Gargoyles, I’m told, are spouting objects, used to funnel rain water out from the entrails (or roofs) of a building or – in some instances – are simply rich architectural add-ons.
Similarly, it can be argued that there are passages within Shakespeare’s plays that serve as relief mechanisms, where the tension of the play is channeled and shaped through a special type of verses.
These short poems act as relief valves & spouting devices of the rhetoric kind in the overall architecture of a Shakespearian play.
The “gargoyle” interludes are made of verses that fall under the domain of what may be called fantastic poetry – a poetry of highly imaginative ilk, in a hyperspace filled with surreal regna.
Queen Mab, in Romeo in Juliet is perhaps one of the obvious and best known examples:
“She is the fairies’ midwife; and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies”
“her whip, of cricket’s bone” – precedes Mercutio’s suspenseful lines on dreams…”begot of nothing but vain fantasy; Which is as thin of substance as the air”.
(Romeo and Juliet, Act I, Scene IV)
The use of fantastic poetry is present throughout Macbeth, in the apparitions of the three witches and Hecate.
These apparitions are a counterpoint to increasingly gruesome deeds.
Here’s a gargoyle effect (a passage of fantastic poetry) from Macbeth:
“I am for the air; this night I’ll spend
Unto a dismal and a fatal end.
Great business must be wrought ere noon:
Upon the corner of the moon
There hangs a vaporous drop profound;
I’ll catch it ere it come to ground;
And that distilled by magic slights,
Shall rise such artificial sprites,
As by the strength of their illusion,
Shall draw him on to his confusion:”
(Macbeth, Act III, Scene IV).
And to conclude this post, a passage of fantastic poetry from The Tempest sung by the ‘dainty Ariel’:
“Where the bee sucks, there suck I
In the cowslip’s bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat’s back I do fly
After summer merrily:
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.”
(The Tempest, Act V. Scene I).