? What, not one hit?
From Tripolis, from Mexico and England,
From Lisbon, Barbary and India?
And not one vessel ‘scape the dreadful touch
Of merchant-marring rocks?

Sebastian Monologue – Twelfth Night – Act IV, Sc 3.

This is the air; that is the glorious sun,
This pearl she gave me, I do feel’t and see’t.
And though ’tis wonder that enwraps me thus,
Yet ’tis not madness.

Where’s Antonio, then?
I could not find him at the Elephant.
Yet there he was; and there I found this credit,
That he did range the town to seek me out.

His counsel now might do me golden service;
For though my soul disputes well with my sense,
That this may be some error, but no madness,
Yet doth this accident and flood of fortune
So far exceed all instance, all discourse,
That I am ready to distrust mine eyes
And wrangle with my reason that persuades me
To any other trust but that I am mad,

Or else the lady’s mad; yet, if ’twere so,
She could not sway her house, command her followers,
Take and give back affairs and their dispatch
With such a smooth, discreet and stable bearing
As I perceive she does. There’s something in’t
That is deceiveable. But here the lady comes.

Bolingbroke Monologue – Richard II – Act II, Sc 3

As I was banished, I was banished Hereford;
But as I come, I come for Lancaster.
And noble uncle, I beseech your grace,
Look on my wrongs with an indifferent eye.
You are my father, for methinks in you
I see old Gaunt alive. O then, my father,
Will you permit that I shall stand condemned
A wandering vagabond, my rights and royalties
Plucked from my arms perforce and given away
To upstart unthrifts? Wherefore was I born?
If that my cousin king be King in England,
It must be granted I am Duke of Lancaster.
You have a son, Aumerle, my noble cousin.
Had you first died and he been thus trod down,
He should have found his uncle Gaunt a father
To rouse his wrongs and chase them to the bay.
I am denied to sue my livery here,
And yet my letters patents give me leave.
My father’s goods are all distrained and sold,
And these, and all, are all amiss employed.
What would you have me do? I am a subject,
And I challenge law . Attorneys are denied me,
And therefore personally I lay my claim
To my inheritance of free descent.

King Ferdinand Monologue- Love’s Labour’s Lost – Act 1, Sc.1.

Ferdinand, King of Navarre

Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives

Live regist’red upon our brazen tombs

And then grace us in the disgrace of death;

When spite of cormorant devouring Time,

Th’ endeavor of this present breath may buy

That honor which shall bate his scythe’s keen edge,

And make us heirs of all eternity.

Therefore, brave conquerors—for so you are,

That war against your own affections

And the huge army of the world’s desires—

Our late edict shall strongly stand in force:

Navarre shall be the wonder of the world;

Our court shall be a little academe,

Still and contemplative in living art.

You three, Berowne, Dumaine, and Longaville,

Have sworn for three years’ term to live with me,

My fellow scholars, and to keep those statutes

That are recorded in this schedule here.

Your oaths are pass’d, and now subscribe your names,

That his own hand may strike his honor down

That violates the smallest branch herein.

If you are arm’d to do, as sworn to do,

Subscribe to your deep oaths, and keep it too.

HAMLET – Hamlet – Act 1, Sc. 3.

Think it no more.
For nature crescent does not grow alone
In thews and bulk; but as this temple waxes,
The inward service of the mind and soul
Grows wide withal. Perhaps he loves you now,
And now no soil nor cautel doth besmirch
The virtue of his will; but you must fear,
His greatness weigh’d, his will is not his own;
For he himself is subject to his birth.
He may not, as unvalued persons do,
Carve for himself, for on his choice depends
The safety and health of this whole state,
And therefore must his choice be circumscrib’d
Unto the voice and yielding of that body
Whereof he is the head. Then if he says he loves you,
It fits your wisdom so far to believe it
As he in his particular act and place
May give his saying deed; which is no further
Than the main voice of Denmark goes withal.
Then weigh what loss your honour may sustain
If with too credent ear you list his songs,
Or lose your heart, or your chaste treasure open
To his unmast’red importunity.
Fear it, Ophelia, fear it, my dear sister,
And keep you in the rear of your affection,
Out of the shot and danger of desire.
The chariest maid is prodigal enough
If she unmask her beauty to the moon.
Virtue itself scopes not calumnious strokes.
The canker galls the infants of the spring
Too oft before their buttons be disclos’d,
And in the morn and liquid dew of youth
Contagious blastments are most imminent.
Be wary then; best safety lies in fear.
Youth to itself rebels, though none else near.

Lady Percy Monologue – Henry IV Part 2 – Act II, Sc 3.

