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'Shey' in Jacobean and Caroline drama.

THE 1633 quarto of John Ford's tragedy, Loues Sacrifice, contains the following exchange between the licentious courtier Ferentes and Julia, one of his lovers:

[Ferentes] ... what must we next Doe, sweet-heart?

Iul, Breake vowes on your side, I expect no other, But euery day looke when some newer choice May violate your honour and my trust. Feren. Indeed forsooth, how shey by that la ...

La is a familiar exclamation in Shakespeare, here emphasizing Ferentes' surprise or indignation. But shey is altogether more puzzling. The word is not recorded by OED, nor, in any applicable sense, by the English Dialect Dictionary. All editors of Loues Sacrifice have treated it as a corruption of the text. Henry Weber, for example, alters Ferentes' phrase to |how shy be that, la!;(1) and William Gifford and Alexander Dyce emend to |how say ye by that, la?'(2) Gifford and Dyce's reading is preferred by later editors, including Havelock Ellis in his well-known New Mermaids edition of 1888.

But shey deserves reconsideration. It also occurs in the quartos of two other plays by Ford: The Fancies Chast and Noble (1638), [D2.sup.v], |What's that you mumble, Gelding, |Shey' (emended to |hey' by Gifford and Dyce); and 'Tis Pitty Shee's a Whore (1633), [H1.sup.r]: |Shey, must I?'(emended by Derek Roper in his 1975 Revels edition of the play to |Why must I?'(3)). Moreover, in an article of seventy years ago entitled |Two Notes on Elizabethan Orthography',(4) Bertram Lloyd identified instances of |shay' and |sha' in Chapman's The Gentleman Usher (1606), [H2.sup.r] |How shay by that'; The Second Maydens Tragedy (1610-11), fo. 44b, |Sha yee'; and The Welsh Embassador (c. 1623) fo. 15a, |how shay by that', the last example occurring in a scene which may have been written by Ford.(5) In each case, the sense of the word is almost certainly |say' or |say ye'. The presence of these forms in six independent play-texts, and the clear semantic relation between the various examples, strongly suggests that |shey',|shay', and |sha' are representations of an idiom which has been overlooked by OED and EDD. Possibly the initial f arose through anticipation of |ye' - a change in pronunciation which has precedence in the formation of some dialect words.(6)

|Shey' has also been overlooked by modern editors. Fredson Bowers emends |shay' to |say' in his text of The Welsh Embassador,(7) while Anne Lancashire renders |sha' as |pshaw' in her edition of The Second Maydens Tragedy.(8) Robert Omstein retains |shay' in his edition of The Gentleman Usher, but supposes with T. M. Parrott that it is merely the speaker's drunken attempt at |say'.(9)

Finally, it is worth noting that |shey' would be difficult to explain as a graphic error for |say' or |say ye'. The long s-h ligature and the single long s are quite distinguishable, even in a cursive secretary hand.

(1) The Dramatic Works of John Ford (Edinburgh, 1811), i.360. (2) The Works of John Ford, with Notes . . . by William Gifford, Esq. A New Edition, carefully Revised . . . by the Revd Alexander Dyce (London, 1869), ii.20. (3) Sec IV.iii. 15 in Roper's edition, and the discussion of the crux in his introduction, lxvii-lxviii. (4) RES, ii (1926), 204-6. (5) See Lloyd's |The author ship of the Welsh Embassador', RES, xxi (1945), 192-201. (6) J. Wright, The English Dialect Grammar (Oxford, 1905), $S321, notes dialect forms in which initials has become 'through the intermediate stage of si, sj'. (7) The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker (Cambridge 1961), vol. iv; see V.i.93. (8) The Revels Plays (Manchester University Press, 1978). See IV.i.66 and n. (9) Allan Holaday (gen. ed.), The Plays of George Chapman. The Comedies, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, 1970). See Ornstein's textual note to V.i.32, p. 224,
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Author:Moore, Antony Telford
Publication:Notes and Queries
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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