A-Z of Shakespeare – Z

 

The final Shakespearean word of the day is… zany

Z - zany

A zany was a Fool or a jester’s assistant, a bit like a clown. A Fool was paid to entertain the nobility.

Over the course of his writing career, Shakespeare’s ‘silly-Clownish’ characters (like Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing) became much more ‘wise-Foolish’ (like Feste in Twelfth Night).

 

We really hope you have enjoyed our A-Z of Shakespeare over the last few weeks! If you fancy testing your knowledge then make sure you take our Shakespeare language quiz: http://ow.ly/10BIgV

Fare thee well!

 

Shakespeare Dictionary _130This definition is taken from the Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary, a unique dictionary to unlock the mysteries of Shakespeare’s world, words and language, compiled by renowned English language expert David Crystal and Shakespearean actor and producer Ben Crystal.

A-Z of Shakespeare – Y

 

Today’s Shakespearean word of the day is… yoke

Y- yoke

The word yoke is used to mean servitude. It literally means a piece of wood that harnesses an animal to make it work.

In Julius Caesar, Cassius tells Casca: ‘Our yoke and sufferance show us womanish’ (Julius Caesar, 1.3 .84).

 

Shakespeare Dictionary _130This definition is taken from the Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary, a unique dictionary to unlock the mysteries of Shakespeare’s world, words and language, compiled by renowned English language expert David Crystal and Shakespearean actor and producer Ben Crystal.

A-Z of Shakespeare – W

 

Today’s Shakespearean word of the day is… weeds

W- weeds

Unfortunately there is no entry for X in the Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary so we are moving on straight to W!

Weeds are garments. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Puck sees Lysander: ‘Weeds of Athens he doth wear’ (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 2.2.77).

‘Weed’ (in the sense of ‘garment’) is usually found as a plural, but occasionally it is a singular: Oberon describes a shedded snakeskin as ‘Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in’ (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 2.1.256).

 

Shakespeare Dictionary _130This definition is taken from the Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary, a unique dictionary to unlock the mysteries of Shakespeare’s world, words and language, compiled by renowned English language expert David Crystal and Shakespearean actor and producer Ben Crystal.

Shakespeare 400

We’re taking a break from our A-Z as today marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. To commemorate this special day, we are sharing an interesting extract from the Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary:

‘A man of fire-new words’—Love’s Labour’s Lost

cockpit-neat3It’s the breadth of Shakespeare’s vocabulary that is so impressive. The son of a glovemaker, his early years in Warwickshire gave him an understanding of nature and country life, and his Stratford-upon-Avon schooling gave him a great knowledge of Latin and classical literature.

Unlike many of his fellow playwrights, he didn’t have a university education, but his life experience in London was wide-ranging, including at one extreme the taverns and‘low’ life, and at the other the refined practices and behaviour of the court, where his theatre company presented plays for the entertainment of the monarch.

 

‘Art thou base, common, and popular?’—Henry V A dictionary is a guide to the society of its time. In Shakespeare’s day, there were four main levels:

At the top

  • The monarch
  • The nobility

the gentry (or gentlemen)

  • Younger sons of nobles (who were not classed with the nobility)
  • Major land-owners
  • Knights, with their squires and pages
  • Magistrates
  • Professional people, such as lawyers, physicians, and the clergy

the traders

  • Merchants
  • Yeomen farmers (owning land)
  • Craftsmen (tailors, carpenters etc) and their apprentices
  • Husbandmen (small farmers, usually renting land)

the lower orders

  • Day labourers and cottagers
  • Servants
  • Beggars

All of these levels are present in the characters of Shakespeare’s plays, and his inventive and broad vocabulary reflects the speech of everyone from kings to beggars.

 

Shakespeare Dictionary _130This extract is taken from the Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary, a unique dictionary to unlock the mysteries of Shakespeare’s world, words and language, compiled by renowned English language expert David Crystal and Shakespearean actor and producer Ben Crystal.

