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College of Visual Arts, Theatre and Dance / News / Archive / Summer 2011 / Student Profile: Michael Hoffman

Student Profile: Michael Hoffman

Michael Hoffman was a freshman at Florida State University when he began to indulge his interest in classical languages, studying the grammar, structure and metrical intricacies of Latin. As a sophomore, he took on theater as a second major and had the opportunity to spend a semester abroad studying with the London Theatre Academy.

During his senior year, Hoffman was able to combine his two academic passions — classics and theater — as he researched his Honors-In-The-Major Thesis. As a result, he was able to make a discovery about the way that Seneca, an ancient Roman playwright, used a deviation in meter to give more punch to one of his plays.

"My thesis explores the particular meter that Seneca used in his tragedy 'Thyestes,' which was iambic trimeter," Hoffman said. "All ancient Greek or Roman tragedies were written in verse and according to particular rhythmic, metrical strictures. Shakespeare's iambic pentameter is a more modern example of this sort of particular metrical pattern."

But it was the parts of "Thyestes" in which Seneca varied his normal metrical pattern that caught Hoffman's attention.

"Approximately a fourth of the lines of dialogue deviated noticeably from this pattern," Hoffman said. "I focused on those lines and found that they tended to come at moments of particular importance within the play."