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Coining words on the Elizabethan and Jacobean stage.

The Theater is your Poets Royal-Exchange, upon which, their Muses (ye are now turnd to Merchants) meeting, barter away that light commodity of words ... your Groundling, and Gallery Commoner buyes his sport by the penny, and, like a Hagler, is glad to utter it againe by retailing.

--Thomas Dekker, "How a Gallant should behave himselfe in a Play-house" (1609) (1)


What follows is a Shakespeare professor's predictable fantasy: that the great Elizabethan and Jacobean playwrights secretly aspired to be English teachers, and that understanding their obscure locutions could be the key to wealth, status, stylishness, and personal magnetism. Once upon a time--in the days before the word "glamour" had split off from the word "grammar"--that may have been true.

My topic is the way the rapidly evolving English language was sold at theaters around 1600--a topic that unites a philological approach with what is commonly supposed its opposite, namely, an emphasis on dramas social functions and material conditions. The paradox is that this practice, although it demands a materialist reading because it is fundamentally economic, involves the buying and selling of a commodity that is--as Dekker wryly observes--almost completely immaterial. My instance is neologism, for which English was ripe, not only because print and trade were accelerating exchange with other languages, but also because the disappearance of grammatical inflections within English allowed words to be easily converted from one part of speech to another. (2) In fact, "the period 1500-1659 saw the introduction of between 10,000 and 25,000 new words into the language, with the practice of neologizing culminating in the Elizabethan period." (3) My thesis is that dramatists were fighting for market-share in a theatrical economy that was partly a store of new words and a lecture-demonstration of new ways of assembling them. In another article, I will be exploring how Shakespeare prevailed in this competition, not only by systematically providing instant glossaries, but also by finding other ways to make the verbal innovations both memorable and--notably in the case of Othello--thematically crucial. (4)

That Elizabethan audiences sometimes recorded choice lines in commonplace books is well established; (5) I am suggesting that those audiences similarly gathered individual words, though that did not usually require a written record. They could then (as my epigraph puts it) "utter" the neologisms again--a verb that meant "to sell" and "to circulate as legal coinage," (6) as well as "to speak"; having bought words from playwrights, audiences would hope to "retail" them profitably elsewhere. If Elizabethan theater was a "knowledge marketplace," (7) the lexicon itself was a featured product. The basic rules of marketing applied: convince paying customers that your product can turn them into suave, sexy, and successful people, whereas competing products would sicken or humiliate them. Demand must have been strong, because playwrights spent much less time demonstrating the product's successes than warning against the failures of rival versions; presumably they (like modern advertisers) could count on audiences to identify hopefully with the victors rather than with the fiascos. Or perhaps this negative emphasis reflects the ambivalent function of Elizabethan theater as an instrument for renegotiating status and hierarchy: while advertising the rhetorical means of social advancement, the plays also persistently implied that such uprisings were likely to fall flat. The same ambivalence is legible through Shakespeare's long reign as a worldwide cultural idol, proffered as a means of self-improvement for the working classes, but also wielded as a legitimator of traditional class distinctions. Listening to the mighty lines of Marlovian heroes, groundlings must have wondered whether they too would seem heroic, or instead simply ridiculous, if they mimicked Tamburlaine's "high astounding tearms" (8)

In fact, several rival playwrights specifically condemn the diction of Marlowe's Tamburlaine and those who imitate it, suggesting that drama should instead imitate ordinary intelligent speech. Ben Jonson's Timber, or Discoveries argues that a writer should "speake to the capacity of his hearers. And though his language differs from the vulgar somewhat; it shall not fly from all humanity, with all the Tarnerlanes and Tamer-chams of the late Age." (9) In the Induction to Antonio and Mellida, John Marston has Feliche scoff, "Rampum scrampum, mount tuftie Tamberlaine. What rattling thunderclappe breakes from his lips." (10) Shakespeare belittles his Ancient Pistol by making his speeches a collection of stage-grandiosities--including what was surely intended to be recognized as an echo of Tamburlaine (2.6.164)--with no actual heroism to back them up.

