Questions tagged [shakespeare]

Questions relating to William Shakespeare, an English poet, playwright, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist.

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30
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4answers
6k views

Why did English change so much between Chaucer and Shakespeare?

My inexpert perception of things is that the distance between The Canterbury Tales (end 14th century) and Romeo and Juliet (end 16th), from a language perspective, is vast, and vastly greater than the ...
27
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2answers
5k views

Shakespearean relative clause: “I have a brother is condemned to die”

In Measure for Measure 2.2.785, Shakespeare wrote the following sentence: I have a brother is condemned to die. I am wondering why he omitted the relative pronoun and left the helping verb. Isn't ...
24
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7answers
5k views

What do we call 'Shakespearean trash-talk'?

A classic example: In the opening scene of Richard II, Henry Bolingbroke and Mowbray seeks the adjudication of the king. They hurl accusations of treachery and cowardliness at each other. They ...
23
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2answers
1k views

What word did Middle English have in place of “light" as in: “light blue”, “light green” etc.?

In English, we often use the adjective light before another colour to express a whiter shade of hue. For example, light blue, light green, light brown, etc. The term pale is used in a similar way, e....
18
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2answers
851 views

Pronunciation of 'host' in Shakespeare's time

Listening to the recent film production of Macbeth with Patrick Stewart, I noticed that Duncan says: Give me your hand. Conduct me to mine host. Obviously, it's in the text (Act 1, Scene 6). I'm ...
17
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2answers
3k views

Why, in A Midsummer Night's Dream, does “square” mean “quarrel”?

When referring to dictionaries, there seems to be no such meaning as "quarrel" under the word "square", only "in agreement". But in II 1 of A Midsummer Night's Dream, "square" in the following text ...
15
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4answers
5k views

Does the modern definition of “awful” come from its homonym to “offal”?

The following lines are found in Act I, Scene III of Julius Caesar: What trash is Rome, What rubbish and what offal, when it serves For the base matter to illuminate So vile a thing as Caesar! To my ...
15
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4answers
2k views

…down the primrose path

What is the origin of primrose used in the idiom primrose path, as defined by the Oxford Online Dictionary? primrose path The pursuit of pleasure, especially when it is seen to bring ...
15
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4answers
1k views

Does “goodly” in this sentence in Hamlet mean “considerable” or "pleasing?

In Hamlet there is the following conversation: GUILDENSTERN: Prison, my lord! HAMLET: Denmark's a prison. ROSENCRANTZ: Then is the world one. HAMLET: A goodly one; in which there are ...
14
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5answers
26k views

Thank thou or Thank thee

How would Shakespeare have said "Thank you"? Can't decide if it is thee or thou, since it isn't really a sentence.
11
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6answers
203k views

Is “worser” correct grammatically?

Is worser correct grammatically? I know it seems incorrect, but I stumbled upon the word when reading Hamlet: Oh, throw away the worser part of it, And live the purer with the other half. ...
10
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6answers
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“Fool” meaning “baby”

The word is "fool." The OED has been no help on this, but my copy of Hamlet makes reference to its having the meaning "baby" so when Polonius says "You'll tender me a fool" he is cautioning Ophelia ...
10
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1answer
4k views

Searching for a literary term for “if this, then I’m a this” statements

I’m reading Shakespeare’s Henry IV (Part 1) right now and I’m noticing that Sir John Falstaff has a propensity of saying “If this, then I’m a this” sort of statements. A few examples to clarify: … ...
8
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1answer
513 views

Shakespeare's “slow as the elephant”

I am reading Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, in Act 1 Scene 2 Alexander gives the following portrait of Ajax: "[...] he is as valiant as the lion, churlish as the bear, slow as the elephant; a ...
8
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1answer
3k views

Stage direction like “Enter Hamlet”

I'm wondering about the grammatical structure of a stage direction "Enter Hamlet". Is "Enter" in the imperative mood or the present subjunctive mood? If it is in the imperative mood, who is the person ...
8
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6answers
917 views

“As I am wo/man” in Twelfth Night, II, 2 (Shakespeare): a case of indefinite article omission or no?

Are "As I am man" and "As I am woman" in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, II, 2 examples of indefinite article omission or not? This question is (e)specially directed towards those familiar with ...
7
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3answers
570 views

Was Shakespeare's use of “retrograde” an astronomical metaphor?

