How William Shakespeare influences the Modern English Language

William Shakespeare is by far the best writer in English literary history. What’s more, for hundreds of years of English Language history he was the only one who have been placed England as the top literary country in the world.

One of the things he is famous for is the effect he had on the development of the Early Modern English Language.

In fact, during his 52 years on earth, Shakespeare enriched the English language in ways so profound it’s almost impossible to fully measure his impact. Without him, English vocabulary would be just too different. He gave us uniquely brilliant ways in which to express hope and depression, unhappiness and anger, love and desire.

Even if you’ve never read one of his sonnets or seen a play – even if you’ve never so much as watched a movie adaptation – you’re likely to have quoted him accidentally. It’s almost impossible to avoid.

For example, our everyday speech is full of words and phrases invented by Shakespeare. He was able to do that because English was changing as people modernized it in their normal workaday speech. Some of his phrases have become so well used that they’re now regarded as plates.

Shakespeare was acutely aware of the way the Early Modern English language that he grew up with was changing and it is yet another way that he was able to create the levels of meaning that made him such a persistent writer.

His flexibility with language created thousands of new words and phrases. Without his works, English would have less expressive capability.

Shakespeare uses 17,677 words. Of those words, Shakespeare ‘invented’ an incredible 1,700 of them! We say invented, though in reality many of these 1,700 words would likely have been in common phrasing, just not written down prior to Shakespeare.

Modern English was becoming wonderfully flexible and that was the background to the recovery explosion of the inventive language we see when we look at the poetry of the time, William Shakespeare was a leading figure in that.


Leave a Reply