William Shakespeare's Influence on the English Language


Length: 575 words (1.6 double-spaced pages)
Rating: Excellent
Open Document
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Text Preview

More ↓

Continue reading...

Open Document

The English language has been in constant transition throughout its history, but the most significant transformation in modern English can be credited to William Shakespeare. With Shakespeare’s invention of commonly used expressions, his creation of new words, and his use of iambic pentameter, he was able to affect the language in a way that no person since has. Shakespeare’s influence on modern English is not only visible in everyday speech, but also in the fact that his work has survived over four hundred years and it continues to be performed and read worldwide.
     Shakespeare’s ability to mold the English language into eloquently written poetry gave him the ability to affect the language as he did. Hundreds of clichés that are used daily by English speakers were invented in Shakespeare’s writings. Few people are aware, but expressions such as “dead as a doornail” (Henry IV, Part II) or “something wicked this way comes” (Macbeth) can both be accredited to Shakespeare. In The Story of English, Bernard Levin writes that “if [the reader] cannot understand my argument, and [declares] ‘It's Greek to me’, you are quoting Shakespeare” (McCrum, Cran, MacNeil 99). Levin is simply reminding the reader that much of common English speech can be traced back to idioms used in Shakespeare’s writing. Shakespeare even took the liberty to invent words of his own, supposedly inventing over one thousand commonly used words. Shakespeare was able to create words in multiple ways, including changing nouns into verbs, changing verbs into adjectives, connecting words never before used together, adding prefixes and suffixes, and coming up with words that were completely original (pathguy.com). Shakespearian words include “assassination” and even “obscene” (McCrum, Cran, MacNeil 99), and other such words that are used by English speakers daily. Although a number of writers have used the English language to their advantage, no writer has taken the language to the level that Shakespeare was able to do.
In addition to adding an incredible amount to the language, Shakespeare’s work offered a reflection on the language itself through his use of iambic pentameter in his verse. Iambic pentameter is a style of poetic writing in which each line is ten syllables, alternating from soft to hard accents (five soft, five hard). Iambic pentameter captures the natural underlying rhythm in English speech. Some of Shakespeare’s most memorable lines have been written in iambic pentameter. For example, the opening line in one of Shakespeare’s most renowned plays, Romeo and Juliet, reads “Two households both alike in dignity” (I, i, 1).

