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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: March ::
Spelling Shakespeare's Name
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0589  Tuesday, 13 March 2001

From:           Thomas Larque <
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Date:           Monday, 12 Mar 2001 20:11:38 -0000
Subject:        Spelling Shakespeare's Name

I was amused to find in my mailbox this morning an E-Mail roundly
condemning me for "spelling Shakespeare's name wrong nearly ten times"
in my Web edition of William Hazlitt's essay on Hamlet from his
"Characters of Shakespear's Plays".  How could I expect to have my page
respected, I was asked, if I couldn't spell Shakespeare's name?

Of course, I explained that Hazlitt himself used the spelling
"Shakespear" because he lived before the modern fixed spelling of
Shakespeare's name was adopted as the correct one, and pointed my
correspondent towards Dave Kathman's admirable page on the spelling and
pronunciation of Shakespeare's name in the Renaissance
(http://www.clark.net/tross/ws/name1.html) as evidence of the variable
spelling of Shakespeare's name in his own time.

This did all leave me wondering, however, when and how exactly the
"Shakespeare" spelling came to be considered the only "correct" one.
The other source on my website (Helena Faucit / Lady Martin on Ophelia)
was written in the late 19th Century, as opposed to Hazlitt's early 19th
Century work, and uses what we would now regard as the correct
spelling.  Was there a formal debate about the "correct" spelling of
Shakespeare's name during the 19th Century, or was there simply a
sea-change as fashions shifted and then became fixed?  If anybody can
point me in the direction of post-Renaissance sources dealing with the
spelling of Shakespeare's name then I would be very interested to see
them.

Thomas Larque.
 

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