In the first speech of Tamburlaine the Great--arguably the founding moment of great English drama--Tamburlaine's first victim complains about a deficiency of verbal rather than military power:
   Brother Cosroe, I find my selfe agreev'd,
   Yet insufficient to expresse the same:
   For it requires a great and thundring speech:
   Good brother tell the cause unto my Lords,
   I know you have a better wit than I.


Tamburlaine then unseats this Persian monarchy more by persuasion than by physical violence, and throughout his conquests his astonishing "tearms" often prove to be his most effective weapon. This kind of siege-warfare power is what The Return from Parnassus mocks in remarking that Marston "Brings the great battering ram of tearmes to towne." (11) The association of exalted diction with military force is not surprising: "At its core, then, Renaissance rhetoric is animated by a fantasy of power in which the orator, wielding words more deadly than swords, takes on the world and emerges victorious in every encounter." (12) Perhaps this explains why Tamburlaine's innovative stage rhetoric was ridiculed more widely and fiercely than any other model for imitation (Thomas Kyd's raving Hieronimo is a distant second): it was associated, by plot, with the most extreme form of social climbing--a shepherd rising to emperor by sheer will and violence.

Essential to the classical culture that Western Europe unearthed and revered in this period was the notion that rhetorical mastery led to social mastery. This was not, however, an issue for the elites only--nor only for worldly matters: the Protestant emphasis on a vernacular Bible suggested that even the power of salvation might lie in expanded access to English. The polarity and instability of the Elizabethan class system could be used to generate profit, as the polarity of a charged battery to generate energy. "The Renaissance saw the rise of dialect comedy, and juxtaposing a peasant dialect with the King's English was, often enough, played for laughs. One of the first genres to incorporate dialect was the early sixteenth-century popular jest book; many jests hinge on provincials and foreigners being unable to speak the language properly." (13) The hordes of newcomers swelling London's population as the century progressed would have had huge incentives to learn the local and latest parlances and thus escape the butt end of those jokes.

If social ascendancy and seductive graces were the carrots offered by writers to allure their loyal clients, the stick was the humiliation of those who paid some other Henry Higgins to teach them. (14) The figure of the chronic malaprop was a popular one (much to Jonson's annoyance (15)), but also a cautionary one; it functioned like a malodorous reject in modern ads for deodorant or mouthwash. Verbal blunders, which often occur when lower-class characters seek access to the authoritative vocabularies of medicine, theology, and the law, surely reflect "increased awareness of language as a social factor in Renaissance England." (16) Francis Beaumont's Knight of the Burning Pestle (1607) juxtaposes a general Quixotic mockery of the idea that ordinary life can mimic drama with the specific figure of Humphrey, whose social-climbing pretensions repeatedly lead him into malapropism. The allure of imitating stage-grandeur, in search of social status, again comes down to the risky business of acquired language.

Restoration England is the morning-after of the Elizabethan-Jacobean verbal binge, its symptoms aggravated by an overdose of imported French. A potentially destabilizing social practice (especially a social-climbing practice) is clearly in decline when high-cultural authorities can comfortably mock it to a popular audience; and John Dryden--whose Preface to his version of Troilus and Cressida complains that Shakespeare sometimes went "beyond the bounds of Judgment ... in coyning of new words"--derides the use of unusual (and usually imported) words to imply superiority. In Marriage a la Mode, Philotis hires Melantha "for furnishing me with new words for my daily conversation" but because of Philotis's insufficiencies, her efforts to display her expanding French vocabulary "began at Sottises, and ended en Ridicule" (17) In this, she was evidently not alone.

The latest and most ear-catching modes of speech were especially precious--and precarious--in a city of sudden social mobility such as London circa 1600; and in a world of increased international mobility, command of other languages was a key to power at home and abroad. Shakespeare's Prince Hal masters the parlances of his diverse subjects so that he can become truly their master; Princess Katherine then studies his language, word by word, to prepare herself for a place in that English reign. (18) Samuel Daniel's Musophilus concludes:
   Powre above powres, O heavenly Eloquence,
   That with the strong reine of commanding words,
   Dost manage, guide, and master th'eminence
   Of mens affections, more then all their swords:
   Shall we not offer to thy Excellence,
   The richest treasure that our wit affords?
   And who, in rime, knowes whither we may vent
   The treasure of our tongue, to what strange shores
   This gaine of our best glory shall be sent,
   T'inrich unknowing Nations with our stores? (19)

An expanded lexicon thus functions both as a dominating force and as an economic boon.

