Works of Shakespeare and historical stylistics

William Shakespeare as the father of English literature and the great author of America. His place in drama of 16th century and influence on American English. Literary devices in works and development style. Basic his works: classification and chronology.

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  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. William Shakespeare - the father of English literature and the great author of America
    • 1.1 Shakespeare's place in English drama of 16th century
    • 1.2 Shakespeare's works: classification and chronology
    • 1.3 Shakespeare's influence on American English
  • Chapter 2. The Language of Shakespeare
    • 2.1 Morphological peculiarities
    • 2.2 Literary Devices in Shakespeare's works
    • 2.3 The development of Shakespeare's style
  • Conclusion
  • List of literature


William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 (baptised) - 23 April 1616) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist.

By that time England had become a powerful state, but there was not much change for the better in the life of the English people and the power of money grew stronger. Shakespeare saw these contrasts and showed them in his works.

All the writing of Shakespeare deal with love, life and death and these universal themes get beautiful touch by him. His poetry and dramas reflect that he had extraordinary knowledge of human psychology. Therefore, his characters have become memorable in the field of literature.

Shakespeare explored poetry and drama but it is drama that brought fame for him. Even his dramas are poetically crafted. Poetry is inseparable from his writing. He has given immortal lines. To be or not to be is oft quoted line from Hamlet that is reflected in a modern man who is caught in the same idea of perplexity.

This work is relevant because with its help we can learn more about Shakespeare's influence not only on English literature but language.

Words and phrases from Shakespeare's writings have become part of the English language and are used by all. That is why, this theme is so actual.

The aim is to read the grammatical and stylistic techniques that were used by Shakespeare.

The object of work is a process of influencing of Shakespearian language on English literature and American English.

The subject is analysis of Shakespeare's works.

The information base of investigation is journal and newspaper articles, articles published in scholarly books, textbooks, and publications on the Internet.

Chapter 1. William Shakespeare - the father of English literature and the great author of America

1.1 Shakespeare's place in English drama of 16th century

16th century was the period of rapid literature development in England. Suppressive French influence on state sphere and culture was negotiated. National typography developed violently. Also many temporal and turned books appeared during that period. Bible's translation into English was of great importance.

There were two trends aught to the problem of regulatory language among the 16th century writers. Edmund Spenser was the representative of first trend and William Shakespeare - of second one.

Edmund Spenser is recognized as one of the premier craftsmen of Modern English verse in its infancy, and is considered one of the greatest poets in the English language. Though Spenser was well read in classical literature, scholars have noted that his poetry does not rehash tradition, but rather is distinctly his. This individuality may have resulted, to some extent, from a lack of comprehension of the classics. Spenser strove to emulate such ancient Roman poets as Virgil and Ovid, whom he studied during his schooling, but many of his best-known works are notably divergent from those of his predecessors. The language of his poetry is purposely archaic, reminiscent of earlier works such as The Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer and II Canzoniere of Francesco Petrarca, whom Spenser greatly admired.

Spenser was called a Poets' Poet and was admired by William Wordsworth, John Keats, Lord Byron, and Alfred Lord Tennyson, among others.

During Shakespeare's lifetime, the English language experiences a significant growth spurt in both the number of words and the variety of syntactical structures in which words can be employed. While writers are bringing numerous words from Latin into English, they are also experimenting with syntax to achieve the accuracy and the expressive range of lost inflections. This freedom of experimentation is unhampered by established systems of rules and usage that might confine the range of meaning of individual words or that might restrict the ways in which words are combined and ordered.

Shakespeare thus writes not only in a linguistically rich field, but also in an age where there is little grammatical strictness. Like dictionaries, grammar books were written for (and associated with) foreign languages rather than English.

The most striking feature of Shakespeare is his command of language. It is all the more astounding when one not only considers Shakespeare's sparse formal education but the curriculum of the day. There were no dictionaries; the first such lexical work for speakers of English was compiled by schoolmaster Robert Cawdrey as A Table Alphabeticall in 1604. Although certain grammatical treatises were published in Shakespeare's day, organized grammar texts would not appear until the 1700s. Shakespeare as a youth would have no more systematically studied his own language than any educated man of the period.

Despite this, Shakespeare is credited by the Oxford English Dictionary with the introduction of nearly 3,000 words into the language. His vocabulary, as culled from his works, numbers upward of 17,000 words (quadruple that of an average, well-educated conversationalist in the language).

Shakespeare has had a huge influence on the English language. Some people today reading Shakespeare for the first time complain that the language is difficult to read and understand, yet we are still using hundreds of words and phrases coined by him in our everyday conversation.