In Hamlet (I.2) Claudius remarks to Hamlet that his plan to return to university at Wittenberg is ... most retrograde to our desire ... To a modern ear, this is striking and poetic, but I wonder: ...
7
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1answer
374 views

Shakespeare's Scansion

Here are lines from "Richard III": Farewell. The leisure and the fearful time Cuts off the ceremonious vows of love And ample interchange of sweet discourse Which so long sundered ...
6
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3answers
4k views

What does Macbeth mean when he says his heart is “seated”?

Here's the quote (from The Tragedy of Macbeth, by William Shakespeare): This supernatural soliciting Cannot be ill, cannot be good. If ill, Why hath it given me earnest of success, Commencing ...
6
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1answer
599 views

What does the phrase “Lady-Macbethed” mean? [closed]

Colonel Hampton snorted contemptuously. Senile dementia! Well, he must have been senile and demented, to bring this pair of snakes into his home, because he felt an obligation to his dead brother'...
6
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3answers
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“Small Latin and Less Greek”

About a third of the way through his poem "To the Memory of My Beloved the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare and What He Hath Left Us," Ben Jonson writes: And though thou hadst small Latin and less ...
6
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1answer
3k views

What does “Would he had blotted a thousand!” mean?

I come across this passage in Bill Bryson's book, "Shakespeare": "His mind and hand went together,' they [John Hemings and Henry Condell] wrote in the introduction to the First Folio, 'and what he ...
6
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2answers
3k views

Is Shakespeare's Double Negative Grammatically Wrong?

In Act I Scene I of The Merchant of Venice Shakespeare's character Salarino uses a double negative in the phrase Not in love neither?, is this grammatically wrong or was this acceptable at the time? [...
6
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2answers
726 views

How/When did English transform to the modern version we use today? [closed]

I know that a language evolves with time and constantly keeps itself up to people's needs. But when I read a bible or a poem of Shakespeare, I can see English was very different by then with sentences ...
6
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1answer
376 views

What does “carry't” mean?

What does "carry't" mean? I can't find a definition for it on the web. Here's an example of its use from Shakespeare's Othello, the Moor of Venice: What a full fortune does the thick-lips ...
6
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1answer
332 views

Did 'lawyer' have a broader meaning in Shakespeare's time?

In Act 4, Scene 2 of Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 2, Dick the butcher, one of Jack Cade's rebels, shouts: The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers. The rebels bring in the clerk of ...
6
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9answers
645 views

Expression for “Puts the world into her person and so gives me out.”

In Much Ado About Nothing, there is at one point the following sentence (Act 2, Scene 1, spoken by Benedick): I am not so reputed; it is the base, though bitter, disposition of Beatrice that puts ...
6
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2answers
378 views

Variety of English used by the Romantic poets| -eth/-s for the third person singular in particular

I have recently been reading poetry by John Keats and Rabindranath Tagore. Both these poets, being active in the 19th century, by which time I think English was quite as it is today, wrote still in ...
6
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3answers
2k views

Middle English or Elizabethan English as a second language? [closed]

Are there books, web sites, or language courses designed for English speakers who want to learn Middle English or Elizabethan English in the same way that they would learn a foreign language? It would ...
6
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3answers
22k views

What does this mean: To be thus is nothing; But to be safely thus

This is taken from Shakespeare's Macbeth, and I am having difficulty comprehending what this means. Can someone please put it into normal English, with all explanations?
5
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2answers
3k views

Death's dateless night

What do you think Shakespeare meant by this expression, which occurs in one of his sonnets? “When to the sessions of sweet silent thought I summon up remembrance of things past, I sigh the lack ...
5
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2answers
3k views

Is “Signifying nothing” an example of litotes?

In Macbeth's Tomorrow speech To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The ...
5
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3answers
3k views

What is an “aglet-baby” exactly?

This is a line from the Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare Grumio [to Hortensio]: Marry him to a puppet or an aglet-baby . . . Although 'aglet' is an extremely uncommon word, its meaning can ...
5
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2answers
1k views

Twelfth Night: Why does Olivia call Sir Toby “cousin”?

