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Romeo and Juliet : Shakespearean Language

Mrs. Kaiser's Class - Exploring Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Shakespearean Language

Probably the number one complaint about reading Shakespeare is that it doesn't always read like "normal" English. It's a natural and legitimate accusation. Shakespeare wrote for an audience over 400 years ago.

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Shakespearean Language

The history of the English language really started with the arrival of three Germanic tribes who invaded Britain during the 5th century AD. These tribes, the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes, crossed the North Sea from what today is Denmark and northern Germany.

Map of Germanic invasions

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Common Phrases

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

  • 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)

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Shakespearean Language

Shakespearean Language

For many, language is the biggest barrier in understanding Shakespeare. Perfectly competent performers can be paralysed with fear when they see bizarre words like “Methinks” and “Peradventure” – something I call Shakespearaphobia.

As a way of trying to counter this natural anxiety, I often begin by telling new students or performers that speaking Shakespeare aloud isn’t like learning a new language –it’s more like listening to a strong accent and your ear soon adjusts to the new dialect. Very soon you are able to understand most of what is said.

To read the modern translations of the top 10 most common Shakespearian words, READ MORE

Shakespearean Language

Shakespearean Language