Here are some of the most popular Shakespeare phrases in common use today[15]:

A laughing stock (The Merry Wives of Windsor);

A sorry sight (Macbeth);

As dead as a doornail (Henry VI);

Eaten out of house and home (Henry V, Part 2);

Fair play (The Tempest);

I will wear my heart upon my sleeve (Othello);

In a pickle (The Tempest);

In stitches (Twelfth Night);

In the twinkling of an eye (The Merchant Of Venice);

Mum's the word (Henry VI, Part 2);

Neither here nor there (Othello);

Send him packing (Henry IV);

Set your teeth on edge (Henry IV);

There's method in my madness (Hamlet);

Too much of a good thing (As You Like It);

Vanish into thin air (Othello).

In many cases, it is not known if Shakespeare actually invented these phrases, or if they were already in use during Shakespeare's lifetime. In fact, it is almost impossible to identify when a word or phrase was first used, but Shakespeare's plays often provide the earliest citation.

The strength of Shakespeare's plays lies in the absorbing stories they tell, in their wealth of complex characters, and in the eloquent speech - vivid, forceful, and at the same time lyric - that the playwright puts on his characters' lips. It has often been noted that Shakespeare's characters are neither wholly good nor wholly evil, and that it is their flawed, inconsistent nature that makes them memorable. Hamlet fascinates audiences with his ambivalence about revenge and the uncertainty over how much of his madness is feigned and how much genuine. Falstaff would not be beloved if, in addition to being genial, openhearted, and witty, he were not also boisterous, cowardly, and, ultimately, poignant. Finally, the plays are distinguished by an unparalleled use of language. Shakespeare had a tremendous vocabulary and a corresponding sensitivity to nuance, as well as a singular aptitude for coining neologisms and punning.

Shakespeare is cited as an influence on a large number of writers in the following centuries, including major novelists such as Herman Melville[9], Charles Dickens[4], Thomas Hardy and William Faulkner[8]. Examples of this influence include the large number of Shakespearean quotations throughout Dickens' writings[4] and the fact that at least 25 of Dickens' titles are drawn from Shakespeare[6], while Melville frequently used Shakespearean devices, including formal stage directions and extended soliloquies, in Moby-Dick[7]. In fact, Shakespeare so influenced Melville that the novel's main antagonist, Captain Ahab, is a classic Shakespearean tragic figure, a great man brought down by his faults[1]. Shakespeare has also influenced a number of English poets, especially Romantic poets such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge who were obsessed with self-consciousness, a modern theme Shakespeare anticipated in plays such as Hamlet. Shakespeare's writings were so influential to English poetry of the 1800s that critic George Steiner has called all English poetic dramas from Coleridge to Tennyson feeble variations on Shakespearean themes.

1.2 Shakespeare's works: classification and chronology

The chronology of Shakespeare's plays is uncertain, but a reasonable approximation of their order can be inferred from dates of publication, references in contemporary writings, allusions in the plays to contemporary events, thematic relationships, and metrical and stylistic comparisons. His first plays are believed to be the three parts of Henry VI; it is uncertain whether Part I was written before or after Parts II and III. Richard III is related to these plays and is usually grouped with them as the final part of a first tetra logy of historical plays[13].

After these come The Comedy of Errors, Titus Andronicus (almost a third of which may have been written by George Peele), The Taming of the Shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love's Labour's Lost, and Romeo and Juliet. Some of the comedies of this early period are classical imitations with a strong element of farce. The two tragedies, Titus Andronicus and Romeo and Juliet, were both popular in Shakespeare's own lifetime.

After these early plays, and before his great tragedies, Shakespeare wrote Richard II, A Midsummer Night's Dream, King John, The Merchant of Venice, Parts I and II of Henry IV, Much Ado about Nothing, Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and Twelfth Night. The comedies of this period partake less of farce and more of idyllic romance, while the history plays successfully integrate political elements with individual characterization. Taken together, Richard II, each part of Henry IV, and Henry V form a second tetra logy of historical plays, although each can stand alone, and they are usually performed separately. The two parts of Henry IV feature Falstaff, a vividly depicted character who from the beginning has enjoyed immense popularity.

The period of Shakespeare's great tragedies and the problem plays begins in 1600 with Hamlet. Following this are The Merry Wives of Windsor (written to meet Queen Elizabeth's request for another play including Falstaff, it is not thematically typical of the period), Troilus and Cressida, All's Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus.

On familial, state, and cosmic levels, Othello, Lear, and Macbeth present clear oppositions of order and chaos, good and evil, and spirituality and animality. Stylistically the plays of this period become increasingly compressed and symbolic. Through the portrayal of political leaders as tragic heroes, Coriolanus and Antony and Cleopatra involve the study of politics and social history as well as the psychology of individuals.

It is not easy to categorically say whether a Shakespeare play is a tragedy, comedy or history because the Shakespeare blurred the boundaries between these genres. For example, Much Ado About Nothing begins like a comedy, but soon descends into tragedy - leading some critics to describe the play as a tragi-comedy.

