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Archaic Words In Shakespeares Play English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 3027 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The search for the meaning of literature is wide and may not clear and inevitably it meaning can change over time. Excessively the abstract or general idea of “literature” can also change over time. Many dictionary has been published and the word “literature” concise of many meaning. In the Word Web Pro’s Dictionary alone gave four definition of the word “literature”. The only things that are actually the same with all the definitions are that “literature” is a piece of writing.

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In general, most people may have their own ideas of what literature is. Some people nowadays could expect that novels are literature. Likewise, for a student studied literature subject, a long wearisome poem might be literature even though the degree, grade of excellence or worth of each poem is difference based on its content. Consequently, a dramatic performance in stage can also be called literature.

Singularly, literature is shape with words, in written form although not all written off is literature since it can also be in spoken form. Above all, literature might not have any boundaries at all. The literature world may already has influence many of the world’s culture.

“Literature is a creative writing of recognized artistic value.”

(WordNet database, 2006)

The first definition, based from Word Web Pro’s dictionary, literature is a creative writing of recognized artistic value. Creative writing can be any writing that goes outside the bounds of normal writing. Therefore, this kind of works is abruptly satisfying the aesthetic standards of every artistic value. This could be one of the directions to define literature. Such can be proved by looking the variety of genres that already born in the world of literature such as epic, lyric, and dramatic.

“The humanistic study of a body of literature.”

(WordNet database, 2006)

The second definition of literature from the Word Web Pro’s dictionary is it is the humanistic study of a body of literature. Humanistic study suggests a practice of life. The idea here means literature is the way of life in its own body.

“Published writings in a particular style on a particular subject.”

(WordNet database, 2006)

The third definition, literature is a published writings in a particular style on a particular subject. The message intended here stands for literature is a writings that are prepared and printed for distribution and sale in a unique or specific category manner and field namely, the written works of novel. Novels are one form of literature that suited in this circumstance where they were sold in a variety of genres and story.

“Profession or art of a writer.”

(WordNet database, 2006)

Finally, also from Word Web Pro’s dictionary, literature is a profession or art of a writer. Profession is considered an occupation. Thus, it accurately fitted to state that literature is a profession. A person engaged in literature professions such as professor, lecturer and teacher are skilled in literature. Moreover, literature is art of writer. Many writer published their works with creativity; works of art collectively, the creation of beautiful or significant things. Hence, literature is an art of a writer.

In conclusion, literature can be many things. It might have the possibilities to be all things. In exploring ideas about what literature is, it is maybe useful to look at some of the things that literature serves. Literature can be something that reflects society, allows people to enjoy language and beauty, it can be didactic, and reflects on “the human condition”.

2.2 Archaic Words


“Old and no longer used.”

(Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary [OALD], 2010)

Archaic is applicable to refer to several things from the past. It could be something classic, a period, antiquated or ancient. Particularly, it can be a speech or written that is not belonging to the present time.

“Old and longer used” is one of the definition of archaic from Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. It was stated by Heraclitus in the sixth century B.C, “Everything rolls on, nothing stays still’, claimed the ancient Greek philosopher. This means that there always something old and new. Accordingly archaic can be anything that is old such as items, buildings, and definitely time. Regarding that it was no longer used implied that it can be something lost, out of reach and cannot be comprehended.

Language also changes or transforms itself. [1] In essence, language also has an archaic version. Even the simplest and most colloquial English of several hundred years ago can sounds remarkably strange. To conclude, old is archaic. That what it meant, nothing more, nothing less.

2.2.2 Words

“A single unit of language; can be spoken or written.”

(OALD, 2010)

Based from Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, word is a single unit of language which can be spoken or written. This here means that language is a compilation of word and that it is the things that make a language since the meaning of language is a system of words, used to name things in a particular discipline.

Word can be spoken and written. This implied that the scope of word is in truth really big and somewhat prominent in everything that exists anywhere in the world. Word, in logical perspective, may have given birth to thousands of language. Accordingly, words may have many form, pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar.

Again, by Heraclitus in the sixth century B.C, “everything rolls on, nothing stays still.’ [2] Here means words still followed the principle of time. There are old and new words. “Some would say that the death of a language is much less worrisome than that of a species” is a statement from a Professor of Language and Communication, University of Oxford. The statement can implied that there is demise in language proving that language can vanish as time goes by.

2.3 Archaic words

This section is divided into three parts:

Why words become archaic?

List of archaic words in the play and its modern equivalent.

2.3.1 Why words become archaic?

“Time changes all things: there is no reason why language should escape this universal law.”

(Ferdinand de Saussure, 1857-1913)

Language, like everything else, gradually transforms itself over the centuries. There is nothing surprising in this. In a world where humans grow old and the definition of technology changed, it would be strange if language alone could remain unaltered. Time is an indefinite period where it is vague or not clearly defined or stated. Briefly, time seems to be the major subject of all evolved affair or matter.

“Changes take place through the communicative acts of individual speakers and gradually, in a non-uniform way.”

(Salikoko Mufwene, 2001)

Since words can be spoken, considering the quote, changes can occur in communication of a person in a non-homogeneous way. This means the change could happen where a person use language informally where the use of colloquial expressions is demonstrated. By this method, old and unused may become archaic as a new version of that archaic word evolved.

“Since the 19th century, languages have been analogized with organisms in biology.”

(Salikoko Mufwene, 2001)

Language is defined as a systematic means of communicating by the use of sounds or conventional symbols. [3] Consequently, language, in truth can actually assimilate thousands of sound and variety of conventional symbols. It is like implying that language is a living thing that has or can develop the ability to act or functions independently like an organisms. Thus, since organisms can be relate to biology, based on the quote, which is the science that studies living organisms testified that language can be compared like a living things. Limiting the view to certain attributes, as living things, language can grow old or archaic. It can be preceding of something else in time or order and may no longer valid or fashionable. Hence, it can be one of the reasons archaic words exist.

