Shakespeare Saturday: Shakes & Language

Hey, guys! Me again! If you weren’t tired of me before, you definitely are now, hunh? Sorry. At least today’s a brief one! It’s really just a cool little article on the nature of Shakespeare’s ability to manipulate language and how we excuse him for things we dismiss as ‘weakening’ the language today.

It’s not a huge thing, but it does bring up an interesting point: why is it that so many people seem to have called for a static language? The idea that English is English and should be spoken/written/understood in a clearly defined, rigid way? Shakespeare certainly seems to have gotten away with manipulating the English language to suit his needs; in fact, a number of his changes have become indelible parts of the lexicon. Perhaps it has something to do with the codification of English, which came, in large part, after Shakespeare’s time (along with the idea that we should probably pick an agreed-upon spelling for words, maybe). Or maybe it comes from our tendency to glorify & demonize people on a wider, more exaggerated scale the farther into the past they lived, so Shakespeare’s liberality with our language is excused as a product of its familiarity.

Perhaps it has something to do with how understandable Shakespeare’s linguistic choices were? As the article (which I will post in a moment) states, Shakespeare had a tendency to take words people already knew and understood, and twist them slightly, very often taking a noun and turning it into a verb or vice versa. And, after all, what is the point of language if not to be a tool for communication? Maybe the difference between Shakespeare’s choices and the idiocy that is the phrase ‘on fleek’ (shame unto you, my fellow Millennials) is that Shakespeare did not undermine the fluency of his language. He understood its use and found new ways of using it that built upon previous linguistic definitions.

Maybe he was just better at making up new words than we are. Because, frankly, we make up some stupid ass shit.

Here’s the article:

An excellent piece of discourse on William Shakespeare.

(Note: sorry for you guys who like King John.)


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