Essay Color Key

Free Essays
Unrated Essays
Better Essays
Stronger Essays
Powerful Essays
Term Papers
Research Papers




William Shakespeare's Influence on the English Language

Rate This Paper:

Length: 575 words (1.6 double-spaced pages)
Rating: Red (FREE)      
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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). 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.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"William Shakespeare's Influence on the English Language." 123HelpMe.com. 24 Nov 2014
    <http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=78089>.




Related Searches





Important Note: If you'd like to save a copy of the paper on your computer, you can COPY and PASTE it into your word processor. Please, follow these steps to do that in Windows:

1. Select the text of the paper with the mouse and press Ctrl+C.
2. Open your word processor and press Ctrl+V.

Company's Liability

123HelpMe.com (the "Web Site") is produced by the "Company". The contents of this Web Site, such as text, graphics, images, audio, video and all other material ("Material"), are protected by copyright under both United States and foreign laws. The Company makes no representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the Material or about the results to be obtained from using the Material. You expressly agree that any use of the Material is entirely at your own risk. Most of the Material on the Web Site is provided and maintained by third parties. This third party Material may not be screened by the Company prior to its inclusion on the Web Site. You expressly agree that the Company is not liable or responsible for any defamatory, offensive, or illegal conduct of other subscribers or third parties.

The Materials are provided on an as-is basis without warranty express or implied. The Company and its suppliers and affiliates disclaim all warranties, including the warranty of non-infringement of proprietary or third party rights, and the warranty of fitness for a particular purpose. The Company and its suppliers make no warranties as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the material, services, text, graphics and links.

For a complete statement of the Terms of Service, please see our website. By obtaining these materials you agree to abide by the terms herein, by our Terms of Service as posted on the website and any and all alterations, revisions and amendments thereto.



Return to 123HelpMe.com

Copyright © 2000-2014 123HelpMe.com. All rights reserved. Terms of Service