One of the other aspects of words which both interests and enrages me is the effect that different stresses can have. Simon Callow tells a story about a one-man show he performed in which he recited all of Shakespeare’s sonnets. One of them features the couplet “Like as the waves break upon the pebbled shore, so do our minutes hasten to their end.”

He started off in rehearsals stressing the final words, “shore” and “end”, until his director pointed out that by doing so, he was weakening the couplet. The director suggested that instead he should stress ” waves” and “minutes”, as this is the comparison that Shakespeare is making; he is comparing the onward rush of the waves onto the shore to the rush of our lives towards death.

More tomorrow.