Shakespeare's Words: A Glossary and Language Companion

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9780141007373: Shakespeare's Words: A Glossary and Language Companion

This book is for people who love Shakespeare, or love language, or both. David Crystal, one of the world's foremost authorities on the English language, with his actor son, Ben, have taken a fresh look at the vocabulary of Shakespeare's poems and plays and compiled a glossary of nearly 14,000 words and meanings. They have included every word which presents the reader with a difficulty arising out of the differences between Elizabethan and Modern English. This collaboration of linguist and actor is unique, enabling the author to add fascinating nuances to our understanding of Shakespeare's language. The book departs from the usual type of glossary in several ways. Meanings are brought into sharp focus through the use of multiple glosses; and each entry is supported by at least one illustrative quotation. A scene-setting caption puts the quotation in its dramatic context and helps to clarify the meaning. Cross-references to further uses of a word are made to other plays. Additional features are introduced which give the book the character of a language companion. For those at the beginning of their encounter with Shakespeare, there is a handy basic list of frequently encountered words. For the more advanced reader, there are panels on intriguing areas of his language such as archaisms, greetings and swear-words. A series of appendices collates the way characters are named, the names of the people and places they talk about, and the foreign languages that some of them use. There are complete listings of all the French, Latin, Spanish and Italian words, as well as information about the way Welsh, Scottish and Irish dialects are handled. An especially fascinating feature of the book is the way the plays are presented to the reader both in written and diagrammatic form. Each play has a conventional plot synopsis and list of dramatis personae, but the authors additionally provide a specially devised Shakespearean Circle. The Circles are informative illustrations representing the way the characters of each play interact with each other, and they thereby show the reader at a glance who belongs in which circle of influence. In "Richard II", which characters follow Richard and which follow Bolingbroke? The relevant page will immediately tell you. The Circles are ideal for theatre-goers, actors and students, and are uniquely useful as a visual aid. The combination of these features with the authority of a language expert and the dramtaic instincts of an actor make "Shakespeare's Words" ideal for aficionados and amateurs alike, either as a quick reference or as a basis for in-depth research. It is a valuable aid in the study and understanding of Shakespeare.

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About the Author:

David Crystal is one of the most authoritative commentators on the English language. He is the author of the best-selling 'The English Language' and the editor of the 'Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language'. He lives in Anglesey, Wales. Ben Crystal, David's son, is an actor and lives in London (NW1). Stanley Wells is General Editor of the Oxford Shakespeare and Associate Editor of the New Penguin Shakespeare series.

From Booklist:

The main lexical references for Shakespeare scholars in the twentieth century were first Alexander Schmidt's two-volume Shakespeare Lexicon (1874) and later C. T. Onions' Shakespeare Glossary, which appeared in 1911 and was revised by Onions in 1919. A further revision in 1986, by Robert D. Eagleson, kept Onions in print but failed, to some extent, to satisfy scholars. The new Shakespeare's Words seems likely to fill the void created by the superannuated Onions.

Using the New Penguin Shakespeare as their text, the editors, linguist David Crystal and his actor son Ben Crystal, first collected all of the "problem" words flagged by the Penguin editors and then scoured the plays and sonnets for additional "difficult" words--especially words that are no longer current or that have developed a different sense since Shakespeare's time. After a few further additions, their entries totaled 21,263 under 13,626 headwords.

Rather than defining a word by listing a single near synonym, the Crystals decided that a system called lexical triangulation would better reflect the complexity of Shakespeare's language. Most entries have three glosses, each providing a slightly different slant. For example, englut is glossed as "swallow up, gulp down, devour." Each entry includes part of speech, an illustrative quotation (with text and context identified), and selected references to other occurrences. Sidebars contain brief tutorials on address forms, money, weapons, and more.

Readers newly acquainted with Shakespeare will benefit greatly by browsing through the Crystals' list of 100 frequently encountered words, which are accompanied by more illustrative quotations than are provided elsewhere. Other useful features are a chronology, plot synopses, diagrams illustrating interactions of characters, and 16 appendixes providing brief definitions for historical people, places, foreign terms, and other vocabulary not found in the A-Z section.

This is a most ambitious work that will be of immense value to student and scholar alike, a worthy successor to the landmark volumes that preceded it. Recommended for large public and academic libraries. RBB
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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