Many Renaissance authors noticed that--as Stephen Greenblatt has shown in "Learning to Curse"--England's colonial project was bound up with a struggle between languages; (20) and a number of those authors found uses more profitable than Caliban's imprecations for the new vocabulary. With a remarkable persistence, the coining of words was associated with the coining of currency in this period. (21) Jonson, in Timber, or Discoveries, calls custom "the most certain Mistresse of Language, as the publicke stamp makes the current money:" (22) Thomas Nash even argues that the characteristic English monosyllables are like small change--making the Elizabethans into a nation of verbal "shop-keepers"--and that his more elaborate diction enables his countrymen to trade profitably in larger sums. (23) The familiar terms of monetary debate--will imports increase the national wealth, or deplete or dilute it?--pervade discussions about imported vocabulary, as does (on the spectrum from approval to disapproval) the terminology of profit, minting, mining, credit, borrowing, theft, and counterfeiting. (24) English commentators wondered whether the accelerating assimilation of Welsh, Scottish, and Irish languages would enrich or contaminate their own; (25) "enrich" occurs repeatedly in discussions of the Elizabethan lexicon, in the works of John Harington, Richard Sherry, and others. Sir John Cheke, in a letter appended to Thomas Hoby's 1561 translation of Castigione's Courtier, warns that English should be wary of "borowing of other tunges, wherein if we take not heed bi tijm, ever borowing and never payeng, she shall be faine to keep her house as bankrupt." (26)

Others had a far more optimistic view of the exchange, however. Thomas Dekker's Villanies Discovered by Lanthorne and Candle-Light (1608) observes that English was once "poorest" but "those Noblest Languages lent her Words and phrases, and turning those Borrowings into Good husbandry, she is now as rich in Elocution and as aboundant as her prowdest & Beststored Neighbors." (27) "I marvaile" remarked another Elizabethan defender of neologisms, "how our english tongue hath cracke[d] it[s] credite, that it may not borrow of the Latine" (28) And George Chapman asserted that, "if my country language were an useurer, or a man of this age, speaking it, he would thanke mee for enriching him." (29)

For dramatists, this was no mere metaphor. When Shakespeare's fool Costard mistakes the fancy new words he has learned--"remuneration" and "guerdon"--for units of money in Love's Labor's Lost (3.1.170-73), he is not entirely wrong. (30) Even the mockery of Don Armados neologisms as "fire-new words" in the same play (1.1.177-78) invokes the work of the forge. (31) Language, especially the most current language, was converted to currency by late Elizabethan playwrights. If England would profit, the neologist wanted his finder's fee. Francis Meres claims that "the English tongue is mightily enriched" by writers such as Shakespeare, Marlowe, and Chapman, but the writers were enriched in turn. (32) In "The Excellencie of the English Tongue" Richard Carew, a defender of dialects, comments that "For our owne parts, we employ the borrowed ware so farre to our advantage that we raise a profit of new words from the same stocke, which yet in their owne countrey are not merchantable." (33)


Ben Jonson always suspected a corrupt bargain between popular playwrights and their audiences--a bargain that corrupted language itself. Throughout his comedies, Jonson jeered at characters who naively adopt styles of speech that have impressed them on the stage--a subset of the way gulls in Jonson's comedies characteristically mistake themselves for the heroes of literary works Jonson intends to supersede. (34) This fits with his well-known observation that "our whole life is like a play, wherein every man, forgetful of himself, is in travail with expression of another. Nay, we so insist in imitating others, as we cannot (when it is necessary) return to ourselves; like children that imitate the vices of stammerers so long, till at last they become such; and make the habit to another nature, as it is never forgotten." (35) He also attacked "your ignorant poetasters of the time, who, when they have got acquainted with a strange word, never rest till they have wrung it in, though it loosen the whole fabric of the sense." (36) Nor is inventing a word a better bet than echoing someone else's awkward innovations: "A man coynes not a new word without some perill, and lesse fruit; for if it happen to be received, the praise is but moderate; if refus'd, the scorne is assur'd." (37) Jonson, himself a dedicated if erratic social-climber on rungs of words, emphatically mistrusted the imitation of verbal novelties as a form of self-improvement or a vehicle of class advancement.