His plays generally fall into four categories[12]:

1. Pre-1594 (Richard III, The Comedy of Errors);

2. 1594-1600 (Henry V, Midsummer Night's Dream);

3. 1600-1608 (Macbeth, King Lear);

4. Post-1608 (Cymbeline, The Tempest).

At some point in the early 1590s, Shakespeare began writing a compilation of sonnets. The sonnet was arguably the most popular bound verse form in England when Shakespeare began writing. Imported from Italy (as the Petrarchan or Italian sonnet), the form took on a distinctive English style of three distinctively rhymed quatrains capped by a rhymed couplet comprising 14 total lines of verse. This allowed the author to build a rising pattern of complication in a three-act movement, followed by the terse denouement of the final two lines. Conventional subject matter of the Elizabethan sonnet concerned love, beauty, and faith.

Shakespeare as a poet could hardly have ignored the sonnet as a verse form. He appears to have written a sequence of them, dedicated to a Master W.H., and the sequence as a whole appears to follow a loose narrative structure. Of the 154 sonnets, there are three broad divisions [14]:

Sonnets 1-126, which deal with a young, unnamed lord, the fair youth of the sonnets.

Sonnets 127-152, which deal with the poet's relationship to a mysterious mistress, the dark lady of the sonnets.

Sonnets 153-154, which seem to be poetic exercises dedicated to Cupid.

The sonnets are poignant musings upon love, beauty, mortality, and the effects of time. They also defy many expected conventions of the traditional sonnet by addressing praises of beauty and worth to the fair youth, or by using the third quatrain as part of the resolution of the poem.

1.3 Shakespeare's influence on American English

Many people have forgotten (or never knew) the importance of the Bard on pop culture in America's nineteenth century. Today, the common perception is that only elite academics can truly understand and enjoy Shakespeare, while the vulgar rabble may understand bits and pieces (often using his words and phrases, as we discussed above), they at best only appreciate (rather than love) the Bard. This belief exists as an eternal truism, and is therefore false on two fronts. First, the American vulgate of today do enjoy Shakespeare (as cinematic examples of proof, see the success of Romeo + Juliet [1996] or Shakespeare in Love [1998]). Second, for most of the nineteenth century, Americans could not get enough Shakespeare.

From the large and often opulent theaters of major cities to the makeshift stages in halls, saloons, and churches of small towns and mining camps, Lawrence Levine writes, . . . Shakespeare's plays were performed prominently and frequently [20]. In the 1880's, Karl Kurtz (a German visiting the United States) said:

There is, assuredly, no other country on earth in which Shakespeare and the Bible are held in such general high esteem as in America . . . If you were to enter an isolated log cabin in the Far West and even if its inhabitant were to exhibit many of the traces of backwoods living . . . you will certainly find the Bible and in most cases also some cheap edition of the works of the poet Shakespeare. (qtd. in Levine 17-18)

Shakespeare was intimate and familiar to Americans, and not to just some city folk in the Northeast. Americans not only enjoyed him, they embraced the Bard as their own: James Fenimore Cooper . . . called Shakespeare `the great author of America' and insisted that Americans had `just as good a right' as Englishmen to claim Shakespeare as their countryman [20]. Parodies of Shakespeare's work abounded in the nineteenth century - something only possible if a great number knew Shakespeare's work to get the joke. Bardolators of today may look back in horror that Shakespeare was often performed alongside the playbill with dancing dogs, jugglers, and minstrel shows. People argued in print and in the streets whether the emotional Edwin Forrest was a better American Shakespearean actor than the cerebral Edwin Booth, with the same passion that sport fans argue on talk radio today. Indeed, the 1849 Astor Place Opera House Riot occurred because of such passions. While across town, Edwin Forrest's Macbeth was getting raves, the Englishman William Charles Macready's Macbeth was getting boo'ed at Astor Place. His aristocratic demeanor annoyed the audience. Macready wanted to end the run of the production, but was persuaded to stay by people such as Washington Irving and Herman Melville. On May 10, eighteen hundred people packed Astor Place while ten thousand stood outside. A riot broke out, killing twenty-two people and injuring one hundred and fifty more. This is how much Shakespeare meant to Americans! Levine sums it up thus:

Shakespeare was performed not merely alongside popular entertainment as an elite supplement to it; Shakespeare was performed as an integral part of it. Shakespeare was popular entertainment in nineteenth-century America.

With Shakespeare's influence on American culture assured, do we see the same kind of influence on American English? Yes. Early modern English was shaped by Shakespeare, Bloom tells us [10], but American English was shaped as well. We see this in two areas.

