Shakespeare’s language

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Background on Shakespeare's language, including tips

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Shakespeare’s language

  1. 1. Shakespeare’s Language
  2. 2. The Elizabethans <ul><li>They loved language </li></ul><ul><li>Even poorly-written plays usually rhymed and alliterated </li></ul><ul><li>Sound of language was more important than logic of sentence structure </li></ul><ul><ul><li>E.g. they changed word order or repeated words for emphasis </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. William Shakespeare <ul><li>Introduced nearly 3,000 words into English </li></ul><ul><li>His vocabulary is upward of 29,000 words (quadruple that of an average well-educated person!) </li></ul>
  4. 4. So… why is it so hard to understand? <ul><li>Many words have shifted meaning since Shakespeare’s day, or have fallen out of use </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>Letters, syllables, or whole words were sometimes omitted </li></ul><ul><ul><li>'tis: it is o'er: over ne'er: never </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>e'er / ere: ever oft: often e'en: even </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>Word order was more flexible. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>I ate the sandwich. I the sandwich ate. Ate the sandwich I. Ate I the sandwich. The sandwich I ate. The sandwich ate I. </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>Pronunciation was quite different from ours, so Shakespeare’s perfect rhymes usually are imperfect rhymes to us </li></ul><ul><ul><li>love / prove </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>Shakespeare wrote dramatic poetry most of the time, but sometimes included prose </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Poetry was mostly in blank verse (unrhymed lines of iambic pentametre) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Poetry was sometimes in rhyming couplets, sonnet form, etc. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Poetry usually used for passages of high feeling and increased intensity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Prose often used for wit and play, or lower-status characters </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Some Tips <ul><li>Thou vs. You </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Thou = an informal address to one's friends or social inferiors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You = a formal address to strangers and social superiors </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Forsooth = No kidding </li></ul><ul><li>Marry!, By my faith = Wow </li></ul><ul><li>Alack, Alackaday, Alas, Fie, Out upon it! = Darn it! </li></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>God's wounds, S'wounds, Zounds = swearing </li></ul><ul><li>Prating = Babbling, talking too much </li></ul><ul><li>Perchance = Maybe </li></ul><ul><li>Forswear = To lie or cheat </li></ul><ul><li>Betimes = Very early in the morning </li></ul>With thanks to: http://www.bardweb.net/language.html Best, Michael. Shakespeare's Life and Times . Internet Shakespeare Editions, University of Victoria: Victoria, BC, 2001-2005. <http://ise.uvic.ca/Library/SLT/>. http://www.shakespearehigh.com/classroom/guide/page1.shtml http://www.krucli.com/shakespeare_intro's.htm
  11. 11. What do these two passages have in common? <ul><li>Lord Chief Justice: &quot;Your means are very slender and your waste great.&quot; Falstaff (an obese and high-living man): &quot;I would that my means were greater and my waist slenderer.&quot; </li></ul>Romeo and Juliet: Mercutio is a young man with wit and little seriousness. As he lies dying: &quot;Ask for me tomorrow and you will find me a grave man.&quot;
  12. 12. They both contains puns. <ul><li>Lord Chief Justice: &quot;Your means are very slender and your waste great.&quot; Falstaff (an obese and high-living man): &quot;I would that my means were greater and my waist slenderer.&quot; </li></ul>Romeo and Juliet: Mercutio is a young man with wit and little seriousness. As he lies dying: &quot;Ask for me tomorrow and you will find me a grave man.&quot;
  13. 13. What device is Shakespeare using in these passages? &quot;Death, death, O amiable lovely death.&quot; &quot;Parting is such sweet sorrow.&quot;
  14. 14. They are both oxymorons. &quot; Death , death, O amiable lovely death.&quot; &quot;Parting is such sweet sorrow .&quot;
  15. 15. What do these passages illustrate? <ul><li>Shylock, a character in The Merchant of Venice , feels mistreated and says: &quot;You foot me as you spurn a stranger cur.&quot; </li></ul>When Cleopatra thinks she is the victim of some fast talk from Antony, she says: &quot;He words me, girls, he words me.&quot;
  16. 16. They both are inventive with language. <ul><li>Shylock, a character in The Merchant of Venice , feels mistreated and says: &quot;You foot me as you spurn a stranger cur.&quot; </li></ul>When Cleopatra thinks she is the victim of some fast talk from Antony, she says: &quot;He words me, girls, he words me.&quot;
  17. 17. What do these passages illustrate? King Henry IV, who was not fat, was called &quot;portly.&quot; In The Merchant of Venice , a servant who intends to hurry tells his mistress he will go with all &quot;convenient&quot; speed. When Antony makes an alliance with Octavius in Julius Caesar, he calls him his &quot;competitor.&quot;
  18. 18. They contain words that have shifted meaning. King Henry IV, who was not fat, was called &quot; portly .“ (stately; imposing) In The Merchant of Venice , a servant who intends to hurry tells his mistress he will go with all &quot; convenient &quot; speed. (near at hand) When Antony makes an alliance with Octavius in Julius Caesar, he calls him his &quot; competitor .“ (one who strives in common/agrees)
  19. 19. What are these passages examples of? King Henry IV says the soil of England will no longer &quot;daub her lips with her children's blood.&quot; In A Midsummers' Night Dream , the course of young love is described as &quot;swift as a shadow, short as any dream, brief as lightning.&quot; In Romeo and Juliet , Romeo says, &quot;But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.&quot;
  20. 20. They all use metaphors. King Henry IV says the soil of England will no longer &quot;daub her lips with her children's blood.&quot; In A Midsummers' Night Dream , the course of young love is described as &quot;swift as a shadow, short as any dream, brief as lightning.&quot; In Romeo and Juliet , Romeo says, &quot;But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.&quot;

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