I'm re-reading Hamlet right now (pregaming Infinite Jest) and the introduction of my edition made a fascinating point that everybody else (especially Serena) probably already knows: apparently in Elizabethan English drama, characters only spoke in prose to indicate a formal proclamation, a low conversation, or insanity.
Let me say that again: when a character in Shakespeare speaks in discursive prose, it usually means s/he's nuts. Joshua Mehigan points this out about King Lear (in an essay I'll dig up and link to because it and him are both great), but I didn't realize that that's standard.
So this raises a few questions: What would Shakespeare think about contemporary theater, where things tend to be a bit, um, prosaic? Would he assume everyone was crazy? And would he be a little bit right?
Other question, for people who paid more attention in school than I did: when and why did we decide that human speech doesn't sound like poetry? And can we trace the decline and fall of contemporary poetry to that shift?
*Disclaimer: I don't actually feel that gloom-and-doomy about contemporary poetry, but let's be a little bleak about its current state for the sake of the conversation.