The first is grammatical fallacies. These fallacies are often pointed out by critics of American English (and English in general) as examples of our laziness and inability to be accurately articulate. However, Shakespeare himself used these same wrong constructions:

You and me is correct, You and I is not. Yet around 400 years ago, Aitcheson writes, in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, the merchant Antonio says: `All debts are cleared between you and I,' so breaking the supposed `rule' that you and me is the `correct' form of the after a preposition [16].

Double negatives are wrong. For emphasis, however, it seems accepted: most scholars agree that the more negatives there were in a sentence, the more emphatic the denial or rejection (Cheshire 120):

I have one heart, one bosom, and one truth

And that no woman has; nor never none

Shall mistress be of it, save I alone. (Twelfth Night III:i, qtd. in Cheshire 120)

It is I is correct, It is me is not. It is Latin grammatical constructions that make It is me seem incorrect. But both forms are used in Twelfth Night (II.v):

MALVOLIO: You waste the treasure of your time with a foolish knight -

SIR ANDREW: That's me, I warrant you.

MALVOLIO: One Sir Andrew.

SIR ANDREW: I knew `twas I, for many do call me fool. (qtd. in Bauer 134).

When elitists bemoan American English as ungrammatical, we can see they are only following in the footsteps of that most influential author.

The second area where Shakespeare shapes American English is in our supposed pure language ancestry. Here, the influence is based on myth instead of fact, yet that does not diminish the importance Americans place on Shakespeare. In In the Appalachians They Speak Like Shakespeare, Michael Montgomery tackles this myth and reveals it to be false: Two things in particular account for its continued vitality: its romanticism and its political usefulness. Its linguistic validity is another matter. Montgomery cites several reasons why it is invalid; there is little evidence it is true, the little evidence that exists is not persuasive, and one incontrovertible fact: Shakespeare and Elizabeth I lived 400 years ago, but the southern mountains have been populated by Europeans for only half that length of time. Since no one came directly from Britain to the Appalachians, we wonder how they preserved their English during the intervening period. The myth persists, however. The fact that so-called uneducated rural dwellers would want to identify with Shakespeare show how much Americans revere and want to identify with him, even in the backwoods of the United States.

shakespeare drama english literature

Chapter 2. The Language of Shakespeare

2.1 Morphological peculiarities

Shakespeare lived at a time when England was undergoing the revolution in ritual theory and practice we know as the English Reformation. With it came an unprecedented transformation in the language of religious life. Whereas priests had once acted as mediators between God and men through sacramental rites, Reformed theology declared the priesthood of all believers. What ensued was not the tidy replacement of one doctrine by another but a long and messy conversation about the conventions of religious life and practice[11].

In the England of Shakespeare's time, English was a lot more flexible as a language. In addition, Shakespeare was writing as a dramatic poet and playwright, not as a scholar or historian. Combine the flux of early modern English with Shakespeare's artistic license (and don't forget to throw in a lot of words that have either shifted meaning or disappeared from the lexicon entirely), and there are some subtle difficulties in interpreting Shakespeare's meaning some 400 years after the fact. As with most popular playwrights of any era, Shakespeare uses language with facility and power, but with a colloquial freedom as well.

In English, one word can be as a noun, an adjective or a verb. And Shakespeare's period marks out greatly. It was a time, when there were new grammatical functions for many words. And William Shakespeare stood on the first stage among his contemporaries. In his works, a word can be turned to another grammatical category.

Shakespeare's innovative use of grammar, however, set him apart from his contemporaries. Shakespeare completely reinvented grammar, breaking away from the conformity of traditional rules[16].

We have to highlight a passage from Hamlet (III:4), where Shakespeare plays with the normal rules of English that demand a sentence is structured with the order; subject, verb, object. In the scene the queen says to her son: Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended. Nowadays, we would expect, `Thou has much offended thy father Hamlet'.

Shakespeare used a great deal of SOV (Subject-object-verb) inversion, which renders the sentence as John the ball caught. This order is commonly found in Germanic languages (more so in subordinate clauses), from which English derives much of its syntactical foundation. Shakespeare also throws in many examples of OSV construction (The ball John caught.). Shakespeare seems to use this colloquially in many places as a transitory device, bridging two sentences, to provide continuity. Shakespeare (and many other writers) may also have used this as a device to shift end emphasis to the verb of a clause. Also, another prevalent usage of inversion was the VS order shift (caught John instead of John caught'), which seems primarily a stylistic choice that further belies the Germanic root of modern English[16].

