Part of the fun of reading Shakespeare is his exposure of language uses since lost and forgotten or uses so modern-seeming that they’re unexpected in Elizabethan times. When Lori gave me a copy of Much Ado About Nothing to read before our Staunton trip, I enjoyed coming across “carpet-monger,” “hobby-horses,” “tennis-balls,” and others.
Good: The book that held the play came with a glossary. Better: This book came from the Cambridge University Press in 1923. Not only were the editors looking nearly as far back in history as today’s reader (me!) was, but today’s reader also got a long look back at them. Best: Their glossary provided a mixture of both effects. Below were my favorites.
Everything below is directly quoted. Any quote marks are from Cambridge eds. I haven’t added my own quote marks just to save you the tedium.
ADVERTISEMENT: advice, admonition.
BLOCK: (a) mould for a hat, i.e. fashion style, (b) blockhead, simpleton.
CARPET-MONGER: a carpet-knight, a contemptuous term for one who prowess belong rather to the boudoir than to the battlefield.
HAGGARD: hawk which has moulted at least once before being caught, and therefore much more difficult to train than one caught younger.
LIVER: formerly considered the seat of the passions.
MARCH-CHICK: precocious youngster.
NIGHT-GOWN: ‘It is generally supposed that the night-gown proper, or night-rail, was not worn in England until the middle of the 16th century, and then only by royalty or the nobility.’
PIKE: ‘Put in the pikes with a vice.’ The pike was a detachable spike, for trusting at the enemy, in the centre of the buckler…. Benedick’s indelicate reference needs no comment. [I love this.]
SUN-BURNT: [had just never thought about Elizabethans saying this.]
TENNIS-BALLS: In Shakespeare’s day these were made of white leather and stuffed with hair, generally dog’s hair.
TOOTH-PICKER: toothpick (“Tooth-picks, introduced from abroad, were much in request at this period….”).