The War of the Theaters that supposedly raged among Jonson, Dekker, John Marston, and perhaps Shakespeare as the sixteenth century ended provides a convenient sample of the competition I am describing. When Dekker's Satiromastix comments that the combatants in this poetomachia "have bin at high wordes," he is using an idiom for disputing vociferously, but also speaking a truth: the battle was partly over the uses of new and exalted diction. (38) Marston invented (or invented new uses for) a number of tasty little Anglo-Saxon-based words, mostly playfully interested in liminal sensual phenomena such as bubbles, froth, and fume (Shakespeare's neologisms, in contrast, often strive to articulate meditative distancings from the world). But, more frequently, Marston offered elaborate neologisms compounded from the classical languages, presumably in order to signal his elite education and social status. Jonson replied to this implicit boast not only by repeatedly claiming a better, Horatian model for his classicism and satiric stance, but specifically in Poetaster (1601) by ridiculing Marston's products as fundamentally indigestible--a judgment which the history of the language has largely vindicated. Marston's vocabulary is unmistakably mocked in the cameo appearance of Clove in Jonson's Every Man Out of His Humor, which also derides Brisk (in the dramatis personae) as an "affecting courtier" who "speaks good remnants" and Saviolina as a plagiarist from Sidney (or maybe Greene). (39)

Not all of Marston's promotions were failures. To sustain the new sense of "diffidence" as a lack of self-confidence, Marston uses Shakespeare's characteristic device (developed by William Caxton in the late fifteenth century and Thomas Elyot in the early sixteenth) of pairing the innovation with an instant glossary, providing a vocabulary lesson by synonomia simplex: "A modest diffidence, and self-mistrust." (40) "Malice" and "malign" used as verbs, along with the noun "malignance" comprise a significant and successful cluster. (41) But his uses of "Ambrosian" (which antedate the earliest OED citations) do not endure, despite his efforts to support the innovation contextually: "Nectar to life, thou sweet Ambrosian feast" and "an Ambrosian bowle, " / The Nectar deaw." (42) This is more typically the fate of Marston's monstrous births, which are impressive but ungainly, and hence short-lived. He may also have been defeated by the shift of Elizabethan drama from predominantly a project of academic elites to a popular commercial medium. (43) Without the old form of prestige to sell, the theater increasingly promoted something new: not an opportunity to signal classist, classicist solidarity with the old school, but an opportunity to mimic the emergent lexicon that signaled the presence of a new elite.

Marston seldom misses a chance to post his own warnings against trying theatrical rhetoric at home. (44) In the first scene of What You Will (1601), the love-sick Iacomo is mocked because "He speakes like a player, hah! poeticall." (45) Malevole urges Pietro, "O do not rand, do not turne plaier" in The Malcontent (1603-4); (46) and in The Wonder of Women (1606) a character forswears any "stagelike passion." (47) Mrs. Mulligrub in Dutch Courtesan (1605) is excited to collect locutions such as "faire hower" and "methodically" from her social betters, who (instead of actually paying their bills) "give me verie good words"--a pun eliding their use of language to evade payment, with the use of language as payment. (48)

The Induction to Antonio and Mellida (1599) not only mocks Matzagente for his "tuftie Tamburlaine" rhetorical poses; it also introduces Balurdo as "A servile hounde, that loves the scent of forerunning fashion, like an emptie hollow vault, still giving an eccho to wit: greedily champing what any other well valued judgement had before hand shew'd." Balurdo inadvertently mocks himself when another juicy piece of diction finds its way into his mouth: "There's a word: unpropitiously! I thinke I shall speake unpropitiously as well as any courtier in Italy" And so be does. As usual, it is a matter of social class: he tells himself, "Well spoke sir Jeffrey Balurdo. As I am a true knight, I feele honourable eloquence begin to grope mee alreadie." (49) And, as so often, in this period and beyond, awkward verbal innovations accompany embarrassing efforts at fashionable dress. (50) In fact, high rhetorical styles were sometimes compared to rich fabrics, and the suppressive functions manifest in sumptuary laws appear as shaming behavior in the realm of vocabulary, which is obviously harder to regulate by law. Balurdo's characteristic blunder becomes even starker in Antonio's Revenge (1600):

MATZAGENTE: I scorne to retort the obtuse jeast of a foole. Balurdo drawes out his writing tables, and writes.

