Lynne Magnusson

in The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199566105
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature


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This article notes that, in encounters with Shakespeare's texts, in attempts to explain his language, one needs to be aware of the cultural scene of language as a critical part of the historical. It suggests that Shakespeare's English comedy, The Merry Wives of Windsor, is a good place to begin such a process, by addressing ‘miscomprehension sequences’ within the play, and between the readers and the play. The analysis consists of four parts: first, an overview of how the Windsor community in the play negotiates language change; second, the example of Mistress Quickly's resourceful meaning-making in the extended miscomprehension sequence of the Latin lesson; third, an account of how the interaction of orality and literacy in Shakespeare's day shaped language use and word coinage; and, fourth, Shakespeare's interest in language change associated with miscomprehension sequences across media, or ‘speaking in print’.

Keywords: language games; Merry Wives; miscomprehension sequences; language change; Shakespeare

Article.  9430 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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