In Shakespeare's noun-to-verb conversions what are thought of as stable objects . . . are wrenched from their passivity to acquire new vigour as actions, observing further that metaphor harmonizes well with the flexibility of conversion. This union of metaphor and grammatical conversion is evident throughout Antony and Cleopatra, where shifts from noun to verb simultaneously affirm the fertility of metaphor and displace action from the material to the more fluid metaphorical realm. Whether the characters be Roman or Egyptian, their language persistently coins new words by incubating the solidity of nouns and adjectives into the dynamic liquidity of verbs. Thus, joint becomes a verb at 1.2.91, safe at 1.3.55, dumb at 1.5.50, spaniel at 4.7.21, and boy at 5.2.220, while candy melts itself into discandy at 3.13.166 and 4.12.22. These conversions garner tremendous dramatic advantages. For instance, Terttu Nevalainen notes that by turning dumb from an adjective into a verb, instead of using the already-available verb silence, Shakespeare gains both the solidity of an Anglo-Saxon root word (instead of the more abstract, Latinate silence) and an association with the inarticulacy of beasts - beasts were and are commonly described as dumb rather than mute. Such advantages supplement what is always present in Shakespeare's functional conversion of nouns and adjectives into verbs, the dramatic energy and economy of expression[14].

Adjectives are freely used by Shakespeare as adverbs:

I do know, when the blood burns, how prodigal the soul lends the tongue vows. (Polonius to Ophelia in Hamlet I:3);

And you, my sinews, grow not instant old. (Hamlet I:5);

Which the false man does easy (Macbeth II: 3).

We find the two forms of the adverb side by side in:

She was new lodged and newly deified. (A Lover's Complaint. 84).

The position of the article shows that mere is an adverb in:

Heaven and our Lady gracious has it pleas'd. (First Part of King Henry the Sixth);

Ay, surely, mere the truth. (All's Well That Ends Well III:5 ).

Such transpositions as our lady gracious, (adj.) where gracious is a mere epithet, are not common in Shakespeare. For example:

My lady sweet, arise, (Cymbeline II:3).

My-lady is more like one word than our lady, and is also an appellative. In appellations such transpositions are allowed.

Sometimes the two forms occur together:

And she will speak most bitterly and strange. (Measure for Measure V:1).

In Shakespeare's works intransitive verbs sometimes acquire the transitional value. For example:

Why this same strict and observant watch so nightly toils the subject of the land? (Hamlet I:1).

In rare cases, the transitive verbs were used in the intransitive sense. For example verb to lack (to be needed).

and what so poor a man as Hamlet is may do to express his love and friending to you, God willing, shall not lack. (Hamlet I: 5).

Indicative simple present for complete present with adverbs signifying as yet, &c. This is in accordance with the Latin idiom, jampridem opto, &c., and it is explicable on the ground that, when an action continued up to the present time is still continuing, the speaker may prefer the verb to dwell simply on the fact that the action is present, allowing the adverb to express the past continuousness:

That's the worst tidings that I hear of yet. (Henry IV I:4);

How does your honour for this many a day? (Hamlet III:3).

The Subjunctive after verbs of command and entreaty is especially common; naturally, since command implies a purpose.

We enjoin thee that thou carry. (Winter's Tale II:3);

I conjure thee that thou declare. (Winter's Tale I:2);

Tell him from me

He bear himself with honourable action. (The Taming of the Shrew).

2.2 Literary Devices in Shakespeare's works

Shakespeare's works are full of literary devices such as metaphors, similes, puns, allusions, etc. Let's look through them.

Shakespeare's plays contain a great number of puns, which often don't impress modern readers. This could be due to several reasons; firstly, like a lot of comedy, puns require a visceral, instinctive reaction. If a joke has to be explained, it loses a lot of its punch, and that's doubly true of puns. They rely on a sudden link being shown between two ideas which have previously been completely separate. If those separate ideas haven't been long established in the audience's mind, the explosion which should occur when they are short-circuited just won't happen.

Shakespeare uses puns and wordplay for various different purposes[20]:

Gag puns

These are just jokes - they have no other justification than raising a quick laugh, and tend to attract groans when performed today. A good example would be Launce and Speed's exchange in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, just after Launce has been criticizing his dog, and Speed is advising him to hurry in case he misses the boat:

Speed: Away, ass! You'll lose the tide if you tarry any longer.

Launce: It is no matter if the tied were lost; for it is the unkindest tied that ever any man tied.

Speed: What's the unkindest tide?

Launce: Why, he that's tied here, Crab, my dog.

Bawdy puns

Shakespeare's works are full of dirty innuendos, which depend upon two meanings being implied by one word. For instance, the title of Much Ado About Nothing may well be a reference to the private parts of the female characters.

A more elaborate example is the ring plot at the end of The Merchant of Venice, in which Portia and Nerissa confront their intended husbands about the rings with they gave the men earlier in the play. Unknown to Bassanio and Gratiano, the women were in fact the two youths to whom they gave away the rings. Pretending to be indignant, Portia declares that I will ne'er come in your bed/ Until I see the ring. (V.1) When all is explained, Gratiano remarks that I'll fear no other thing/ So sore as keeping safe Nerissa's ring. Under all these exchanges, of course, runs the pun in which ring represents both the physical object and the sexual organs. The jealousy and anxiety over who has got the ring resounds with issues of sexual fidelity and control over spouses.

