Shakespeare's language


Shakespeare played a major role in the transformation of the English language.

At the time he was writing, the early modern English language was less than 100 years old. No dictionaries had yet been written and most documents were still written in Latin.

Shakespeare contributed over 3,000 words to the English language because he was the first author to write them down. Of this number more than one tenth or 1,700 were used for the first time.

Listen to Michael Pennington, an actor who has played some of Shakespeare's most linguistically demanding roles, talking to Jonathan Bate about how the 'nuts and bolts' of Shakespeare's poetic language work from the actor's point of view.

Michael Pennington and Jonathan Bate on language

Note: right click and select 'save target as' to download as a podcast.

Photo: Jonathan Slinger in Macbeth, directed by Michael Boyd, 2011. By Ellie Kurttz.

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Teaching Shakespeare