Influence and Contribution of Shakespeare on English Language

Influence and Contribution of Shakespeare on English Language
William Shakespeare, possibly the greatest of all
English dramatists is to be mentioned particularly as a literary icon in
English. He remains unparalleled and unrivalled in the realm of philology. No
other individual writer has exercised so much influence on English language as
Shakespeare has done- I) Vocabulary building, ii) Syntax, iii) morphological
processing, iv) the effective employment 
of words and phrases, v) different grammatical principles vi) individualization
of character, vii) Shylock’s language etc.

There is incredible potency of vocabulary used by
Shakespeare in his dialogues of his drama. According to Otto Jespersen (The Growth and Structure of English
Language
), “Shakespeare’s contribution in English philology is the richest ever
employed by any single man.”
His unique use of words ornamented English
vocabulary-
1.    
Dwindle
(Macbeth)
2.    
Weird
(Macbeth)
3.    
Auspicious
4.    
Excellent
5.    
Barefaced
6.    
Courtship
7.    
Loggerhead
8.    
Fretful
9.    
Assassination
(Macbeth)
10.           
Castigate
11.           
Dexterously
12.           
Multitudinous
13.           
Watchdog
14.           
Sanctimonious
15.           
Lackluster
16.           
Leapfrog
17.           
Housekeeping
18.           
Fashionable
( Troilus and Cressida )
19.           
Obscene (Love’s Labour’s Lost)
20.           
Swagger ( Henry V
21.           
Puking (As You Like It)
22.           
Addiction (Othello)
23.           
Zany Love’s Labour’s Lost
A.C. Bradley claims that “The greatness of W. Shakespeare
lies not in innovative thought process but in artistic representation of
thought process with the help of greater number of new words and expressions .”

There are some expressions or phrases which we use day-in and day-out without
remembering or knowing even that they have come from the immortal pen of
Shakespeare-
1.            
“Fair
is foul, foul is fair.” (Macbeth)
2.            
“Prime
rose path to the everlasting bonfire” (Macbeth)
3.            
“Life’s
fitful fever.” (Macbeth)
4.            
“Hurly-burly”
(Macbeth)
5.            
“Full
of sound fury” (Macbeth)
6.            
“It’s Greek to
me” (Julius Caesar
7.            
“All that glitters
isn’t gold” (Merchant of Venice)
8.            
“To be or not to be” (Hamlet)
9.            
“Be all and end
all”  (Macbeth)
10.       
“Green-eyed monster” (Othello)
11.       
“Off with his head” (Richard II)
12.       
“Fair Play” (The Tempest)
13.       
“Lie Low” (Much Ado about Nothing)
14.       
“Love is blind.” (The Merchant of Venice)
15.       
“All’s well that ends
well” – (All’s Well That Ends
Well
)
16.       
“A wild goose chase” – (Romeo and Juliet)
17.       
“Naked truth” – Love’s Labour’s Lost
18.       
“Give the devil his due”
– Henry IV, Part I
19.       
“Salad days” – Antony and Cleopatra
20.       
“Wear your heart on your
sleeve” – Othello
21.       
“All of a sudden” – The Taming of the Shrew
22.       
“Break the Ice” – The Taming of the
Shrew
23.       
“A sea change” (The Tempest)
24.       
“Mind’s Eye”-(Hamlet)
25.       
 “Truth will out” – (The Merchant of Venice)
26.       
“Lilly Liver’d” – (Macbeth)
A commanding characteristic of Shakespearean use of
language is specially marked by individualization of character with their own
sets of language: Shylock in the play The
Merchant of Venice
; Malvolio in the play Twelfth Night; Porter in the play Macbeth etc.

Shylock’s (The villainous figure in The Merchant of Venice by
Shakespeare) contribution to English language is enormous. The unforgettable
Jew, Shylock is the bold creation of Shakespeare. His major contribution is his
linguistic output. The first thing about him is his constant use of the
expressions from the Old Testament. Shylock uses terms like “Jacob’s Staff”,
“Parti-coloured lamb”, “Holy Sabbath”, “Hogger’s offspring” and so on.

Shakespeare’s contribution on English morphology is
just wonderful. He develops new compound words by adding prefix “un”: ‘unavoided’,
(inevitable), ‘unvalued’ (precious), ‘ungot’ (unborn), ‘unkiss’, ‘unfathered’
etc.

A number of new words were formed by adding French
prefix ‘en’ or ‘em’: ‘enact’, ‘enkindle’, ‘endeared’, ‘embattle’, ‘emprison’
etc.

Shakespeare also extended the meaning of few existing
words like ‘Charm’ which previously meant ‘well-known’ but Shakespeare makes it
sense like ‘magical power’; ‘bonnet’ previously meant ‘wearing the lower part
of lady’ but he means ‘cap’ or ‘hat’.

As a maker of English, Shakespeare who is also the
greatest dramatist and poet of England, is perched on the zenith wherefrom no
change in linguistic fashions will ever afford to debunk him.
 ~~~~~*~~~~~

1 thought on “Influence and Contribution of Shakespeare on English Language”

  1. Hey! I hope you are doing good amidst all the chaos, I am a literature enthusiast as well and loved how you are rearing your enthusiasm even after having a full time job. All good wishes to you.

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