Shakespeare used the oxymoron quite often to express mixed emotions both in his plays and his sonnets. Fair is foul, and foul is fair, Parting is such sweet sorrow, O brawling love! O loving hate! - these are a few of his famous oxymora.

Romeo and Juliet is a love story that is just filled with oxymora, but that's sort of how love is. It's wonderful and it's painful [21].

An example from Act 1, Scene 1:

O brawling love! O loving hate!

O anything of nothing first create!

O heavy lightness, serious vanity!

Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms!

Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health!

Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!

This love feel I, that feel no love in this.

Serious vanity used here is an oxymoron because vanity here means not being vain or proud, but the older sense of emptiness, or something worthless, trivial, or pointless as the dictionary defines it.

Also we can find oxymoron in Macbeth. For example[22]:

So foul and fair a day I have not seen (I:2 line 40);

This quote simply means that it's one of those days when fog is followed by sunshine, then a thunderstorm, some hail, and more sunshine. In other words nature is acting somewhat strange.

My dull brain was wrought / With things forgotten (I:3 line 174-175);

Macbeth makes the lying excuse that he was thinking about something so unimportant that he has already forgotten what it was. However, those things are far from forgotten.

God's benison go with you, and with those/ That would make good of bad, and friends of foes! (II:4 line 53-54).

The old man is giving a blessing to all those who would restore the goodness and bring peace to the troubled land. The old man knows that Scotland is going to end up in one big mess.

In Shakespeare's works we can find a lot of metaphor examples. In Macbeth:

Fair is foul and foul is fair. (I:1 line 10);

This phrase is a metaphor that describes the state of affairs within Macbeth and without in Scotland. Evil and sinister things have taken the place of all that is good and just. Macbeth is a tyrannous ruler who consorts with witches and murders sleep; the kind and venerable King Duncan and Banquo are brutally killed. In the midst of all of this, Inverness becomes a living hell for its inhabitants while Macbeth and his wife suffer from delusions and paranoia [23].

The sleeping and the dead. Are but as pictures. Tis the eye of childhood. That fears a painted devil. (II:2 line 52).

Lady Macbeth's comparison of the sleeping and the dead to pictures exemplifies her extraordinary courage and calm state of mind after the murder. Lady Macbeth should supposedly be faint-hearted because she is a woman; in reality, however, she and her husband have switched roles.

We can also find a metaphor in Hamlet [24].

Yea, from the table of my memory

I'll wipe away all trivial, fond records,

All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past,

That youth and observation copied there,

And thy commandment all alone shall live

Within the book and volume of my brain,

Unmixed with baser matter. (II:5 lines 105-111);

Hamlet wants to wipe his memory clean, as one would erase a slate. All of the images he has of his mother and uncle are insignificant to him now in the face of their betrayal. He will erase those images in his memory so as to not be deceived again. With his memories erased, Hamlet will be able to properly avenge his father's murder.

This is th' impostume of much wealth and peace,

That inward breaks and shows no cause without

Why the man dies. (IV:4 lines 28-30).

Hamlet is talking to Fortinbras' captain about the land, which has been symbolically given to Norway to prevent them from invading Denmark. This statement is however, also descriptive of Hamlet's own condition. The events that have caused his madness fester inside him like an abscess or tumor. The cause is unseen by others though it is destroying him inside.

Consider the following examples from Shakespeare's sonnets that use the metaphor of eye (which also include the use of metonymy - a special type of metaphor where the one phrase or word substitutes for a larger concept):

Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed. (sonnet 18, lines 5-6);

Lo, in the orient when the gracious light

Lifts up his burning head, each under eye

Doth homage to his new-appearing sight

Serving with looks his sacred majesty. (sonnet 7, lines 1-4);

Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war

How to divide the conquest of thy sight. (sonnet 46,lines 1-2).

Whether eye is meant to be the sun, or a concept of vision greater than the speaker's ocular capability, Shakespeare shows the power of figurative language. While we may not speak in a poetic pentameter in everyday speech, metaphor is predominant in our conversation. We cannot speak long or well without metaphor.

The Simile may be regarded as an expanded Metaphor, or the Metaphor as a condensed Simile [25]. To illustrate this, when Romeo says of Juliet, -

O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!

Her beauty hangs upon the cheek of night,

Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear;

Here we have two metaphors, and also one simile. Juliet cannot be said literally to teach the torches any thing; but her brightness may be said to make them, or rather the owner of them ashamed of their dimness; or she may be said to be so radiant, that the torches or the owner of them may learn from her how torches ought to shine. Neither can it be said literally that her beauty hangs upon the cheek of night, for the night has no cheek; but it may be said to bear the same relation to the night as a diamond pendant does to the dark cheek that sets it off. Then the last metaphor is made one of the parts in a simile; what is therein expressed being likened to a rich jewel hanging in an Ethiop's ear.