BALURDO: Retort and obtuse, good words, very good words. (51)

Balurdo then goes on to misuse "retort and obtuse" as an adjectival phrase eight times throughout the play, and blithely endures similar mishaps with "unvulgarly."

In Histriomastix (1599), Marston allows Chrisoganus--largely standing in for Jonson--to extend the standard warning so that it applies not only to audiences, but also to lesser playwrights, who "load the Stage" with "scrappes of wit, base Ecchoes to our voice, / Take heed yee stumble not with stalking hie!" But the play implies a tu quoque critique of Chrisogonus/Jonson by having low-minded characters praise this oration: Belch exclaims that "The fellow doth talke like one that can talke," and Gut adds, "He beats the Ayre the best that ere I heard." Marston also implicitly defends his Latinate neologisms by parodying Jonson's attack on them. A foolish actor praises some bad writing for its familiar diction: "Here's no new luxurie or blandishment, / But plenty of old Englands mothers words" Histriomastix also mocks Chrisogonus's claims to be the only playwright able to "feed the hearings of judiciall ears"--which would ultimately have meant, the only playwright likely to eat. (52)

In a 1598 satire, Marston asks,
   Luscus, what's playd to day? faith now I know
   I set thy lips abroach, from whence doth flow
   Naught but pure Juliat and Romio....
   H'ath made a common-place booke out of plaies,
   And speaks in print

      speakes he not movingly
   From out some new pathetique Tragedie?
   He writes, he railes, he jests, he courts, what not,
   And all from out his huge long scraped stock
   Of well penn'd playes. (53)

Three years later, Jonson puts a character named Luscus into his Poetaster, but shifts this folly mainly to Albius, who congratulates himself on a courtly rhetorical flourish which he admits he acquired "by seeing a play last day, and it did me some grace now; I see 'tis good to collect sometimes. I'll frequent these plays more than I have done, now I come to be familiar with courtiers." (54) Tucca sends the actor Histrio to hire Crispinus--a figure of Marston, using many of the same extravagant neologisms--on that basis: "Go, he pens high, lofty, in a new stalking strain, bigger than half the rhymers i' the town again. He was born to fill thy mouth.... If he pen for thee once, thou shalt not need to travel with thy pumps full of gravel any more after a blind jade and a hamper, and stalk upon boards and barrel heads to an old cracked trumpet." (55) The difference between thriving as a London player and eking out a living as a theatrical vagabond in the provinces was a rhetorically inventive playwright. Whether the mouth is filled with good innovations or bad ones determines whether sustenance will be gained or lost through that mouth. So Jonson finally forces Crispinus to regurgitate his ingenious vocabulary, admonishing him to cease his "hunt for wild, outlandish terms, / To stuff out a peculiar dialect." (56)

Negative advertising was thus as essential to the competitive neologizing of the Elizabethan theater as it is to modern electioneering. Jonson and Marston were rivals within a particular marketing niche, and it is revealing that both were given to marking sententious phrases in their own printed works: (57) that practice is an extended, formalized version of the imitation they uneasily encouraged with their classical vocabulary on the stage. Dryden would later complain that Jonson "did a little too much Romanize our Tongue, leaving the words which he translated almost as much Latine as he found them." (58) What Poetaster shows is that Jonson, while unwilling to back off from his self-aggrandizing identification with the Roman poets, recognized this risk, and tried to channel it off onto a competing manufacturer of Latinisms. The pot's tactic was to call the kettle black--or, I suppose, sordidus.

