|Reading Shakespeare's Plays
Again, for the sake of his poetry, Shakespeare often left out letters, syllables, and
whole words. These omissions really aren't that much different from the way we speak
today. We say:
"Been to class yet?"
"No. Heard Ulen's givin' a test."
We leave out words and parts of words to speed up our speech.
If we were speaking in complete sentences, we would say:
"Have you been to class yet?"
"No, I have not been to class. I heard that Mrs. Ulen is giving a test
"What is up with that?"
A few examples of Shakespearean omissions/contractions follow:
|'tis ~ it is
ope ~ open
o'er ~ over
gi' ~ give
ne'er ~ never
i' ~ in
e'er ~ ever
oft ~ often
a' ~ he
e'en ~ even
Most of us run into problems when we come across archaic words that are no longer used in
Modern English. Or worse, when we run across words that are still used today but
have much different meanings than when Shakespeare used (or invented!) the words.
This is particularly troublesome, because we think we know what the word means, but the
line still doesn't make sense.
Although it is frustrating when we come across these unknown words,
it is not surprising. Shakespeare's vocabulary included 30,000 words. Today
our vocabularies only run between 6,000 and 15,000 words! Because Shakespeare loved
to play with words, he also created new words that we still use today.
On the next page you will find a glossary of Shakespearean words.