Without even realizing it, our everyday speech is full of words and phrases invented by Shakespeare. He was able to do that because English was changing as people modernized it in their normal workaday speech. One of the ways the grammar was changing was that inflectional endings had disappeared Modern English was becoming wonderfully flexible and that was the background to the Renaissance explosion of the inventive language we see when we look at the poetry of the time.
Writers were able to invent new uses for words with great freedom. For example, Caesar is able to say: ‘The wild disguise has almost anticked us all.’
An Antic is a fool which is a noun. Shakespeare turns it into a verb, “To make a fool of”
There was a huge inflow of other European vocabulary into the English language as a result of Renaissance cross-pollination. That created new variations for English words. It allowed endless possibilities for Shakespeare's vocab.
In “ Love’s Labors Lost,” he is able to exploit multiple meanings of one word to create a sentence like ‘Light, seeking light, doth light of light beguile.’ – ‘intellect,’ ‘wisdom,’ ‘eyesight’ and ‘daylight’.
In Modern English we use the word “you” as both the singular and the plural form. In Old English, thou was used for addressing one person; ye for more than one. You was around then, and while thou and ye were used as a subject of a clause, you was used as the object. Thou are one person. Ye are watching this presentation.
By contrast, thou and thee were used by people of higher rank to those beneath them, and by the lower classes to each other; also, strangely enough, in addressing God, and in talking to witches, ghosts, and other supernatural beings. As a refection of the higher status of males in the male/female context a husband might address his wife as thou, and she might reply respectfully with you. “Oh my Lovely wife Kendall how art thou?” “Oh Ronald my lovely husband I am well how art you?”
Shakespeare was acutely aware of the way the Early Modern English language that he grew up with was changing and it is yet another way that he was able to create the levels of meaning that made him such an enduring writer. When students take the trouble to understand the use of the thees and thous they are able to appreciate the additional meaning rather than seeing them as a difficulty. CLICK TO WATCH INSULTS VIDEO!
"Shakespeare Resources: Modern English Shakespeare Translations." Shakespeare Resources: Modern English Shakespeare Translations. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Apr. 2012..