Tips to Talk Like Shakespeare
Replace your it’s with ‘tis, your he with ‘a, your you with thou and ye; sign your email with Gramercy, not “Thank-you” and change your “Best wishes” to Fair befall you! or I commend you to your own content! Ask How do you? - which is as much as to say “How are you?”
Thou* (single person) You
Thou art mine. You are mine. (Nominative case, agent of action)
I love thee. I love you. (Accusative case, object of the action)
I give thee my love. I give you my love. (Dative case, recipient of the action)
Mine Mine; my
Thine Yours; your
Mine and thine mean “my” and “your” respectively and are used in the sense when the following noun starts with a vowel. E.g. mine eyne, thine eyne
Eyne* an archaic form of eyes
*To say that thou is singular, you is plural is not the whole story. There are important nuances in the usage of thou and you that can shed light on the Shakespeare contexts. Servants would use you to their masters as a sign of respect and masters would use thou in return.
You will use thou if you are angry with the person, want to insult the person, disdain the person or… - are very intimate with the person. Romeo and Juliet will use thou, so do the Macbeths until the Lady sees her husband’s hesitation to murder the king. There may be switches within a single conversation, depending on the topic, the situation, the mood and the moment. Benedick and Beatrice, Titania and Oberon switch between thou and you a lot, understandably. People of high social rank, however, will stick to formal you even in intimacy, like Antony and Cleopatra.
FREQUENT ADJECTIVES & ADVERBS
Meet Suitable, proper
Passing Exceeding; exceedingly, much
Happily Maybe, perhaps
Nice Precise, exact (for other meanings see www.shakespeareswords.com )
Hither Towards here
Come hither. Come here.
Thither Towards there
Even but now Just now
Wherefore art thou Romeo? Why are you Romeo?
Therefore That is why
Wherein Where, in which
Therein In that, there
Whereof Of what
Whereof are you made? What are you made of?
I pray thee/you Please
Repair Go (usually in a hurry)
Repair home. Go home.
Hie Hasten, hurry up
Hie thee hither! Come here, quickly!
Tears do not become a man. Tears are not appropriate for/ do not suit a man.
Dally Linger; move, act slowly
Tarry Wait, stay, linger
I’ll tarry no longer with you. I will stay no longer with you.
I wot not. I do not know.
RECURRENT WORDS, SET EXPRESSIONS & STATIC FORMS
Fie! Shame! For shame!
Fie on you! Shame on you!
How fare you? How are you?
Commend me to my lady. Say hello to the lady; Pass on my greetings to the lady.
Quoth I. I said.
An it were true,… If it were true,…
Verily In truth
In sooth/ forsooth In truth
Methinks I think
Methinks you are in danger. I think you are in danger.
The colour becomes you not, methinks. The colour does not suit you, I think.
Methought I thought
Bethink oneself Think over
I shall bethink myself. I wll think over (something already mentioned in the conversation and known to the speakers)
Marry, … By Mary, … (an interjection)
Elizabethans contracted a lot more words than we do now. While we tend to contract auxiliaries like is, will, shall, are and the negation not - they would elide also a great many notional (meaty) words, like verbs etc. However, not is never contracted in Shakespeare. It became a practice only after 1640s.
CONTRACTING E OF PAST TENSE -ED
Digg’d Digged (modern dug)
THE FIRST LETTER(S), USUALLY A VOWEL, OF VERBS
OTHER RECURRENT ELIDED FORMS IN ELIZABETHAN ENGLISH
and’s And his
to’t To it
after’s After his
In’s In his
H’as He has
‘Tis It is, it’s
‘twas It was
O’ On; of
The many elided forms evidence the pace of Elizabethan speech. Indeed, when Romeo & Juliet was being performed in original pronunciation in parallel with modern English at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2004, the one in OP ended 10 minutes earlier! (www.pronouncingshakespeare.com )
ENDINGS OF 2ND (USED WITH THOU) AND 3RD PERSON SINGULAR
-st/t 2nd person singular
Thou beest/ be’st. You are.
Thou wast/ wert. You were.
Thou wilt/shalt. You will/shall.
Thou knowest. You know.
Thou thinkest. You think.
Thou canst. You can.