 

A-Z of Shakespeare – V

 

Today’s Shakespearean word of the day is… viol-de-gamboys

V- viol-de-gamboys

A viola da gamba, played between the legs like a modern cello (gamba is ‘leg’ in Italian).

violdegamba-neat

In Twelfth Night, Sir Toby tells Maria that Sir Andrew ‘plays o’the viol-de-gamboys’ (Twelfth Night, 1.3.23). However, it is highly unlikely that a knight would ever have learned to play such an instrument. Sir Toby makes it up in order to impress Maria.

 

Shakespeare Dictionary _130This definition is taken from the Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary, a unique dictionary to unlock the mysteries of Shakespeare’s world, words and language, compiled by renowned English language expert David Crystal and Shakespearean actor and producer Ben Crystal.

A-Z of Shakespeare – U

Today’s Shakespearean word of the day is… urchin

U- urchin

Warning! Don’t read in the meaning of ‘a poorly dressed boy’.

An urchin is a spirit in the form of a hedgehog! In The Tempest, Prospero threatens Caliban: ‘Urchins / Shall, for that vast of night that they may work, / All exercise on thee’ (The Tempest, 2.2.5).

As you might expect, a spirit apparition in the form of a hedgehog is called an urchin-show.

 

Shakespeare Dictionary _130This definition is taken from the Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary, a unique dictionary to unlock the mysteries of Shakespeare’s world, words and language, compiled by renowned English language expert David Crystal and Shakespearean actor and producer Ben Crystal.

 

A-Z of Shakespeare – T

 

Today’s Shakespearean word of the day is… tuition

T- tuition

Warning! Don’t read in the meaning of ‘teaching’.

Tuition is a noun used to mean ‘safe-keeping’.  In Much Ado About Nothing, Claudio mocks the way Benedick ends a letter, committing his addresses ‘To the tuition of God’ (Much Ado About Nothing, 1.1.257).

It was normal in Shakespeare’s time to write letters with great formality, especially wishing for the health of the addresses, or that they would be in good grace with God.

 

Shakespeare Dictionary _130This definition is taken from the Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary, a unique dictionary to unlock the mysteries of Shakespeare’s world, words and language, compiled by renowned English language expert David Crystal and Shakespearean actor and producer Ben Crystal.

 

A-Z of Shakespeare – S

 

Today’s Shakespearean word of the day is… slug-a-bed

S- slug-a-bed

Slug-a-bed means lazy-bones! It can also be spelled ‘slug-abed’.

In Romeo and Juliet, the Nurse tries to wake Juliet: ‘fie, you slug-a-bed!’ (Romeo and Juliet, 4.5.2)

Shakespeare Dictionary _130This definition is taken from the Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary, a unique dictionary to unlock the mysteries of Shakespeare’s world, words and language, compiled by renowned English language expert David Crystal and Shakespearean actor and producer Ben Crystal.

A-Z of Shakespeare – R

 

Today’s Shakespearean word of the day is… rehearse

R- rehearseWarning! Don’t read in the meaning of ‘practise’.

Shakespeare uses rehearse to mean utter. For example, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream Titania tells the Fairies: ‘rehearse your song by rote’ (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 5.1.380).

Listen to the pronunciation of rehearse here

 

Shakespeare Dictionary _130This definition is taken from the Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary, a unique dictionary to unlock the mysteries of Shakespeare’s world, words and language, compiled by renowned English language expert David Crystal and Shakespearean actor and producer Ben Crystal.

A-Z of Shakespeare – Q

 

Today’s Shakespearean word of the day is… quietus

Q - quietus

Quietus is a noun that means release. Hamlet reflects that anyone ‘might his quietus make / With a bare bodkin’ (Hamlet, 3.1.75)– ie. use a dagger on himself to leave life behind.

The word is related to ‘quiet’, but its Latin appearance (the ‘-us’ ending) has led to various pronunciations – ‘kwie‑ay‑tus’, ‘kwee‑ay‑tus’ or ‘kwie‑ee‑tus’.

Listen to the pronunciation of quietus here

 

Shakespeare Dictionary _130This definition is taken from the Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary, a unique dictionary to unlock the mysteries of Shakespeare’s world, words and language, compiled by renowned English language expert David Crystal and Shakespearean actor and producer Ben Crystal.

 

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