(Tip – she’s being sarcastic in this speech)

O, yet, for God’s sake, go not to these wars!
The time was, father, that you broke your word,
When you were more endear’d to it than now;
When your own Percy, when my heart’s dear Harry,
Threw many a northward look to see his father
Bring up his powers; but he did long in vain.
Who then persuaded you to stay at home?
There were two honours lost, yours and your son’s.
For yours, the God of heaven brighten it!
For his, it stuck upon him as the sun
In the grey vault of heaven; and by his light
Did all the chivalry of England move
To do brave acts. He was indeed the glass
Wherein the noble youth did dress themselves.
He had no legs that practis’d not his gait;
And speaking thick, which nature made his blemish,
Became the accents of the valiant;
For those who could speak low and tardily
Would turn their own perfection to abuse
To seem like him: so that in speech, in gait,
In diet, in affections of delight,
In military rules, humours of blood,
He was the mark and glass, copy and book,
That fashion’d others. And him—O wondrous him!
O miracle of men!—him did you leave—
Second to none, unseconded by you—
To look upon the hideous god of war
In disadvantage, to abide a field
Where nothing but the sound of Hotspur’s name
Did seem defensible. So you left him.
Never, O never, do his ghost the wrong
To hold your honour more precise and nice
With others than with him! Let them alone.
The Marshal and the Archbishop are strong.
Had my sweet Harry had but half their numbers,
To-day might I, hanging on Hotspur’s neck,
Have talk’d of Monmouth’s grave.

Helena Monologue – All’s Well That Ends Well– Act II, Sc 3

Then, I confess,
Here on my knee, before high heaven and you,
That before you, and next unto high heaven,
I love your son.
My friends were poor, but honest; so’s my love:
Be not offended; for it hurts not him
That he is loved of me: I follow him not
By any token of presumptuous suit;
Nor would I have him till I do deserve him;
Yet never know how that desert should be.
I know I love in vain, strive against hope;
Yet in this captious and intenible sieve
I still pour in the waters of my love
And lack not to lose still: thus, Indian-like,
Religious in mine error, I adore
The sun, that looks upon his worshipper,
But knows of him no more. My dearest madam,
Let not your hate encounter with my love
For loving where you do: but if yourself,
Whose aged honour cites a virtuous youth,
Did ever in so true a flame of liking
Wish chastely and love dearly, that your Dian
Was both herself and love: O, then, give pity
To her, whose state is such that cannot choose
But lend and give where she is sure to lose;
That seeks not to find that her search implies,
But riddle-like lives sweetly where she dies!

Imogen Monologue – Cymbeline – Act III, Sc 4.

Why, I must die;
And if I do not by thy hand, thou art
No servant of thy master’s. Against self-slaughter
There is a prohibition so divine
That cravens my weak hand. Come, here’s my heart.
Something’s afore’t. Soft, soft! we’ll no defence;
Obedient as the scabbard. What is here?
The scriptures of the loyal Leonatus,
All turn’d to heresy? Away, away,
Corrupters of my faith! you shall no more
Be stomachers to my heart. Thus may poor fools
Believe false teachers: though those that
are betray’d
Do feel the treason sharply, yet the traitor
Stands in worse case of woe.
And thou, Posthumus, thou that didst set up
My disobedience ‘gainst the king my father
And make me put into contempt the suits
Of princely fellows, shalt hereafter find
It is no act of common passage, but
A strain of rareness: and I grieve myself
To think, when thou shalt be disedged by her
That now thou tirest on, how thy memory
Will then be pang’d by me. Prithee, dispatch:
The lamb entreats the butcher: where’s thy knife?
Thou art too slow to do thy master’s bidding,
When I desire it too.

Emilia Monologue – Othello – Act IV, Sc. 3

But I do think it is their husbands’ faults
If wives do fall: say that they slack their duties,
And pour our treasures into foreign laps,
Or else break out in peevish jealousies,
Throwing restraint upon us; or say they strike us,
Or scant our former having in despite;

Why, we have galls, and though we have some grace,
Yet have we some revenge.

Let husbands know
Their wives have sense like them: they see and smell
And have their palates both for sweet and sour,
As husbands have.

What is it that they do
When they change us for others? Is it sport?
I think it is: and doth affection breed it?
I think it doth: is’t frailty that thus errs?
It is so too: and have not we affections,
Desires for sport, and frailty, as men have?

Then let them use us well: else let them know,
The ills we do, their ills instruct us so.

JULIA – Two Gentlemen of Verona – Act IV, Sc. 4.

How many women would do such a message?
Alas, poor Proteus! thou hast entertain’d
A fox to be the shepherd of thy lambs.
Alas, poor fool! why do I pity him
That with his very heart despiseth me?
Because he loves her, he despiseth me;
Because I love him I must pity him.
This ring I gave him when he parted from me,
To bind him to remember my good will;
And now am I, unhappy messenger,
To plead for that which I would not obtain,
To carry that which I would have refused,
To praise his faith which I would have dispraised.
I am my master’s true-confirmed love;
But cannot be true servant to my master,
Unless I prove false traitor to myself.
Yet will I woo for him, but yet so coldly
As, heaven it knows, I would not have him speed.
[Enter SILVIA, attended]
Gentlewoman, good day! I pray you, be my mean
To bring me where to speak with Madam Silvia.

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