Cover image for Shakespeare's words : a glossary and language companion
Shakespeare's words : a glossary and language companion
Crystal, David, 1941-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London ; New York : Penguin Books, [2002]

Physical Description:
xxviii, 650 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
General Note:
Includes: Shakespearian circles, synopses, and dramatis personae; List of characters' names; and 16 appendices.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR2892 .C78 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
PR2892 .C78 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating
PR2892 .C78 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PR2892 .C78 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Shakespeare's Words is for people who love Shakespeare, or who love language, or both. David Crystal, one of the world's leading experts on the English language, and his actor son, Ben, have created an immensely practical and enlightening guide to understanding Shakespeare's language for readers, audiences, students, directors and actors.They have collected over 14,000 words that can cause difficulty or be ambiguous to the modern reader. Each word is glossed and illustrated by at least on quotation. There are succinct pricis of the plays, lists of dramatis personae and a unique diagrammatic circle for each play demonstrating the interaction of characters and their allegiances. With special panels on intriguing areas such as archaisms, greetings, farewells and swear words, as well as dialects, Greek mythology, weapons and money, Shakespeare's Words will greatly enrich every reader's understanding and appreciating of the plays, and will encourage a new generation to treasure them.

Author Notes

David Crystal is one of the most authoritative commentators on the English language, and amongst many other things a contributor to the Oxford Companion to Shakespeare. He lives in Anglesey, Wales. Ben Crystal, David's son, is an actor and lives in London (NW1). Stanley Wells, who has written the preface, is General Editor of the Oxford Shakespeare and Associate Editor of the New Penguin Shakespeare series.

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

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 2003 Booklist

Table of Contents

Prefacep. X
Introductionp. XI
Abbreviations, Symbols, and Conventionsp. XVII
Text Abbreviationsp. XIX
List of Glossary Panelsp. XX
Frequently Encountered Words (FEW)p. XXI
A-Z Glossaryp. 1
Shakespearian Circles, Synopses, and Dramatis Personaep. 511
Text Chronologyp. 592
List of Characters' Namesp. 593
List of Appendicesp. 612
I-VI Beingsp. 613
VII Timesp. 630
VIII-X Placesp. 631
XI-XVI Languages and Dialectsp. 638