Shakespeare occasionally builds a simile on the same plan; as in the following from Measure for Measure, I:3:

Now, as fond fathers,

Having bound up the threatening twigs of birch,

Only to stick it in their children's sight

For terror, not to use, in time the rod

Becomes more mock'd than fear'd; so our decrees,

Dead to infliction, to themselves are dead;

And liberty plucks justice by the nose;

The baby beats the nurse, and quite athwart

Goes all decorum.

Disguise is one of Shakespeare's favorite devices, found in many of his works. Through it he alters the identity of an individual, which creates an elevated irony, a developed theme, and an enhanced comic element to the story. In As You Like It, Shakespeare, by having characters in disguise, creates an outlet for new ironies and comic twists throughout the work. The shepherdess who is in love with the shepherd Ganymede who is really a girl (Rosalind) is one of the comic twists, as well as Orlando sharing feelings of love to Ganymede who is really Orlando's love Rosalind in disguise. Once again the hidden and mistaken identity constructs this plot and furthers its comedy. The entire purpose of mistaken identity can only be accomplished when a disguise is shown in the way to say and experience things in the one identity that can only be accomplished by the altar identity: this is what composes the comedy within the words. For example, in Measure For Measure, the Duke uses disguise and mistaken identity to reveal the truth about Angelo, while simultaneously providing comic moments when Lucio speaks of the Duke to the Duke unaware of his true identity.

2.3 The development of Shakespeare's style

Shakespeare revolutionized the Elizabethan drama. He was an amazing man with a powerful mind. It seemed that Shakespeare truly understood the meaning of life. He analyzed people and their behavior and applied that to his writing. Not only did his knowledge of the human mind make him great, but also Shakespeare's knowledge of the art of writing. He is often considered one of the most brilliant writers of all time. It was dramatic poetry that his genius found its goal. [14] But like any good writer, his style and skills improved over time. When we analyze Shakespeare's work, we can see how this applies to him.

Shakespeare's First Period

William Shakespeare began writing when he was fairly young. Records of his first pieces of work show that he was between the ages of 21-28. In Shakespeare's beginning years, he mainly wrote nondramatic poems. What this means is a poem that is written but not performed. Some of these pieces include Venus and Andonis and The Rape of Lucrece. A short time after these poems, he started writing dramatic poems that were eventually performed. Some of these poems include The Comedy of Errors and Love's Labor's Lost. When Shakespeare wrote his first works, there was not much depth in the elements such as characters. In The Merchant of Venice, one of his earlier plays, the characters seemed to be one dimensional or cartoonish. For example, the character named Gobbo seemed not to have any emotions. Instead, he would just speak what he had to say, not act it. Also, Shakespeare did not have much depth in plot. Most of his plots were imitative. Shakespeare based most of his plots on stories that were already written; they were not original. Another problem with his plots was that they had the same basic theme: love's wealth, love's truth, love's order. Further in Shakespeare's beginning years, the language he used was all the same. He used all verse and no prose. In the first part of Henry VI, we can see that he had 2379 lines of blank verse and no lines of prose. This is also true for the third part of Henry VI, King John, and Richard the Second [17].

The earlier pieces of Shakespeare's writing are not as well known as his later works. The reason these plays are not well known is because of his lack in developing the plot and characters. Later on in his career, we can see how he improved his style.

Shakespeare's Second Period

William Shakespeare's second period lasted between 1595-1600. During his second period, his work started to improve. It got better in several ways. One way was his development in plot. Shakespeare' plots started to become more original. He also started bringing history into his writing. Particularity in his histories and comedies of this period, Shakespeare demonstrated his genius for weaving various dramatic actions into a unified plot. Though he had not quite reached this point in his career yet, he was on his way to do it. After every one of Shakespeare's plays, he kept on improving his style[17].

Shakespeare's Later Period

Shakespeare's later period is considered by many people to be his greatest period. This is when he wrote some of his best known works. Some of these include: Othello, King Lear, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Hamlet, etc. Perhaps the reason these works are considered some of his best is because of the change in his style. As opposed to Shakespeare's earlier works, the three elements in his plays changed. Some of his characters became better developed. In Julius Caesar, we can see how these characters became more lifelike. For example, when we look at Cinna the Poet, we can tell that he has actual emotions and feelings. He tells about his thoughts and dreams, and makes us feel like we are actually listening to him.

