Showing posts with label Shakespeare. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shakespeare. Show all posts

Jun 5, 2015

The Real William Shakespeare

A true, only known, actual portrait of William Shakespeare was recently found in a botany book. He was presumed to be about 33 at the time.

Botanist and historian Mark Griffiths claims in the new issue of Country Life Magazine that he has identified the “first and only known demonstrably authentic portrait of the world’s greatest writer made in his lifetime.” It was discovered on the title page of a 16th century botany book called “The Herball” by John Gerard.

May 1, 2015

Short Shrift

A shrift is a penance (a prescribed penalty) imposed by a priest in a confession in order to provide absolution. During the 17th century, criminals were sent to the scaffold immediately after sentencing and only had time for a 'short shrift' before being hanged.

The first known use of short shrift was in 1594. Shakespeare was the first to write it down, in Richard III. RATCLIFF:  Dispatch, my lord; the duke would be at dinner: Make a short shrift; he longs to see your head.

It does not appear again in print until 1814, Scott's Lord of the Isles: Short were his shrift in that debate. If Lorn encounter'd Bruce!

The original meaning has little relation to the modern sense of short shrift, which usually has negative connotations. One usually does not want to be given short shrift or little consideration in dealing with a person or matter.

Theologians and confessors viewed the sacrament of penance as a prescription that cured a moral illness. In early medieval times penances were long and arduous and had to be performed before absolution. Lengthy pilgrimages and even lifelong exile were not uncommon. However, less demanding penances could be given in extreme situations; short shrift was a brief penance given to a person condemned to death so that absolution could be granted before execution.

Mar 12, 2013

Wordology, Sport

Speaking of sports, the word sport was formed as an abbreviated form of disport. It first appears in a Middle English romance called Ipomadon in about 1440, 150 years before Shakespeare.

Disport derives from Anglo Norman desporter "to carry away" or, metaphorically, "to divert, entertain", formed from des "apart" and porter "carry". The word originally referred to "amusement". It did not gain its modern use until the 19th century.

Aug 8, 2012

Third Degree

To get the third degree means to be thoroughly questioned. The third degree of something has been regarded as the upper limit, or extreme since before the the time of Shakespeare when he wrote, “For he’s in the thirde degree of drinke, he’s drown’d.” He was referring to a very drunk man. It is a natural progression when referring to the most extreme type of questioning, it would be referred to as the third degree. It has come to also mean inflicting of pain, physical or mental, to extract confessions or statements.

In Masonic Lodges there is also the rituals involved before reaching the third, or highest level, which includes intense questioning.

Mar 27, 2012

Hoisted by His Own Petard

Many have heard this statement. Here is the background. Shakespeare, specifically Hamlet, act III, scene 4, lines 206 and 207: "For 'tis sport to have the engineer/ Hoist with his own petar …"

The Melancholy Dane is chuckling over the fate he has in store for his childhood comrades, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who are plotting to have him killed. Deferring his existential crisis for a moment, Hamlet turns the plot on the plotters, substituting their names for his in the death warrant they carry from King Claudius.

He continues: "But I will delve one yard below their mines/ And blow them at the moon." The key word is "mines," as in "land mines," for that's what a petard is (or "petar," as Shakespeare wrote. A small explosive device designed to blow open barricaded doors and gates, the petard was a favorite weapon in Elizabethan times.

Hamlet was saying, figuratively, that he would bury his bomb beneath Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's and "hoist" them, i.e., "blow them at the moon."

The word "petard," comes from the Middle French peter, which derives in turn from the Latin peditum, to break wind. So, a small explosion.

May 19, 2011

Something is Rotten in Denmark

I heard someone say this on an English TV show recently and thought it interesting that they use the same expression we do. Looked it up and found out it is from Shakespeare's Hamlet when Marcellus sees the ghost of Hamlet's father, the king of Denmark. Literally it meant that something was wrong with the government of Denmark. Used loosely now, it means something is wrong or things are unsatisfactory.

Apr 22, 2011

Talk Like Shakespeare Day

To be or not to be a fun day, that is the question. Have some fun tomorrow because it is William Shakespeare's 447th birthday on April 23, 2011, Talk Like Shakespeare Day is a day on which all citizens are encouraged to express their inner thespian, incorporating Shakespearean lines into everyday conversation. It was started in 2009 in Chicago. Though this be madness, yet there is method in 't. . .  Make someone smile.

Nov 12, 2010

Crow Bar

The word crowbar with the bird-name "crow", due to the crowbar’s resemblance to the feet or beak of a crow. The first use of the word shows up around 1400. They were called simply crows, or iron crows, and sometimes Jimmy Bars. William Shakespeare used the term iron crow in many places, including his play Romeo and Juliet, Act 5, Scene 2: 'Get me an iron crow and bring it straight unto my cell'. I thought a crow bar was a place where politicians hang out and talk about themselves.

Sep 3, 2010

Mums the Word

This means to keep quiet and comes from Shakespeare in Henry VI, Part 2, Act 1, Scene 2:  “Seal up your lips and give no words but mum." It was actually pronounced with a mmmmm, as in a hum.

May 25, 2010

Copies of Antique Manuscripts

A remarkable archive of antique manuscripts which opens a window on to the experiences, hopes, fears and interests of people who lived during the 15th to 18th centuries has been put online.

The University of Cambridge Scriptorium Project features thousands of pages taken from 20 different handwritten "miscellanies", some of which date back as far as the Wars of the Roses.

The books were used to record snippets of information that people had read, been told, or overheard, at a time when paper was a scarce and expensive commodity.

The collection includes a notebook in which Edward VI wrote down various Biblical passages and a miscellany kept by William Rawley, chaplain to Francis Bacon, in which he recorded Bacon's sayings and a number of his (rather bad) jokes.

Perhaps more significantly, however, it features copious amounts of material reflecting the day-to-day lives of other people. Recipes, accounts, sonnets, quotations, prayers, sermons, legal tips and medical instructions were all added to the compendia as they were passed down through the generations.

Over a period of decades, their owners recorded everything from poems by Shakespeare and Milton, to plague remedies, laundry lists, or, in one case, the contents of their fish pond. As a result, the books provide an insight into sections of the population of whom we would know far less without them, not least the women of the era.
The website also includes a complete and interactive online course in deciphering medieval and early modern handwriting as well as further resources for manuscript studies.

"The idea is to enable other researchers to decipher their own manuscripts even if they have not encountered early modern handwriting before," Dr. Beadle added. "Hopefully this project will help to open up the literature, history, theology and philosophy of this period to a new generation of students and scholars all over the world."

http://scriptorium.english.cam.ac.uk/manuscripts/