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"William Shakespeare's Influence on the English Language." 123HelpMe.com. 24 Nov 2017
    <http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=78089>.
Title Length Color Rating  
Essay about Greater Writer of the English Language: William Shakespeare - ... Shakespeare may have his faults and may be a bit mature for early students, but the fact of the matter is William Shakespeare offers so many insights into the real world that are youth must learn early to better comprehend the real world that awaits them and in reality what it is to be human. Taking a look at one of Shakespeare’s most renowned play Hamlet, we can make a connection to the real world that young students should be taught. In this quote from Hamlet, “To be or not to be: that is the question: Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them.” Act 3 Scene 1 Line 63-67....   [tags: Pete Langman, hamlet] 542 words
(1.5 pages)
Good Essays [preview]
William Shakespeare's Hamlet as the Most Known Play in the English Language - William Shakespeare's Hamlet as the Most Known Play in the English Language Hamlet is without question the most famous play in the English language. Probably written in 1601 or 1602, the tragedy is a milestone in Shakespeare's dramatic development; the playwright achieved artistic maturity in this work through his brilliant depiction of the hero's struggle with two opposing forces: moral integrity and the need to avenge his father's murder.William Shakespeare was an English playwright and poet....   [tags: Papers] 2360 words
(6.7 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
History of English Language Essay - ... Therefore, Shakespeare’s works have rhymes that only work in Original Pronunciation. [ɛː] [e] and [i] were distinct. These changes might be puzzling for modern readers’ ears because many of linguistic features, pronunciation in particular, have changed a great deal. In order to address questions related to these features, one might choose to show how a language constantly changes as a sign of a living language, which is subject to growth and decay. The Shakespeare’s sonnet in question might be a good example of illustrating the changes and tracing the influences that change a language from stage to stage in order to show how the older English was different from today and how will be like...   [tags: william shakespeare, knowledge, present] 885 words
(2.5 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
William Shakespeare: A Legendary Author Essay - William Shakespeare’s intellectual use of the English language is what brought him prosperity throughout his lifetime, and what brings us to tears and laughter in the modern world. The life of Shakespeare is of great importance to English literature because of his many contributions including poetry, stories, and plays. However, many people do not know that he also owned a business. “William Shakespeare was a professional actor, a businessman, and a playwright. Today, nearly four hundred years after his death his plays are still performed” (Greenhill and Wignall 4)....   [tags: William Shakespeare Biography]
:: 5 Works Cited
908 words
(2.6 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
The History of the English Language Essay - ... Augustine during this time. They then started to teach us about the Latin language and start to put them into our English language. Not much later after this time Vikings started to come in. They brought violent words like thrust and die but also brought us words like take and give. They would rule and control most if not all of Eastern England for quite a while(hundreds of years). The Vikings started to help devolop a Later around the time of 1066 a man named William the conqueror invaded Britain....   [tags: middle english, St. Augustine] 778 words
(2.2 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
The Other in William Shakespeare's Othello Essay - The "Other" in William Shakespeare's Othello In several of Shakespeare's plays the writer introduces the notion of being considered an "other", and whether certain groups are "in" or "out". This theme is significantly portrayed in the play Othello, in which a black general living in Venice must constantly struggle to balance his dual nature of both Moor and Venetian. It is apparent that before the play begins, Othello has not yet resolved his duplicitous self-image; however, throughout the action of the play, he is put in a maliciously-designed situation which causes his insecurities and self doubt to breed, allowing the Venetian?s stereotype of the brutal and ignorant black man to consume...   [tags: William Shakespeare Othello essays]
:: 1 Works Cited
2351 words
(6.7 pages)
Research Papers [preview]
Language in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet Essay - Language in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet Romeo and Juliet was written in the late 16th century by William Shakespeare, a time when the language was very different to the English we speak today. I have seen several different productions of Romeo and Juliet: Firstly, Baz Luhrmann's modern film, which I really enjoyed and easily understood. This was because Luhrmann's version transposed the action into the 21st century, with drugs, alcohol, car, firearms and a modern set, so that I could easily identify and relate to it....   [tags: Papers] 1734 words
(5 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Essay about The Works of William Shakespeare - The Works of William Shakespeare William Shakespeare is customary regarded to be the finest dramatist the world has ever seen and the greatest poet who has created his plays in the English language. Besides, Shakespeare has been the world’s most famous author. No other writer’s works have been published so many times or read so broadly in so many places. Shakespeare knew human nature as few other writers have. He could notice in a particular dramatic case the qualities that refer to all human beings....   [tags: William Shakespeare Writers Authors Essays]
:: 5 Works Cited
1423 words
(4.1 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
William Shakespeare's Othello Essay - William Shakespeare's Othello A significant moment in Othello demonstrates the theme of binaries questioned in many of Shakespeare's works. Addressing the Duke and senators, Othello says: "Let her have your voice. Vouch with me heaven, I therefore beg it not To please the palate of my appetite, Nor to comply with heat--the young affects In me defunct--and proper satisfaction, But to be free and bounteous to her mind; And heaven defend your good souls that you think I will your serious and great business scant When she is with me....   [tags: William Shakespeare Othello Essays]
:: 9 Works Cited
1446 words
(4.1 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Essay about William Shakespeare - William Shakespeare William Shakespeare was a very successful man; he was an English dramatist and poet. (1) He is considered the greatest playwright who ever lived. His comedies, sonnets, (the solid fact, however, of Meres’s mention of the Sonnets, two of which (though the whole collection was not published till ten years later) appeared secret, it would seem, next year (1599), introduces another range of hypothetical exercise in biography, which has sometimes been followed in opposition to the former method, but has been more frequently combined with it so as to permit of even more fruitful and wilder expatiation.), tragedies, and poetry....   [tags: English Literature Essays] 807 words
(2.3 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]

Related Searches




The arches mark the soft syllables and the slashes mark the accented syllables. If one were to pay attention to the way his speech flows, it will be clear that iambic pentameter is what flows naturally in the English language.
     Shakespeare’s work is in constant use yet is hardly ever given credit for its incredible contribution to the English language. He took the language of the time, varied it, sculpted it, and reflected upon it through his articulate and expressive plays and sonnets. Shakespeare’s impact on the English language may never be duplicated, but we will always have his profound and eloquent writings, so, as the bard says, “all’s well that end’s well.”




Levin, Bernard. Enthusiasms. From The Story of English. Robert McCrum, William Cran and Robert MacNeil. Viking: 1986. 99.

Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Henry IV Part 2. Folger Shakespeare Library. Ed. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine.

http://www.pathguy.com/shakeswo.htm. “Pathguy”. 1999. September 28th, 2004.


Return to 123HelpMe.com