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Shakespeare's Language

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by

Bo Clausen

on 17 August 2014

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Transcript of Shakespeare's Language

"You speak a language that I understand not!"
Shakespeare's Language

Editions of Shakespeare
Language born or reborn?
Verse?
Prose?
Three myths about Shakespeare's language:
Shakespeare invented 1/3 of the English language!
Shakespeare had the largest vocabulary ever!
It is impossible to understand Shakespeare without a modern translation!
Myth busters
There are more than 4 times as many words in modern English as in Renaissance English!
Shakespeare's vocabulary WAS impressive!
Shakespeare "invented" app. 1700 words (ie. he was the first recorded user of them)
About 50% stayed (gloomy, lonely etc.)
When all is said and done there is only 5-10% difference in grammar and vocabulary.
Shakespearean English is not THAT different from modern English!
w did the plays reach us today?

Quarto editions prior to 1623

First folio 1623

Who dictated the texts to the printers?

Who typeset and printed them?

Good / bad editions – and problems of error

Why is it called a “role”?
How did the plays reach us today?
Why are they called "roles"
Copyright?
Who typeset and printed them?
Who dictated the texts to the printers?
Good and bad editions - errors?
Quarto editions before 1623
First folio 1623
First monolingual English dictionary: 1604
Many new words
Many rules not yet formulated:
* spelling (Shaksper, Shakspere, Shakspear...)
* punctuation (. ! ,)
* abbreviation (etc. &c. ecet)
* capitalization (english, English)
Presence or absence of final -e (againe)
Apostrophe to replace letter (arm'd)
-ie instead of -y (busie)
Double/single consonant (royall)
ie or ee for sounds [ee] (neere)
No difference i/j u/v

70% of spelling is the same!
App. 1,000 completely unfamiliar words (finical, incony)
App. 200 “false friends” (“demand” means “ask”)
Shakespeare likes to pun (words with several meanings; cf. “Sonnet 135”)
Other important differences:
Thou goest (you go)
She goeth, she hath (she goes/has)
-th already archaic at the time (-s)
Pronouns - 2nd person singular:
Thou, thee, thy, thine, thy selfe (intimate)
You, ye, your, yours, your selfe (polite singular)
The choice may express class distinction
Most plays are a mixture of prose and verse
The characters can often accommodate
Higher social class
Lower social class
High style (courage, love)
Low style (teasing, sex talk)
Iambic pentameter: (5 X u-) (line consists of five iambs)
“Oh,
Ro
meo,
Ro
meo,
where
fore
art
thou
Ro
meo?”

Usually blank verse (rhyme spared for “special occasions”)

Spelling often emphasizes rhythm:
“Pro
fa
ners
of
this
neigh
bour-
stai
néd
steel

“With
Cu
pid's
ar
row,
she
hath
Di
an's
wit


Ride hest-øvelse:
I am...I am... I am... I am... I am...
I stress the words I want you all to hear

Make your own iambic pentameter line
Full transcript