Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App

When to use You vs Thou

plays of ShakespeareClose readers of the plays of Shakespeare will have noted that characters will often address others using either you or thou. The employment and differentiation of you and thou are still in use in French, Italian, and Spanish. The words in translation are also used in the speaking of German. Further, individuals will often alternate between using these terms. Lady Capulet in “Romeo and Juliet” does this, perhaps revealing her unsettled nature about Juliet’s status as one who is ready to get married or one who is still a child. The shift from you to thou is also prevalent in “As You Like It,” which The Classical Studio has just produced. In the opening scene, the character of Oliver begins by addressing Orlando as you and quickly employs the more insulting thou as Orlando attacks Oliver. Later, Celia uses the more familiar thou (often used among equals), while Rosalind keeps herself apart from Celia by using the more formal you.

It will be up to the speaker of the text to determine what clues are being given and how the speaker is departing from what is considered to be the norm. In short, the use of you indicates a polite form of address and thou indicates an informal or familiar form of address. One would use you in addressing someone who is of a higher social status than oneself, or a parent, or someone whom you would like to keep away from yourself. Also, if one person is using thou and another is using is using you, you might find yourself in a situation where the user of you is clearly not just into the one using thou. In addition, one would use thou when addressing a servant or an intimate friend or colleague. Thou could also be used to hurl an insult to one who has caused displeasure, as in the case with Oliver and Orlando cited above.

In sum, the use of you and thou, while potentially confusing, can lead to a greater understanding
of the speaker’s intentions and present the actor with a wider range of possibilities in interpreting the text of a given play.

For more help the plays of Shakespeare download your copy of the new Shakespeare Pronunciation App.

Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App

Hendiadys in Shakespeare

Hendiadys is a figure of speech in which two words connected by a conjunction (usually ‘and’) are used to express a single notion that would normally be expressed by an adjective and a substantive, such as “gracious favor” in place of “grace and favor.” It stems from the Latin phrase “one thing by means of two” or “one through two.” While the phase is no longer cited among grammarians of ancient Greek, Medieval Latin grammarians cite it frequently. Perhaps most famously used by Shakespeare in Hamlet in the line “Oh what a rogue and peasant slave am I” from “Hamlet.” Shakespeare, of course, made the device his own, using an adjectival construction such as “they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the time,” in reference to the Players. Instances of both substantive and adjectival construction abound in this play.Hendiadys

Examples of Hendiadys

The King refers to “delight and dole,” while adding “sweet and commendable”(I, 2, 87). He refers to the “cheer and comfort” of his eye, while calling Hamlet’s reply, “loving and fair” (I, 2, 121), while referencing his “auspicious and dropping eye” (I, 2, 11).  It is not Hamlet or the King alone that employs this rhetorical trope.  Laertes uses it also, when he cautions Ophelia about her involvement with Hamlet, invoking the state’s “safety and health” (I, 3, 20) , its “voice and yielding “(I, 3, 22), and the “morn and liquid dew.”  Ophelia herself is also prone to this construction, in referring to Laertes’ “steep and thorny” (I, 3, 47) path to heaven, as well as his “puffed and reckless” (I, 3, 48) behavior.  Their father, Polonius, himself is not stranger to the device as well, citing Hamlet’s “rank and station” (I, 3, 72) and “select and generous” (I, 3, 73) being.  Ophelia uses this standard later when she cites Hamlet as “Th’expectancy and rose of the fair state” (III, 1, 152) and refers to his “form and feature” (III, 1, 159), while declaring his words to be “out of tune and harsh” (III, 1, 158).   Hamlet himself does not abandon the device, continuing its use in the closet scene with his mother in instances like “frock or livery” (III, 4, 164) and “fair and good (III, 4, 163).

As we point out in the Shakespeare Pronunciation App, Shakespeare experiments with different poetic tropes in each play.  The prevalence of Hendiadys in “Hamlet” is a feature unique to that play and exhibits Shakespeare’s fascination with the possibilities of linguistic formation.