Thou mayst. You may.
Thou shouldst. You should.
Thou wouldst. You would.
Thou hast. You have.
Thou hadst. You had.
Thou dost. You do.
Thou didst. You did.
-th 3rd person singular
(S)he/it hath. (S)he/it has.
(S)he/it doth. (S)he/it does.
Music such as charmeth sleep. Music that causes sleep.
The crown o’th’ earth doth melt. The crown of the earth does melt/ melts.
Do not use do in negatives and questions. Having said that, Shakespeare has both “Know you…?” and “Do you know?” - the auxiliary do was just making its way into language and was still informal. So, once again, Shakespeare was wisely benefitting from the rich array of alternative forms the changing English tongue had a-plenty on offer!
I know not. I do not know.
Know you? Do you know?
I love thee/you not I do not love you.
Although the modern practice is common in Shakespeare, he often prefers the reverse order of pronoun and adjective to modify nouns. It was the standard order in Old English.
Good my lord. My good lord.
Sweet my coz. My sweet cousin.
‘Tis he (that)... It is the man who…
'Tis he, foul creature, that hath done thee wrong. It is the one, that foul creature, who has done wrong to you.
DISSING THE FINAL -D
devote* TS.I.i.32 Or so devote to Aristotle's checks
initiate* Mac.III.iv.142 My strange and self-abuse / Is the initiate fear
frustrate AC.V.i.2 Being so frustrate…he mocks / The pauses that he makes
Tem.III.ii.11 the sea mocks / Our *frustrate (fruitless) search on land
adulterate LC.175 bastards of his foul adulterate heart
incorporate Oth.II.i.254 th'incorporate conclusion
derogate KL.I.iv.277 And from her derogate body spring / A babe to honour her
felicitate* KL.I.i.75 I am alone felicitate / In your dear highness' love
regenerate R2.I.iii.70 Whose youthful spirit in me regenerate / Doth…lift me up
remediate* KL.IV.iv.17 Be aidant and remediate / In the good man's distress.
The asterisked words are Williamisms - first recorded usages in the OED (Professor David Crystal’s terminology). You can find the whole list of Williamisms here www.thinkonmywords.com .
DISSING THE FINAL -LY
Like Mac.II.iv.29 Then 'tis most like / The sovereignty will fall upon Macbeth?
Marvelous Ham.II.i.3 You shall do marvellous wisely, good Reynaldo
Scant RJ.I.ii.98 And she shall scant show well that now seems best
Easy Mac.II.iii.134 Which the false man does easy
Sore TC.V.v.14 Sore hurt and bruised
fair Ham.IV.i.36 Go seek him out. Speak fair.
Indeed, there are merely 2000 or so words in Shakespeare that are a bit different from modern English and many of these frequently pop up in the plays and poems. It should not take you long to master all the Williamisms, all the False Friends and the 100 or so idioms (Thou already knowest most of them!). According to Professor David Crystal’s estimates, merely 5-10% of Shakespeare’s language is different from our modern English.
Stick these tips in mind, check out the links provided throughout and along the way pick up some passing awesome curses, idioms, swear words, flowery collocations and hilarious puns from reading and auditing the plays - use them as oft as thou canst and they will become part of your daily English in no time. Then canst thou make thy speech sound Shakespearean trippingly upon the tongue!
Widowed wombs, loose-wived, dancing soul and such gossip else… In a Pandarian mood do we leave thee thus:
TC.III.i.43 Fair (2. fortune, happiness) be to you, my lord, and to all this fair (4. fine, pleasing, splendid, excellent)
TC.III.i.44 company; fair (5. appropriate, courteous ) desires, in all fair (7. virtuous, honourable, upright) measure, fairly (5. entirely) guide
TC.III.i.45 them! – especially to you, fair (1. beautiful) queen: fair (2. good, elegant, fine) thoughts be
TC.III.i.46 your fair (8. fortunate, favoured) pillow!
TC.III.i.47 Dear lord, you are full of fair (6. plausible, flattering, seductive) words.
TC.III.i.48 You speak your fair (5. courteous, pleasing) pleasure, sweet queen. –
TC.III.i.49 Fair prince, here is good broken music.