Another change in his style is the plot. Shakespeare made the plot more complex. For example, instead of recycling plots, he came up with new, original plots. Hamlet has a more original and more complex plot compared to some of his earlier works. Shakespeare's style improved in another way; he developed the language more. When he started writing, he used all verse and no prose. This changed in his later period. In Shakespeare's later period, verse and prose were almost balanced out. In Hamlet, there are 1208 lines of prose and 2490 lines of blank verse in his 3931 line play. When we put these elements together - characters, plot, and language - we can see why his later plays improved.

Shakespeare's Final Period

In Shakespeare's final years, he wrote some pieces that are not well known. Some of these include: Cymbeline, Winter's Tale, The Tempest, etc. During this period, Shakespeare used good plots. In Cymbeline, Shakespeare weaves together three distinct threads of story, two of which he derives from well known literary repertories. What this means is that he had a very complex plot that brought the story together. One of the reasons Shakespeare's later works went down hill was because of his language. He did not use an equal part of verse and prose. In Cymbeline, he used 2585 lines of blank verse and 638 lines of prose. Also, in Henry VIII, he used 2613 lines of blank verse and 60-70 lines of prose. Most of the famous plays that Shakespeare wrote had an equal part of verse and prose. William Shakespeare dedicated most of his life to creating some of the greatest works ever written. When we look back at his life, we can see all the changes and struggles he went through. . . . Shakespeare is considered as one element in the great intellectual and spiritual movement of the Elizabethan period. He can truly be considered one of the greatest writers of all time.


Shakespeare, in his plays, poems, and other writings, used 29,066 unique words. Most people today only use 7,500 to 10,000 unique words in their writing and speech.

Shakespeare introduced nearly 3,000 words into the English language. In addition, Shakespeare's works, which were often quoted, became such commonplace that they helped set the standards for Modern English; prior to Shakespeare, English grammar and spelling had few standards. In addition, many of Shakespeare's expressions (such as "a foregone conclusion") are commonly used today.

William Shakespeare used cleverly fashioned insults in his plays to amuse his audiences. He wrote insults that everyone could enjoy, and he used a large range of insults, some of which were vulgar, comical, cruel, or simply heinously descriptive.

Shakespeare's works are full of literary devices such as metaphors, similes, puns etc.

Shakespeare revolutionized the Elizabethan drama. He was an amazing man with a powerful mind. It seemed that Shakespeare truly understood the meaning of life. He analyzed people and their behavior and applied that to his writing. Not only did his knowledge of the human mind make him great, but also Shakespeare's knowledge of the art of writing.

Shakespeare's innovative use of grammar, however, set him apart from his contemporaries

However Shakespeare's grammatical skill shows even more dexterity with language. He wrote during a transitional period for English grammar when there was a range of grammatical options open to writers.

Much of the grammar he chooses now seems old fashioned, but it lends poetry to commonplace words and significantly while his spelling is often updated, his grammar is not.

List of literature

1. Carl F. Hovde, "Introduction" Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (Spark Publishing, 2003), p.26.

2. Charney, Maurice. All of Shakespeare. Columbia University Press, New York 1993.

3. Dramatic Character Plates for Bell's Edition of Shakespeare's Plays, 1775-1776. Facsimile published by Cornmarket Press from the plates in the Birmingham Shakespeare Library, London, 1969.

4. Gager, Valerie L. (1996). Shakespeare and Dickens: The Dynamics of Influence. Cambridge University Press. p. 163.

5. Girard, Rene. A Theater of Envy: William Shakespeare. Oxford University Press, New York 1991. J

6. Hovde, Carl F. "Introduction" Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, Spark Publishing, 2003, page 26.

7. John Bryant, "Moby Dick as Revolution" The Cambridge Companion to Herman Melville, Robert Steven Levine (editor) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 82.

8. Jorgens, Jack J. Shakespeare on Film. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1977.

9. Mazzeno, Laurence W.; Frank Northen Magilsadasdasdls and Dayton Kohler (1996) [1949]. Masterplots: 1,801 Plot Stories and Critical Evaluations of the World's Finest Literature. Salen Press. p. 2837.

10. Oakley, Lucy. Unfaded Pageant: Edwin Austin Abbey's Shakespearean Subjects. New York: Columbia University, 1994.

11. .. . ., 1985

12. .. .. . ., 1976

13. .. . ., 1968

14. .. . ., 1964

15. Common Phrases Invented by Shakespeare

16. The Language of Shakespeare

17. Shakespearean Comedy

18. Shakespeare's Poetry

19. Jealousy and Mistaken Identity in Shakespeare

20. Shakespeare and Puns

21. Romeo and Juliet Oxymorons in Romeo and Juliet

22. Shakespeare's Macbeth - Macbeth as Oxymoron

23. Macbeth: Metaphor Analysis

24. Hamlet: Metaphor Analysis

25. Shakespeare's Metaphors and Similes

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