Early Modern English

In this section, Texts (1) - (6) are all taken from the First Folio of the Works of William Shakespeare, and represent the "prototypical" EModE generally described in chapter 5. Texts (7) - (10) are given as short representative selections from larger works written at earlier and later in the EModE period. The punctuation of the original editions has been retained in each case.

The principle of selection adopted has been to present the reader with a fair range of texts in various registers, illustrating most of the points made in the appropriate chapter in Part I. The texts offered here should be taken as merely a starting-point for further study. As in Section B, all texts are preceded by a short introduction, and followed by a glossary of words and phrases potentially unfamiliar to the present-day reader. Students may also find it useful to consult the Oxford English Dictionary; C.T.Onions, A Shakespeare Glossary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1919) remains a handy single-volume reference-tool.

Texts (1) - (6) are printed (with a few trivial and obvious corrections) in the form in which they appeared in the First Folio of 1623, which was issued seven years after Shakespeare's death by John Heminge and Henry Condell, fellow-actors and business associates of the playwright. The Norton Facsimile copy of the original is a useful resource (London: Hamlyn, 1968). How far the First Folio represents Shakespeare's own language in detail is, of course, a very debatable point; but the First Folio does at least exemplify a particular kind of EModE at the beginning of the seventeenth century. The speeches chosen here -- some of the best-known in Shakespeare's works -- are of course like all works of literature a stylised reflexion of natural discourse, but they do show a range of registers and conversational situations. Since these texts show a mixture of prose and verse, they are all lineated as plays, ie. by printed line.

Texts (7) - (11) form a more eclectic selection. The passage from the Authorised Version of the Bible (7) is given since, of course, the Bible was by far the most influential text of its time and this translation in particular impacted on the stylistic choices made by contemporaries (and indeed on subsequent generations). Texts (8) and (9), prose from the Elizabethan and Commonwealth periods, reflect the evolution of prose style during the EModE period, while Text (10), a passage from Dryden's response to a Shakespearean play, enables comparison between similar registers at different times. Text (11) is a private letter from the middle of the seventeenth century, allowing a comparison with Text (9) in Section B.

  1. From Love's Labours Lost
  2. From As You Like It
  3. From The Tragedie of King Lear
  4. From The Tragedie of Julius Caesar
  5. From The Tragedie of Hamlet
  6. From The Tragedie of Richard III
  7. From the Authorized Version of the Bible (1611)
  8. E.K.'s Preface to Spenser's Shepheardes Calendar (1579)
  9. From John Milton's Areopagitica (1644)
  10. From John Dryden, All for Love or, the World Well Lost (1677/1678)
  11. From The Letters of Lady Brilliana Harley (1642)