S for Shakespeare—the Logodaedalian
Even after I had finished composing and posting my blog-post of Shakespeare’s Rosalind, I found myself thinking about the man and his works. I thought of Shylock and his “Signor Antonio many a time and oft” speech in Merchant of Venice; I thought of Viola, I thought of King Lear raving mad, of Hamlet stealing his way through the eternal quandary of life and professing his doubts to himself in the famous soliloquy : “To be, or not to be, that is the question”. And then I thought of Shakespeare as a logodaedalian, a person versed in skilfully using words.
Shakespeare was a genius if there was one. He composed compelling speeches, crafted complex characters quopping with life, and masterfully adjoined, like the tessellating pieces of a puzzle, the acts and scenes of his plays. But today I am going to talk about another facet of this creative genius: his fulgent logodaedaly, his stunning skill with words.
Shakespeare has enriched the incondite and inchoate English language of his time with words and phrases he coined. A creative artist at heart, Shakespeare fathered nearly 1700 of the words we use daily, says Amanda Mabillard in an article titled Words Shakespeare Invented. Words like Amazement (“And wild amazement hurries up and down,” King John), Champion (“And champion me to the utterance! Who's there!” Macbeth) that we now use in our quotidian communications were coined by the Swan-of-Avon.
Some other words Shakespeare coined are: ADDICTION (OTHELLO, ACT II, SCENE II), ASSASSINATION ( MACBETH, ACT I, SCENE VII), Bedazzled (The Taming of the Shrew, Act IV, Scene V), Fashionable (Troilus and Cressida, Act III, Scene III), Inaudible( All’s Well That Ends Well, Act V, Scene II), Eyeball ( Used by Prospero in The Tempest). Many of these words may have existed in some form or the other in the Shakespearean society, says Roma Panganiban in the article 20 Words We Owe to William Shakespeare, but it is undoubtedly Shakespeare’s innovative usage of the words that made them popular.
In coining the fascinating words and phrases we have now domesticated, Shakespeare imaginatively convoluted the English vocabulary; he adopted words from foreign languages, attached prefixes, turned nouns into verbs and so on. I wonder how weird and wonderful there “new-fangled” words must have sounded to the English ear. Did they criticize him for his usage of neologism? May be they did. In any case, Shakespeare didn’t curb his imaginativeness and follow the ways of conventional English grammar at the time; instead he gave in to neologism and developed words and phrases that not only enriched his texts, but also bolstered the English language.
Shakespeare's brilliant vocabulary shines like pearls in the sepia-tinted pages of his work and inspires amateurs like us to go beyond the established cannons and strive and seek new ways of communicating with our readers without being intimidated by our critical meta-voice or by the criticisms put forward by our peers.
References: 20 Words We Owe to William Shakespeare by Roma Panganiban: http://mentalfloss.com/article/48657/20-words-we-owe-william-shakespeare
Mabillard, Amanda. Words Shakespeare Invented Shakespeare <http://www.shakespeare-online.com/biography/wordsinvented.html>