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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: June ::
Re: Polyglot Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1160  Tuesday, 6 June 2000.

[1]     From:   Melissa D. Aaron <
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        Date:   Monday, 05 Jun 2000 08:37:53 -0700
        Subj:   Polyglot Shakespeare

[2]     From:   A. J. Hoenselaars <
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        Date:   Monday, 05 Jun 2000 20:55:29 +0200
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1157 Re: Use of Foreign Words


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Melissa D. Aaron <
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Date:           Monday, 05 Jun 2000 08:37:53 -0700
Subject:        Polyglot Shakespeare

William Sutton wrote:

>I love speculating about Sh.'s polyglot personalities.  Do you think he
>knew any Welsh or Gaelic or Russian or my favourite, Dutch?

I think it's unlikely that Shakespeare actually knew any Welsh, as in
the one play with Welsh-speaking characters, there is merely the stage
direction, "The lady speaks in Welsh."  I think it's been speculated
that the original actor playing Glendower and the boy playing Lady
Mortimer were Welsh-speakers who filled in whatever was needed.  So
Shakespeare 1) probably did not know Welsh, not even enough for the "Hi,
how ya doing," throwaway lines of Italian in *Taming of the Shrew* and
2) knew people who did speak it.  As far as Russian goes, I note that in
*All's Well that Ends Well,* Parolles says that he can speak French,
Italian, High Dutch, etc., so that when the French lords burst forth
yelling "Cargo, cargo, cargo," he assumes that 1) they are Muscovites
and 2) he is in big trouble ("I shall die for want of language.")  So
Russian seems to be presented as an outlandish-sounding language whom
not even a polyglot bubble like Parolles could possibly be expected to
know (although of course, they are *not* speaking Russian; they are
making it up as they go along.)

Expanding the discussion out a bit, what do people make of the attitude
towards speaking several languages?  Parolles speaks plenty of
languages; he's also a fool.  Mowbray in RII complains bitterly about
forgoing his native English as equivalent to a living death, even though
the real Mowbray was probably an Anglo-Norman who could get along
perfectly well in French.  Henry V boasts about his plainness and his
apparent lack of skill in French is presented as a virtue. Or is the
issue different in history plays?

Melissa D. Aaron
http://www.csupomona.edu/~maaron/index.html
Department of English and Foreign Languages
California Polytechnic State University at Pomona

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           A. J. Hoenselaars <
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Date:           Monday, 05 Jun 2000 20:55:29 +0200
Subject: 11.1157 Re: Use of Foreign Words
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1157 Re: Use of Foreign Words

I may have missed some of the discussion on Shakespeare's use of foreign
words, so I may be repeating what has already been said. Has anyone
mentioned N. F. Blake's very useful *Non-Standard Language in English
Literature* (London, 1981)? Also, the collection of essays entitled
*English Literature and the Other Languages*, edited by Ton Hoenselaars
and Marius Buning, with an Afterword by N. F. Blake (Amsterdam and
Atlanta, GA, 1999) has a select bibliography of over 40 pages,
containing many references to multilingualism in Shakespeare. Hope this
helps.

Ton Hoenselaars,
Utrecht University
 

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