Similar tactics characterize the "inkhorn controversy" between Samuel Daniel and Thomas Nash, each of whom accuses the other, in pretentious neologisms, of infecting English with pretentious neologisms. (59) One's own innovations were necessities; those of a rival were affectations. This irony is echoed in Holofernes's rivalry with Don Armado in Shakespeare's Love's Labor's Lost:

NATHANIEL: I did converse this quondam day with a companion of the King's, who is intituled, nominated, or called, Don Adriano de Armado.

HOLOFERNES: ... He is too picked, too spruce, too affected, too odd, as it were, too peregrinate, as I may call it.

NATHANIEL: A most singular and choice epithet. (5.1.6-15)

Nathaniel's praise of this critique unwittingly turns it back on Holofernes himself. What Freud terms "the narcissism of minor differences" is also what modern corporations discuss as competition for market-share, and it was even more vigorous among creative authors than among humanist scholars. (60) "Robert Greene, Thomas Dekker, Thomas Nashe, William Shakespeare, and Ben Jonson are among those authors who seek to expose and to indict illegal or illegitimate writing, but they are also.., chief among the perpetrators of such crimes." (61) The adversaries in the poetomachia are notably well-represented in that brief list.

Clearly--though the point seems oddly neglected in major studies of anti-theatrical tendencies in the period--playwrights themselves repeatedly placed cautionary labels on these patter-medicines. Dekker sarcastically urges his theater-going gallant to "hoord up the finest play-scraps you can get, upon which your leane wit may most savourly feede for want of other stuffe, when the Arcadian and Euphuisd gentlewomen have their tongues sharpened to set upon you: that qualitie (next to your shittlecocke) is the onely furniture to a Courtier thats but a new beginner, and is but in his A B C of complement." (62) Wooers like Shakespeare's Andrew Aguecheek--already gazing upward in Petrarchan and Neoplatonic modes, and often hoping to marry upwards also--seem especially susceptible to clumsy imitations of their rhetorical betters. In Thomas Tomkis's Albumizar (1614), for example, Trincalo vows to dazzle his beloved "with complements drawne from the Plaies I see at the Fortune, and Red Bull, where I learne all the words I speake and understand not." (63) The Elizabethans evidently recognized what science has recently confirmed: that the size of a person's lexicon is an important element in sexual selection. (64)

Bur the folly was epidemic: contagious to the stage-struck as well as the love-struck. The Return from Parnassus mocks Gullio for speaking "nothinge bur pure Shakspeare and shreds of poetrie that he hath gathered at the theators." (65) Polonius does not impress when he seizes on the phrase "mobled queen" in the visiting player's speech (2.2.502). Nor does the title character of Chapman's Sir Gyles Goosecappe (1601) when he admires "his fine words that hee sets them in, cancaticall, a fine Anisseede wenche foole, uppon ticket and so forth." (66) The foolish Penniboy Junior in The Staple of News, exclaims, "Emissaries? stay, there's a fine new word, Thom! / 'Pray God it signifie any thing." (67) When Menaphon, in John Ford's Lover's Melancholy (1628), responds to Pelias's bombast by asking "Where did'st thou learn this language?", the audience did not have to look far for an answer. (68)

While musing on another war of the Elizabethan theaters, Hamlet expresses nostalgic admiration for a play with "no sallets in the lines to make the matter savory, nor no matter in the phrase that might indict the author of affectation" (2.2.441-43). Thomas Middleton's address to the reader of The Roaring Girl (1611) celebrates a change of dramatic fashion away from "huge bombastic plays, quilted with mighty words to lean purpose." (69) "Here are no forc'd expressions, no rack'd phrase; / No Babel compositions to amaze / The tortured reader" according to Massinger's commendatory poem on Shirley's The Grateful Servant (1630). Of course, these later writers had the paradoxical dual privilege of using their grandiloquent dramatic ancestors both as sources for a broadened vocabulary and as neologistic straw-men to be demonized.

