Thought-Experiment: form v. meaning

[a lil’ break from the ol’ Timon…]

OK, so as I type this I’m listening to an interview with actress Indira Varma in one of GlobePlayer.tv’s snippets from the documentary Muse of Fire. I first saw her as Idris Elba’s wife in the first season of Luther. Loved her there. Then I saw her in the Globe on Screen production of Titus Andronicus playing Tamora. And now, of course, she’s Ellania Sand in Game of Thrones. Yeah, I guess I’m a fan-boy.

Anyway… (that’s not what this entry is about)

She was talking about a thought-experiment she once did… first she was presented with a paragraph:

Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest now is the time that face should form another; whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest, thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother. For where is she so fair whose uneared womb disdains the tillage of thy husbandry? Or who is he so fond will be the tomb of his self-love, to stop posterity? Thou art thy mother’s glass and she in thee calls back the lovely April of her prime; so thou through windows of thine age shalt see, despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time. But if thou live, remembered not to be, die single and thine image dies with thee.

 

And think about what it says and how it says it.

What about broken down by its component sentences:

Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest now is the time that face should form another; whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest, thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.For where is she so fair whose uneared womb disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?

Or who is he so fond will be the tomb of his self-love, to stop posterity?

Thou art thy mother’s glass and she in thee calls back the lovely April of her prime; so thou through windows of thine age shalt see, despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time.

But if thou live, remembered not to be, die single and thine image dies with thee.

Does this change of form change the meaning? How?

Then she was given the same text as a completely “stanza-fied” poem:

Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest
Now is the time that face should form another;
Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,
Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.
For where is she so fair whose uneared womb
Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?
Or who is he so fond will be the tomb
Of his self-love, to stop posterity?
Thou art thy mother’s glass and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime;
So thou through windows of thine age shalt see,
Despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time.
But if thou live, remembered not to be,
Die single and thine image dies with thee.

Does this change of form change the meaning? How?

Then it was given in its original form:

Sonnet 3

Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest
Now is the time that face should form another;
Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,
Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.
For where is she so fair whose uneared womb
Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?
Or who is he so fond will be the tomb
Of his self-love, to stop posterity?
Thou art thy mother’s glass and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime;
So thou through windows of thine age shalt see,
Despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time.
 But if thou live, remembered not to be,
 Die single and thine image dies with thee.

 

Again, does this change the meaning? How?

Which format is most expressive? Which one makes the grammatical structure of the sentences easier to follow?

What effect does form have over meaning, emotion, feeling?

I would love to try this out in a classroom…

Comment?