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Shakespeare's Language


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Introduction to Shakespeare's language, and why it's tough to read today.

Published in: Education, Technology
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Shakespeare's Language

  1. 1. Shakespeare’s Language A pre-Othello Primer
  2. 2. Shakespeare’s Language <ul><li>Why do people have trouble understanding his writing? </li></ul>
  3. 3. Shakespeare’s Language <ul><li>A lot has happened to the English Language since the late 1500’s </li></ul><ul><li>Shakespeare was a poet, as well as an actor and playwright, and thus interacted with language differently than most others </li></ul>
  4. 4. Shakespeare as Poet / Actor <ul><li>Used figurative language, slang, and word-play for effect </li></ul><ul><li>Wrote with poetic meter (rhythm of word sounds) in mind </li></ul><ul><li>Employed contemporary references </li></ul><ul><li>Was an actor in his own plays; employed soliloquy & aside </li></ul>
  5. 5. Changes in language over time <ul><li>Changes in Word Order: </li></ul><ul><li>“ These babes for Clarence weep” </li></ul><ul><li>Omission of words: </li></ul><ul><li>“ I’ll to Norway” </li></ul><ul><li>Apostrophe use: </li></ul><ul><li>“ Unless I have mista’en his colours” </li></ul>
  6. 6. Changes in language over time <ul><li>Grammatical Shifts: </li></ul><ul><li>“ One thing to rejoice and solace in” </li></ul><ul><li>Archaic words / Phrases: </li></ul><ul><li>“ Yet doth beauty, like a dial hand…” </li></ul><ul><li>Current words with older meanings: </li></ul><ul><li>“ A couch for … damned incest!” </li></ul>
  7. 7. Changes in language over time <ul><li>Poetic Meter: </li></ul><ul><li>“ When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes” </li></ul><ul><li>Royal Plural: </li></ul><ul><li>“ Shall we wear these glories?” </li></ul><ul><li>Pronoun &Verb Inflection differences… </li></ul>
  8. 8. Elizabethan Pronouns … just close enough to what we use to be confusing.
  9. 9. Elizabethan Verbs <ul><li>Inflections: </li></ul><ul><li>3 rd Person Singular: -th, not –s </li></ul><ul><li>(eg: “she give th ,” not “she gives”) </li></ul><ul><li>2 nd Person Familiar: add –est, -st, ‘st </li></ul><ul><li>(eg: “you give st ,” not “you give”) </li></ul>
  10. 10. Elizabethan Verbs <ul><li>Present Tense: </li></ul><ul><li>Past Tense: </li></ul>dost shalt canst wilt hast art Thou… Then do shall can will have are You... Now didst shouldst couldst wouldst hadst wast Thou… Then did should could would had were You... Now
  11. 11. Reading Tips <ul><li>Shakespeare’s English is similar to, but different from ours </li></ul><ul><li>Read carefully, bearing the differences in mind; exploit the similarities </li></ul><ul><li>Use your glossary for explanations </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t try to pronounce words you already know differently </li></ul>
  12. 12. FYI: It’s not “Old English” <ul><li>Shakespeare writes in “Early Modern” English </li></ul><ul><li>“Old English” look like this: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Oft Scyld Scefing         sceaþena þreatum, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>monegum mægþum,         meodosetla ofteah, egsode eorlas.         Syððan ærest wearð feasceaft funden,         he þæs frofre gebad, weox under wolcnum,         weorðmyndum þah, oðþæt him æghwylc         þara ymbsittendra </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>ofer hronrade         hyran scolde, gomban gyldan.         þæt wæs god cyning! </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Shakespeare & our English <ul><li>Words: </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;advertising&quot;, &quot;assassination&quot;, &quot;bedazzled&quot;, &quot;dishearten&quot;, &quot;eventful&quot;, &quot;eyesore&quot;, &quot;moonbeam&quot;, &quot;outbreak&quot;, &quot;quarrelsome&quot;, &quot;radiance&quot;, &quot;reclusive&quot;, &quot;stealthy&quot;, &quot;submerge&quot;, &quot;time-honored&quot;, &quot;undervalued&quot;, &quot;unmitigated&quot;, &quot;unreal&quot;, &quot;well-read&quot;, &quot;watchdog&quot; … </li></ul>
  14. 14. Shakespeare & our English <ul><li>Phrases: </li></ul><ul><li>- All that glitters is not gold (The Merchant of Venice) </li></ul><ul><li>- As good luck would have it (The Merry Wives of Windsor) </li></ul><ul><li>- Bated breath (The Merchant of Venice) </li></ul><ul><li>- Be-all and the end-all (Macbeth) </li></ul><ul><li>- Refuse to budge an inch (Measure for Measure / Taming of the Shrew) </li></ul><ul><li>- Dead as a doornail (2 Henry VI) </li></ul><ul><li>- Eaten me out of house and home (2 Henry IV) </li></ul><ul><li>- Elbow room (King John) </li></ul>
  15. 15. Shakespeare & our English <ul><li>Phrases: </li></ul><ul><li>- Faint hearted (I Henry VI) </li></ul><ul><li>- Forever and a day (As You Like It) </li></ul><ul><li>- For goodness' sake (Henry VIII) </li></ul><ul><li>- Full circle (King Lear) </li></ul><ul><li>- Good riddance (Troilus and Cressida) </li></ul><ul><li>- 'Tis high time (The Comedy of Errors) </li></ul><ul><li>- In a pickle (The Tempest) </li></ul><ul><li>- In my heart of hearts (Hamlet) </li></ul>
  16. 16. Shakespeare & our English <ul><li>Phrases: </li></ul><ul><li>- In my mind's eye ( Hamlet ) </li></ul><ul><li>- Kill with kindness (Taming of the Shrew) </li></ul><ul><li>- Knock knock! Who's there? (Macbeth) </li></ul><ul><li>- Laughing stock (The Merry Wives of Windsor) </li></ul><ul><li>- Live long day (Julius Caesar) </li></ul><ul><li>- Love is blind (Merchant of Venice) </li></ul><ul><li>- Melted into thin air (The Tempest ) </li></ul><ul><li>- Naked truth (Love's Labours Lost) </li></ul>
  17. 17. Shakespeare & our English <ul><li>Phrases: </li></ul><ul><li>- Not slept one wink (Cymbeline) </li></ul><ul><li>- Own flesh and blood (Hamlet) </li></ul><ul><li>- Snail paced (Troilus and Cressida) </li></ul><ul><li>- A sorry sight (Macbeth) </li></ul><ul><li>- The short and the long of it (The Merry Wives of Windsor) </li></ul><ul><li>- There's no such thing (Macbeth) </li></ul><ul><li>- Too much of a good thing (As You Like It) </li></ul><ul><li>- Wild-goose chase (Romeo and Juliet) </li></ul>
  18. 18. As we start our drama study… <ul><li>Enjoy Othello </li></ul><ul><li>Use the information from this presentation to further your understanding </li></ul><ul><li>Ask questions at any time </li></ul>