How to Read Shakespeare Wherefore art thou Romeo
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How to Read Shakespeare Wherefore art thou, Romeo?
There are several reasons why Shakespeare’s language can be so hard to understand. One main reason is his vocabulary, and another is the way his sentences are written.
Shakespeare often used words we don’t use any more Your textbook provides sidenotes to help you with archaic (old) words and with other words that might be unfamiliar to you.
Here are some of the archaic words used in the play: an’ or and = if nice = trivial; foolish anon = soon, right owes = owns away; coming soft = quiet; slow up but = if; except; only stay = wait hap or happy = luck; still = always lucky For more archaic words and their wot definitions, = know see your textbook. maid = unmarried girl Ye = you
Shakespeare also used a lot of contractions to control the meter of each line. In these cases you have to read through the word. You’ll use the context to figure out what word it should be. Try to figure out what word it is supposed to be and pronounce it normally.
Some common Shakespearean contractions: a’ = on/he e’en = even e’er = ever ne’er = never is’t = is it ‘tis = it is I’ = in oft = often gi’ = give t’other = the other ope = open o’er = over
The meter also affects the pronunciation of words we recognize. When you read words that have a mark for emphasis, pronounce the syllable. marrièd talkèd walkèd fixèd
Shakespeare’s verbs are sometimes written strangely art = are think’st = think may’st = may goeth = goes wilt = will
When Shakespeare wants to talk about you, he uses different pronouns than we do.
thou = you Thou is “you” as the subject of a sentence Thou hast a pretty dog.
thee = you Thee is “you” as the object of a sentence. I gave the dog to thee.
thy = your Thy dog has eaten my sneakers. Put thy dog in a kennel.
thine = yours The dog that has eaten my sneakers is thine. My dog will live for a long time. Will thine?
thine = your + vowel You’d better watch out for thine own sneakers. To thine own dog be true.
Here’s a test: Yesterday, I saw you and your dog Flimflam getting into a car. Were you going somewhere with him? I saw you sitting behind the wheel and your dog sitting in your lap. Was the car his or yours? I didn’t know you could let your dog drive.
Yesterday, I saw THEE and THY dog Flimflam getting into a car. WAST THOU going somewhere with him? I saw THEE sitting behind the wheel and THY dog sitting in THY lap. Was the car his or THINE? I didn’t know THEE could let THY dog drive.
As you read Shakespeare’s works, try to visualize the play being performed. Remind yourself that these are people talking to each other. Based on what they are talking about, try to figure out what words they are likely to be saying.
Also consider the fact that some of what he says is supposed to be funny
He uses A LOT of puns l. Joke made by playing with the meanings of words. l. Can be words that are spelled the same but have different meaning like “battery” l. Can be words that sound the same but are spelled differently like “no” and “know”
Pun example l. I used to be a doctor, but then I lost patients l. This duck walks into a bar and orders a beer. "Four bucks, " says the bartender. "Put it on my bill. " l. Two peanuts walk into a bar. One was a salted.