In conclusion, language change is unavoidable which is impossible to avoid or evade. Archaic words do exist and has many reasons for it to occur or be the case in the course of any events or by chance.

List of archaic words in the play and its modern equivalent.

Below are the list of the archaic words that are found in the play; a midsummer night’s dream by analyzing thoroughly from the script of the play.

Archaic Word

Meaning/Modern Equivalent




make amends for


expression of regret


Second person singular form






to sprinkle, wet


happen, occur






damn, bedamn




brisk, well

Archaic Word

Meaning/Modern Equivalent


the 2nd person singular of can


rude, ungrateful or mean


Second-person singular past form of can




Second person singular past form of do


Present second-person singular form of do




dare, dared





Archaic Word

Meaning/Modern Equivalent


until now


drift, mistake


catch sight of






cringe, grovel


in truth, indeed




to pay close attention; to listen


Present second-person singular form of have




In this place, thing or document


A belief that rejects


A belief that rejects

Archaic Word

Meaning/Modern Equivalent




Form, shape




Made of leather; consisting of. leather


an alcoholic drink made from honey, meadow


it seems to me


it seems to me


a type of gull


Dance of costumed performers act out in story







Archaic Word

Meaning/Modern Equivalent


perhaps, possibly, by adventure or by chance


perhaps, possibly, by adventure or by chance


having no choice, being forced


give way to, be intimidated by


disloyal, unfaithful or cowardly


Second person singular of shall




temporary stay




pause, wait









Archaic Word

Meaning/Modern Equivalent


The second personal pronoun






tow, pair


it is


it were






namely, as follows


A lewd woman, waste time


Heavenly vault


in which, where


on which


To what place




Not only so, but


Stable gear,

William Shakespeare

Background of his life

William Shakespeare was the son of John Shakespeare, who is a productive trader and Mary Arden, the daughter of a wealthy landowning farmer. He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, a town in central England on the River Avon and christened there on 26 April 1564. Stratford-upon-Avon is also his burial place since he died in 23 April 1616.

There has no actual record of during Shakespeare’s period of where he was educated but almost all biographers, people who write an account of a Shakespeare’s life correspond that William Shakespeare was likely educated at the King’s New School in Stratford.

At the age of 18, Shakespeare joined in matrimony with the 26-year-old Anne Hathaway. Their firstborn was a daughter, Susanna and was also christened in 26 May 1583. Twins followed almost two years later and were christened in 2 February 1585.

His influence in literature

William Shakespeare was born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon and went on to write around 38 plays, 154 sonnets and numerous other poems. He is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language. His plays are performed more often than those of any other playwright and he invented over 1,500 words that are still used today.

William Shakespeare demonstrated a high reputation as a writer of plays and a poet in the literature world. He wrote lots of plays for the London stage including comedies such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The plays are greatly appreciated for their poetical language, spectacular technique and literary style. Likewise, he wrote poems, the best known of which are famous for their beautiful language and potent emotion. Nowadays, his plays are still regularly performed all over the world.

2.4 Play

“(Performing arts) perform a role or part.”

(WordNet database, 2006)


Play is a performing art that involved performing a role or part based from the Word Web Pro’s dictionary. A play or drama offers another classical literary form that may has continued to evolve over the years. It normally compiled of dialogue between characters which denote the lines spoken by characters in drama, and usually aims at sensational in appearance or thrilling in effect or theatrical performance rather than at reading.

Explanation on Shakespeare’s and modern’s play

“The experience of visiting a theater and watching a play was very different in Shakespeare’s time. You were not expected to be still and silent throughout the performance like you are today. Rather, it was the modern equivalent of going to see a popular band.” [4] This was quoted by Lee Jamieson regarding plays that performed in theater during Shakespeare’s period. It was stated by Lee that there are differences between Shakespeare’s and modern’s play.

Briefly, during Shakespeare’s period, the audience would eat, drink and talk throughout the performance. Theaters were in open air and they used natural light. Also, plays were performed in the afternoon in the daylight. Women never performed and the female characters were often played by boys. Plays used very little scenery, instead using language to set the scene.

Today theaters are basically the opposite of Shakespeare’s time period. Theater nowadays are more free which meant the present day are able to act at will; not hampered; not under compulsion or any restraint.

2.5 A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The play is entitled A Midsummer Night’s Dream, whose play written by William Shakespeare. The play features four genres, which is comedy, fantasy, romance and farce. In the script and the act the language was English, old English to be exact. It is believed that the play to have been written between 1594 or 1595 in London. Meanwhile the first publication of the play was in 1600 published by the bookseller Thomas Fisher.

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The play has no narrator, as it is only compiled with dialogue of the characters. Moreover, the play has no individual protagonist since there are three main groups of characters except the character Puck, who is considered most significant character. Furthermore, there are no antagonists in the drama because in general the dramas are typically outcome of the setting, by accident and errors in some part.

The setting in the play set in a period of a unique combination of An Ancient Greece with elements of Renaissance England. Also, the play takes place in Athens, the capital and the largest city in Greece and the forest outside of Athens’s wall.

The tense used in the script of the play is present tense.

The play has many tones in it. Tones are the pitch of one’s speech. The play has romantic tone which is full of or expressing deep emotion. Next, it has comedic tone intended to signify the elements of comedy. Furthermore, the play has a couple of satirical tone which meant the play exposed human folly to ridicule. In addition, the play also has a dreamlike tone where the play resembling a dream. Moreover joyful tones are enclosed in the play displaying a high-spirited delightedness. Lastly, farcical tones correspondingly have a part in play as well, which meant generally or extravagantly humorous.


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