William Shakespeare

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					     : "What say you? What think you?" For a couple
of centuries after 1400 this was still done habitually,
but more and more people fell into the habit of saying
"What do you say? What do you think?" The "do" was
colorless and merely brought about a deferment of the
main verb. In effect it makes our English usage
somewhat like Russian, which says "What you say?
What you think?" without any inversion of the verb
before the subject. In simple statements the "do"
forms were used for situations where we no longer
feel the need for them. An Elizabethan would say "I do
greatly fear it" (an unrestricted statement). We should
use the less emphatic "I fear it greatly." Compare
Shakespeare's During the same period there began
the gradual spread of the so-called progressive
conjugation, with forms of "to be": "I am coming; he is
sitting down." These two special forms of English
conjugation have developed an intricate etiquette,
with many modifications of usage, which cause great
trouble to the foreign student. One of the last
distinctions he masters is the one between "I eat
breakfast every morning" and "I am eating breakfast
now"; betweeng| believe that" and "I do indeed believe
   "VJW   uciwccn i ucncvc max ana
          i                          1   ao indeed believe that."
One of the most fateful innovations in English
culture, the use of the printing press, had its effects
on the language in many ways. The dialect of
London, which had for over a century been gaining
in currency and prestige, took an enormous spurt
when it was more or less codified as the language of
the press. As Caxton and his successors normalized
it, roughly speaking, it became the language of
officialdom, of polite letters, of the spreading
commerce centered at the capital. The local dialects
competed with it even less successfully than
formerly. The art of reading, though still a privilege of
the favored few, was extended lower into the ranks
of the middle classes. With the secularizing of
education later on, the mastery of the printed page
was extended to still humbler folk. Boys who, like
William Shakespeare, were sons of small-town
merchants and craftsmen, could learn to read their

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