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Shakespeare's Words: A Glossary and Language Companion

4.6 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140291179
ISBN-10: 0140291172
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  • Shakespeare's Words: A Glossary and Language Companion
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  • Shakespeare Lexicon and Quotation Dictionary: A Complete Dictionary of All the English Words, Phrases, and Constructions in the Works of the Poet (Volume 1 A-M
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The main lexical references for Shakespeare scholars in the twentieth century were first Alexander Schmidt's two-volume Shakespeare Lexicon (1874) and later C. T. Onions' Shakespeare Glossary, which appeared in 1911 and was revised by Onions in 1919. A further revision in 1986, by Robert D. Eagleson, kept Onions in print but failed, to some extent, to satisfy scholars. The new Shakespeare's Words seems likely to fill the void created by the superannuated Onions.

Using the New Penguin Shakespeare as their text, the editors, linguist David Crystal and his actor son Ben Crystal, first collected all of the "problem" words flagged by the Penguin editors and then scoured the plays and sonnets for additional "difficult" words--especially words that are no longer current or that have developed a different sense since Shakespeare's time. After a few further additions, their entries totaled 21,263 under 13,626 headwords.

Rather than defining a word by listing a single near synonym, the Crystals decided that a system called lexical triangulation would better reflect the complexity of Shakespeare's language. Most entries have three glosses, each providing a slightly different slant. For example, englut is glossed as "swallow up, gulp down, devour." Each entry includes part of speech, an illustrative quotation (with text and context identified), and selected references to other occurrences. Sidebars contain brief tutorials on address forms, money, weapons, and more.

Readers newly acquainted with Shakespeare will benefit greatly by browsing through the Crystals' list of 100 frequently encountered words, which are accompanied by more illustrative quotations than are provided elsewhere. Other useful features are a chronology, plot synopses, diagrams illustrating interactions of characters, and 16 appendixes providing brief definitions for historical people, places, foreign terms, and other vocabulary not found in the A-Z section.

This is a most ambitious work that will be of immense value to student and scholar alike, a worthy successor to the landmark volumes that preceded it. Recommended for large public and academic libraries. RBB
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

A fresh look at the vocabulary of Shakespeare's poems and plays including a glossary of nearly 14,000 words and meanings. Ideal for aficionados and amateurs alike, either as a quick reference or as a basis for in-depth research. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 676 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (December 31, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140291172
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140291179
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1.5 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,773 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Other than a good edition of the plays, this is the one reference that you absolutely must have. It has tremendously enhanced my reading of the plays. I no longer have to wonder or guess what a word means. I believe that it was linguist John McWhorter who pointed out in one of his books that some of Shakespeare's words have changed meanings over the centuries; some of the words don't seem to fit into the context because they meant something different then. Crytal's book clear all that up. Whenever I look up a word, I jot down its meaning in the play. This makes reading and rereading simpler and better.

Add to this the Arden complete plays, a fine edition and cheap in paperback, and Margaret Garber's Shakespeare After All, a readable scholarly introduction to each of the plays, and you have an inexpensive trio of books that are really all you need to enjoy reading the plays.
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Format: Paperback
This book is the very, very, very best Shakespeare Reference that I've come across. It is everything that it was cracked up to be. I wish that I had this source available 50 years ago.
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Format: Paperback
It may be difficult to provide a full glossary of Shakespeare's words in a portable - and inexpensive - format. The authors manage to do it very well, given the restrictions on size and cost, and even throw in some useful sidebars to make it more interesting for casual browsing. However, when they overlook uncommon or archaic words, missing these can leave the reader with a sense of incompletion and frustration. Look up "chough" for example, a word used in several plays, but not listed here. The authors include "chuff" - but entirely miss its other meaning in its old spelling (chough) - "jackdaw." The deficiencies are not glaring, and the book is a worthwhile purchase, but I would like to see a revised edition with some of these oversights corrected.
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Format: Paperback
I was very impressed by the thoroughness of the book. The dictionary-like form is easy to use and provides straight forward succinct information. It isn't just for understanding archaic words. For example, while reading Macbeth and finding Shakespeare used the word "dollars", I was curious why Scotland was using "dollars" during Macbeth's time so I pulled the book off the shelf and there it was.
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Format: Paperback
After having read most of the plays the hard way, I chanced upon
this book. It is very well written, explains the nuances of words and puns used in the play and the context from 1600s.
It has several useful appendices -- a must for students.
The play summaries at the end of the book
with Venn diagrams -- displaying
the relationships of dramtis personae graphically
alone is well worth the price.
- Mohsin ( [...] )
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Format: Paperback
What an awesome idea! To put into one place definitions for the hard-to-understand Elizabethan English that one runs into in Shakepeare! Whether it be "prithee" or "forsooth" or "prating mountebank," the dictionary will help give the Shakespeare novice or pro the information needed to decipher the Bard's often-complex writing.

In addition, there are frequent collections of definitions that gather together words in a single theme -- say, words related to politeness, or swear words. These colections give the reader a chance to compare many words of the same genre and gain even more insights into Elizabethan usage.

The defintions are somewhat sparse, but that's probably necessary given the sheer volume of words being defined. However, each word references the play or play in which it it used.

Marry! -- that is to say, "By Mary!" -- a wonderful accompaniment to anyone interested in Shakespeare!
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By A Customer on May 1, 2004
Format: Paperback
"Shakespeare's Words" is an excellent resource. The definitions are clear and concise and the extra charts and graphs are a wonderful addition. If you have this book for definitions and "All the Words on Stage" for pronunciations, you are ready to study or perform one of Shakespeare's plays.
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Format: Paperback
This book is so well organized that it is actually fun to use. I agree with the previous reviewer - I use this book and "All the Words on Stage,A Complete Pronunciation Dictionary for the plays of William Shakespeare". I had been searching for years for some help when I was researching a role. These two books have answered all of my questions.
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