Stratford and the language of Shakespeare – part 1

Stratford upon Avon

Shakespeare's birthplace, Stratford upon Avon
William Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford upon Avon

The Stratford Teachers online school is named after the town of Stratford upon Avon in the heart of England. Most of us live in this town.

Of course, Stratford is famous because it is the birthplace of the writer William Shakespeare. In fact, Shakespeare died here exactly 400 years ago. This year there have been countless festivals and events in Stratford and around the country to commemorate this date.

William Shakespeare

Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford upon Avon
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford upon Avon

When people came to Stratford to study English, they always asked about William Shakespeare. We took them on a tour of the famous places in the town that are connected to him. The biggest building in the centre of Stratford is the theatre of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Many people also wanted to see a performance of one of Shakespeare’s plays. However, they thought that they would be perplexed by the language. They were worried that they would not understand.

It is true that the characters in Shakespeare’s plays speak very differently from how we speak today. However, the students worries were usually baseless. If you know the story of the play, it is possible to follow and understand a performance.

Shakespeare’s language

The portrait of William Shakespeare from the First Folio
William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s plays and poems use a vocabulary of about 27,000 words. This is over three times more than an average native-speaker of English uses on an average day. Lots of these words are now archaic – we don’t use them in modern English. Many words that we still use today appeared in writing for the first time when Shakespeare used them. There are also some words and phrases that William Shakespeare may have invented that are part of English 400 years after he died. In fact, there are four words in this article that, according to scholars, were invented by Shakespeare. Did you spot them?

In the next part of Stratford and the language of Shakespeare, I will tell you the four words and show you some phrases from Shakespeare’s plays that have become modern English idioms. It’s easy to quote Shakespeare. Maybe you already do it.

by Barney

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