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Post  Steph on Thu Apr 21, 2011 10:17 am

5) Who was William Shakespeare? Where was he from? Describe his literary career and the impact he had on the English language, English literature and English culture.
Bragg, Melvyn (2003). The Adventure of English. Hodder and Stoughton, London, p. 141-153.

Shakespeare was born in Stratford in 1564. In 1590 he arrived in London as an actor-writer and very soon became renowned.

His first poem is ‘Venus and Adonis’ written in 1593. He then proceeded to write 37 plays, 154 sonnets and other major poems. William Shakespeare is recognized as one of the greatest writers of all time, known for works like "Hamlet," "Much Ado About Nothing," "Romeo and Juliet," "Othello," "The Tempest," and many other works. With the 154 poems and 37 plays of Shakespeare's literary career, his body of works is among the most quoted in literature. Shakespeare created comedies, histories, tragedies, and poetry.
Well over two thousand words used today are first recorded, plucked out or invented by him (obscene, barefaced, leap-frog, etc.). He combined words and almost any word could be used as any part of speech. Thus, Shakespeare’s influence was big and his sentences and expressions (as good luck would have it, in my mind’s eye, budge an inch, etc.) stuck to the people’s minds.
He had an impact on the English language to a certain extent, as even now his words, sentences and expressions are studied, while many idioms have become, through popular practice, used a lot in communication.
*Interestingly, Shakespeare’s vocabulary is estimated at 21 000 different words, while King James Bible in 1611 used about 10000 words. The modern average man has a personal vocabulary of less than half of Shakespeare’s.*

Mugglestone, Lynda (ed.). (2006) The Oxford History of English. Oxford University Press.

Impact on literature and language
(238) The drama of the period, including Shakespeare’s plays, is full of comic characters who cannot command the ‘new’ English, and who are ridiculed for their attempts to do so. Shakespeare, personally responsible (according to the evidence of the OED) for introducing more than 600 new words into the English language, often parodied the Renaissance fashion for neologizing.

Mackail, J. W. (1930) The Approach to Shakespeare. Oxford University Press. 161 p.

Shakespeare lived from 1564 to 1616 and he made theatre his profession as a dramatic author and adapter. At the time he lived, the author’s works seemed by the vast majority to be one in many, however the impact they had on literature over time is immense. His 37 plays, 154 sonnets and other poems were some of the most read over the world and a lot of the words used were either invented or gave new meaning to the current term.
Milner, Cork. (2008). The Everything Shakespeare Book.( 2nd Edition) F and W Publications, p. 40-55.
Shakespeare’s works were written in Early Modern English. The author was able to invent new words and new uses as the massive flow of foreign words offered multiple variations for one meaning, and this expanded vocabulary made his language both more precise and evocative in a briefer length of text. Shakespeare made up words by adding prefixes and suffixes to existing words, combined some others and changed the parts of speech linked to a particular segment.
Abbott, E.A. (1966). A Shakespearian Grammar. Dover Publications, New York, 511 p.
Shakespeare used and switched original meaning which brought new and concise texts. For example, an adverb could be used as a verb in ‘They askance their eyes’ or as an adjective ‘a seldom pleasure’, or you could render parts of speech as active verbs, such as to ‘happy’ your friend, while pronouns are used as nouns, ‘The fairest she he has yet beheld’, etc. Words were used in a different sense from the modern, the relatives omitted; the plural nominative was used with singular verbs, but these apparent grammatical inaccuracies did not seem as such at the time, as grammar was much freer than it is today. Which is why Shakespeare’s enduring grammar is due not to his inaccuracies but to the fact that meaning is still being transmitted with the context and in an incomparable efficient manner.


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