I’m reading Twelfth Night, where in Act 1, Scene 5, Olivia says to Sir Toby Belch: Olivia: Cousin, cousin, how have you come so early by this lethargy? How come she’s calling her uncle “cousin”?
5
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1answer
135 views

Was it common in Shakespeare's time for adverbial phrases and objects to precede the verb in spoken English?

I'm trying to come up with a list of differences between Shakespeare's manner of writing and modern English, and one of the big differences I've noticed is that Shakespeare often seems to put ...
5
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2answers
2k views

Shakespeare's “say sooth” vs. “tell truth”

The noun sooth, pronounced /suːθ/, is now archaic and means ‘fact’,‘reality’ and ‘truth’. Its legacy persists in the words soothe /suːð/, and soothsayer meaning someone who sees the truth, a synonym ...
5
votes
1answer
184 views

Did Shakespeare really coin “Alligator”?

I have read many essays on the heavily debated subject of just how many words Our immortal Bard coined. I think it is safe to say, some of the words (and phrases) which are credited to him are ...
5
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2answers
235 views

Shakespeare's Scansion: the Sequel

Okay, so we seem to have established (with lots of great and generous help from StoneyB and Peter Shor) that: where it came to certain diphthongs, Shakespeare either elided syllables that didn't fit ...
4
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1answer
340 views

Was Shakespeare's Hamlet truly fat?

In the final scene Hamlet's mother, watching the duel and worried about her son's fortunes, observes that He's fat and scant of breath. Editions that bother to explain this or that archaic turn of ...
4
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1answer
1k views

Does Shakespeare use the word “whence” incorrectly? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Is “from whence” correct? Or should it be “whence”? From the Shakespeare's Sonnet XLVIII, ... From whence at pleasure thou mayst come and part;  And even ...
4
votes
1answer
462 views

Original pronunciation of “kind” in “A little more than kin, and less than kind”

I'm wondering about the original pronunciation of "kind" in the famous line "A little more than kin, and less than kind" by Hamlet. Was it like "keend" or the present-day "kind"? If the great vowel ...
4
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2answers
479 views

Shakespearean way of speaking

Was the language used in Shakespeare's plays commonly used among people at that time in normal speech? I know that iambic pentameter was commonly used in formal, pre-prepared speeches at the time, but ...
3
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2answers
3k views

What did Shakespeare mean by “gild refined gold” [closed]

In the play King John by Shakespeare the following line is used: To gild refined gold, to paint the lily, To throw a perfume on the violet, What did Shakespeare mean by "gild refined gold"? ...
3
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2answers
2k views

Is Shakespeare proper English? [closed]

"Divides one thing entire to many objects; Like perspectives, which rightly gazed upon show nothing but confusion..." - William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of King Richard the Second I read plenty of ...
3
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2answers
759 views

Why does Hamlet not say, “ere he rots?”

How long will a man lie i' the earth ere he rot? The quoted line is Hamlet's. I wonder why the "rot" is not "rots".
3
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2answers
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Meaning of “I would there were…”?

What is the meaning of "I would there were", as in this quote from Shakespeare's "A Winter's Tale"? I would there were no age between sixteen and three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out ...
3
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3answers
1k views

Did Shakespeare really mean meat pies by baked meats?

Here's from Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2(The Arden Shakespeare edited by Harold Jenkins). Thrift, thrift, Horatio. The funeral bak'd meats Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables. Jenkins interpreted ...
3
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2answers
523 views

Roaming and Coming in William Shakespeare's O Mistress Mine

William Shakespeare's O Mistress Mine, Feste's song from Twelfth Night, seems to have the rhyming scheme AABCCB. However, the first two lines are problematic for that scheme with modern pronunciation: ...
3
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1answer
2k views

Adjective/noun for a situation that cannot be solved? [duplicate]

I am writing an essay on Act 3 Scene 5 in Romeo and Juliet where the romantic play takes the turn for tragic. Indeed, Juliet loses the support of her primary family and is left deserted, with no hope ...
3
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2answers
2k views

Go out into the world - The Tempest?

A few years ago, we studied the London Paralympics Opening Ceremony with our English teacher. The following words (spoken by Sir Ian McKellen if I remember well) are still echoing in my mind: Miranda,...