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1. The addition of an eleventh syllable; e. g.:
Which might | deprive | your sove | reignty | of rea
son, I. iv. 73. That one | may smile | and smile | and be l a vil | lain,
I. v. 108.
Occasionally this extra syllable occurs in the middle of the line, at the main pause known as the caesura, which is most frequent after the second or third foot; e. g.:
Dared to the com | bat; || in which our val | iant
Ham | let, I. i. 84. Possess | it inere | ly. || That it I should come to this! |
I. ii. 137.
2. Frequently what seems an extra syllable is to be slurred in reading. Thus “dangerous?? is dissyllabic in How dan | gerous is it that this man | goes loose ,
IV. iii. 2. and the middle syllable of "moiety” is slurred in Against the which I a moi | ety com | petent |, I. i.
90. So "whether” is monosyllabic in II. ii. 17. In some lines it is doubtful whether a syllable is to be slurred or read as a light extra syllable, as, e. g., the middle syllable of “labourer” in Doth make | the night I joint la | bourer with the
day 1 ; I. i. 78.
3. Short lines lacking one or more feet occur, especially at the end of a speech; e. g.:
Of his affection to me, I. iii. 100;
In honourable fashion, I. iii. 111; and cf. the last speech in II. ii.
4. Long lines of six feet occur; e. g.:
Did slay | this For | tinbras; / who by I a sealed | com
pact 1, I. i. 86. A wor | thy pi | oner. | Once more | remove, | good
friends | , I. v. 163.
Usually in such lines some words bearing the metrical accent are quite unemphatic in reading, as in the fourth foot of I. i. 86; or the line contains an exclamation or nominative of address, like “good friends,” above, which may be regarded as extra-metrical.
5. Frequently, especially in the first foot, a trochee is substituted for an iambus, that is, the accent falls on the odd instead of on the even syllable; e. g.: Seek for | thy noble father in the dust, I. ii. 71. These but the trappings and the suits of woe, I. ii. 86.
6. It must be remembered, however, that the pronunciation of many words has changed since Shakspere's time, e. g.: confine, I. i. 156; persever, I. ii. 92; charácter, I. iii. 59; records, I. V.99; aspect; II. ii. 598. Again, the ending -ion was often dissyllabic, as in complex-ion, I. iv. 27.
Although differences between the Language.
* language of Shakspere and that of our own day are obvious to the most casual reader, there is a risk that the student may underestimate the extent of these differences, and assuming that similarity of form implies identity of sense, miss the true interpretation. The most important instances of change of meaning are explained in the notes; but a clearer view of the nature and extent of the contrast between the idiom of Hamlet and that of modern English will be gained by a classification of the most frequent features of this contrast. Some of the Shaksperean usages are merely the results of the carelessness and freedom which the more elastic standards of the Elizabethan time permitted; others are forms of expression at that time quite accurate, but now become obsolete.
1. Nouns. (a) Shakspere frequently uses an abstract noun with “of” where modern English uses an adjective; e. g.: brow of woe=woeful brow or aspect, I. ii. 4; spirit of health = healthy or saved spirit, I. iv. 40; toys of desperation = desperate fancies, I. iv. 75; days of nature = natural days, I. v. 12; fetch of wit = clever device, II. i.'38; thieves of mercy = merciful thieves, IV. vi. 21-22; rights of memory = memorable rights, V. ii. 409.
(6) Abstract nouns are often used in the plural;
e.g.: loves, I. i. 174; wisdoms, I. ii. 15; companies, II. ii. 14; modesties, II. ii. 294.
2. ADJECTIVES. Double comparatives occur; e. g.: more richer, III. ii. 301; more rawer, V. ii. 128.
3. PRONOUNS. (a) The nominative is sometimes used for the objective; e.g.: till he, I. ii. 105.
(6) The possessive “its" did not come into common use until after the middle of the seventeenth century, and in Shakspere, as in other early writers, we have “his” for the neuter as well as for the masculine; e.g.: “Nature cannot choose his origin,” I. iv. 26; "The ocean, overpeering of his list,” IV. v. 88.
(C) The personal pronoun is sometimes used for the reflexive; e. g.: prepare you, III. iii. 2; arm you, III. iii. 24.
(d) The ethical dative is more frequent than in modern speech; e. g.: “A tanner will last you nine year,”V. i. 184.
(e) The relative is often omitted after “there is," "there are," etc., as it frequently is in modern colloquial English; e.g.:“There is a willow grows aslant a brook," IV. vii. 167.
4. VERBS. (a) A singular verb is often found with a plural subject; e.g.: “Upon whose weal depends and rests the lives of many," III. iii. 14-15; “There's letters sealed," III. iv. 202; “There is no ancient gentlemen,” V. i. 33.
(6) Less frequently a plural verb is found with a singular subject, especially if a plural noun intervenes; e. g.: "The scope of these delated articles allow,” I. ii. 37-38.
(c) The “n” is frequently dropped from the past participles of strong verbs in cases where it is retained in modern English; e. g.: spoke= spoken, I. i. 45. When the word thus produced might be mistaken for the infinitive, the form of the past tense is found; e. g.: took=taken, II. ii. 83.
(d) The “ed” of the past participles of weak verbs ending in “t” is often dropped; e. g.: disjoint, I. ii. 20; deject, III. i. 164; bloat, III. iv. 182; distract, IV. v. 2.
(e) Verbs of motion are at times omitted; e. g., “And he to England shall , along with you,” III. iii. 4.
(f) The infinitive with “to” is sometimes used where modern usage requires a gerund; e.g.: leave to feed=leave feeding, III. iv. 67.
5. ADVERBS. (a) Double negatives are very often used with a merely intensive force; e.g.: “It is not nor it cannot come to good,” I. ii. 158. Cf. also III. ii. 5, 19; III. iv. 132, 181; etc.
(6) The form of the adjective is often used for the adverb; e. g.: “How prodigal the soul lends the tongue vows,” I. iii. 116-17. Cf. “marvellous” in II. i. 3 and III. ii. 298.
6. PREPOSITIONS. The usage in prepositions