William Shakespeare Essay

Submitted By Ewelinaj13
Words: 865
Pages: 4

Shakespeare’s plays are really hard to read, because the language has changed a lot over last 400 years. Grammar changes slowly but vocabulary is constantly changing. Vocabulary can possibly change in three different ways. One of them is that the words can disappear completely, but also what can happen is that the meaning of the word can change. The other option is that new words are being created all the time- Shakespeare was making up words himself at times when no existing words would serve his purpose. Shakespeare’s work is full of words that are in the way out of language. As well as reflecting the changing language of his period, Shakespeare’s work has a considerable influence on contemporary English. Many of the words and idioms that were new when Shakespeare was writing have found their way into the standard vocabulary of the British English today. It happened mostly because his plays have long had a major role in British culture and education. Shakespeare was making the language difficult in order to express what the character in the play was trying to do. The difficulty is not just that this is Shakespeare: it is because Shakespeare is attempting to produce a particular effect on his audience. Sometimes it will be, because he is reproducing the street language of the poor. Sometimes the language is complex because Shakespeare is trying to reproduce complicated states of minds or feelings. Shakespeare is credited by the Oxford English Dictionary with the introduction of nearly 3,000 words into the language, but the vocabulary he used was estimated for over twenty thousand words. Shakespeare’s vocabulary shows a mixture of old and new words. There are some expressions, which might be unusual to a modern reader, but would not cause any difficulty to one familiar with Middle English poetry. Next to these archaisms, there are many neologisms. Not all of them have become well established, some have never been accepted into the language. Many of English words have their first occurrence in Shakespeare’s plays. Some of his innovations are now so familiar that people have no idea that Shakespeare was the first to use them. Good examples are words such as: assassination, barefaced, countless, laughable. Other words are very rare, so Shakespeare was the last, as well as the first to use them. Words first used in English by Shakespeare which have never really taken root in the language include: appertainments, conflux, unplausive, abruption, protractive. They all come from Troilus and Cressida. Shakespeare made very effective use of compounds made up of short familiar elements, such as fancy-free, crop-ear, ill-got and luck-lustre. Some new words are formed by the addition of affixes which seem to have no effect on the meaning of a word but which serve a metrical purpose in avoiding the juxtaposition of two strongly stressed syllables. Some words in Shakespeare’s plays are over-used by characters, like humour, which Nym introduces into nearly every speech he makes in Henry V and The Merry Wives of Windsor. In all Shakespeare’s plays we find parts, where the use of rhetoric was magnificent, but there are also parts, where the language, that was used, was very simple. The real difficulty in understanding Shakespeare is not presented by words that are obviously unusual, like miching mallecho, or by words in scenes strikingly different from those current today. It is presented by words which make sense if we give them their modern