The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0379 Wednesday, 2 July 2008
Date: Tuesday, 1 Jul 2008 11:25:30 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Grammatical "Errors" in Shakespeare
I'm working on a trade book on the development of our notions of "proper"
English, and I'd like to show that many of the "rules" we're now taught didn't
apply before the late C17-ish. My opening gambit is to point out facetiously
that, if Shakespeare's works were submitted in English 101 today, he'd be marked
badly. (For those familiar with other systems: English 101 is a common
designation for the introductory university-level writing course.)
I'm looking for good illustrations of Shakespeare's "violation," so to speak, of
our "rules" of grammar (and spelling, and whatever else English 101 instructors
are supposed to monitor). Dangling participles, sentence fragments, double
comparatives, mixed metaphors, sentence-ending prepositions, syntax that peters
out mid-sentence, double negatives, singular they-all that sort of thing will
fill the bill. The point, of course, is to show that they weren't "rules" for
Shakespeare or his age, and to help readers understand that standards of "good
English" have changed over time.
I've turned up a bunch of examples so far, and can continue reading more or less
without direction, hoping to come across others. But it dawns on me that someone
must have accumulated examples like this already.
Anyone know? -- if not, does anyone have particularly extreme examples of
Shakespeare's writing that would induce apoplexy in a humorless marker of
English 101 essays?
[Editor's Note: If you have not already, you need to be sure to consult Jonathan
Hope's _Shakespeare's Grammar_. (London: Arden Shakespeare, 2003. xiii + 210
pp.), a work that I find invaluable when I have annotating Shakespeare's Poems
for the ISE. -Hardy]
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