[LINK] DNA Coil
hartr at interweft.com.au
Thu Oct 5 10:55:59 AEST 2006
Ivan Trundle wrote:
> A bit difficult, if only because Shakespeare was THE master of this
> art, at a time when English was not spoken (or written) that widely in
> England. Shakespeare's contribution to the language was significant,
> if only because he saw fit to use words in ways which most other
> writers of his day would not have dreamt of. Chaucer, Keats et al were
> never as adventurous.
If English was not spoken that widely in England at the time of
Shakespeare, pray tell me what was the most common language spoken?
I think you are seriously mistaken: Shakespeare wrote in the most common
language of his country - English.
That Shakespeare has had such an influence on English ever since is
probably due largely to two things:-
1. He was a towering talent (genius - but that word is now so
debased) who loved using words in new and interesting ways and was
also not afraid to invent words if he needed to. It would not have
mattered when he wrote, he would have stretched the envelope of
English in any time.
2. English at the time of Shakespeare was in foment, for a wide range
of reasons. The pressures of religious reform resulting in the
King James bible, the other great piece of literature of this
period, being but one of them (others include the emergence of
England as a European power, colonisation of the New World, the
renaissance and its impact on science and philosophy etc.).
Shakespeare was thus writing in a time that English was open to,
if not downright welcoming of, new meanings for old words - and
indeed new words - as there was so much new that needed words to
Finally, please do not be so dismissive of Chaucer. He was writing at a
time when English was just emerging as a national language (from beneath
mediaeval French and Latin where it had evolved from the language of the
conquered Saxon majority). There is nowhere near as much contemporary
English writing from Chaucer's time to compare his writing with as there
is from Shakespeare's period so it may be difficult to assess his impact
on the English of his period. But in any case, apart from writing
rollicking good tales, Chaucer's main contribution was that he wrote in
English. I do not know enough to comment on his stretching at the bounds
of the English of his day, but I would be surprised if he had not done so.
Few great writers fail so to do.
Robert Hart hartr at interweft.com.au
+61 (0)438 385 533 http://www.hart.wattle.id.au
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