The foppish title character of Chapman's Monsieur D'Olive may stand in for many rivalrous playwrights in his determination to "have my chamber the rendezvous of all good wits, the shop of good words, the mine of good jests, an ordinary of fine discourse." (70) Apparently the safest course--lest the shop of good words turn into a linguistic shop of horrors, the mine into a minefield--was a middle one between banality and obscurity, outlined by Montsurry in Chapman's Revenge of Bussy (1613): "worthiest Poets / Shunne common and plebeian formes of speech, / Every illiberal and affected phrase / To clothe their matter." (71) But idling down the middle of the rhetorical road would never attract a paying audience that wanted to know, not just what monarchs and villains did, but also how they spoke.


A subset of the anxiety (dating back to Plato) that audiences might respond to plays with destructively naive imitation was anxiety about the destructively naive imitation of new styles of speech. The fear of innovative rhetoric onstage was also a subset of audible fears about innovations in English language more broadly, (72) which were in turn a subset of fears about the breakdown of social traditions and stable hierarchies in Elizabethan England. If "personhood in Renaissance fictions is built on the rhetorical idea that a self is the word it speaks," (73) the conservative reaction was to emphasize the moments when the misuse of words defeated the leveling potential of this verbally constructed personhood--moments when aspirational diction could be ridiculed as a hollow pretense, exposed by contrasting the rhetorical exaltation with the lowly class-essence of the speaker.

From what the OED (questionably) identifies as the first use of "coin" in this sense, in George Puttenham's Arte of English Poesie, the discomfort surrounding neologism accompanies unease about social mobility:

Ye have another intollerable ill maner of speach, which by the Greekes originall we may call ronde affectation, and is when we affect new words and phrases other then the good speakers and writers in any language, or then custome hath allowed, & is the common fault of young schollers not halfe well studied before they come from the Universitie or schooles, and when they come to their friends, or happen to get some benefice or other promotion in their countreys, will seeme to coigne fine wordes out of the Latin, and to use new fangled speaches, thereby to shew themselves among the ignorant the better learned. (74)

Predictably, nativist resentment often allied itself with class resentment, against the imported language used by sophisticated lawyers and world-travelers to make the ordinary person feel worthless and helpless. (75) Audiences surely side with Kent (whose facility for moving across social strata, in styles of speech as well as clothing, is remarkable) when that aggressively plain-spoken Anglo old-timer mocks the social-climbing smoothie Oswald's mannered speech in King Lear (2.2.101-10). The Marston-figure in Poetaster is warned against introducing "Some Gallo-Belgick phrase" into his writing. (76) Writers faced a choice between a kind of jingoistic defense of established English, and a desire to profit--individually and collectively--by a globalized trade of vocabulary. It was risky to import what might not prove saleable.

In The Gentleman Usher (1602), Margaret makes fun of popular neologisms and catch-phrases, but Vincentio has to acknowledge the allure: "No inkhorn did ever bring forth the like; / And these brave prancing words with actor's spur / Be ridden throughly, and managed right, / 'Twould fright the audience,--and perhaps delight" (77) That delight may have worked in strange ways. Puttenham warns that "words of exceeding great length, which have bene fetched from the Latine inkhorne or borrowed of strangers, the use of them in ryme is nothing pleasant, saving perchaunce to the common people, who rejoyce much to be at playes and enterludes, and, besides their naturall ignoraunce, have at all such times their eares so attentive to the matter, and their eyes upon the shewes of the stage, that they take little heede of the cunning of the rime." (78) This comment seems ambivalent, and can perhaps be taken to affirm the idea that these plebeians can sometimes tolerate and even enjoy the inkhorn vocabulary precisely because they must concentrate on using the active context to deduce what the words mean. These vivid aids to immediate definition and subsequent recollection must have been a chief factor--along with the fact that the stage did not demand literacy as the page did--in the emergence of drama as a medium for teaching the latest lingo.

Elizabethan and Jacobean playwrights certainly understood what they had to sell to the eager unlearned: "Oh mouth, full of agilitie! I would give 20. Markes now to any person that could teach mee to convey my tongue (sance stumbling) with such dexteritie to such a period." (79) But they were also determined to defend their neologistic practices to a more scholarly audience; they sold high rhetoric to the underclass, but sold themselves to the elite as national benefactors. Thomas Heywood's Apology for Actors (1612) therefore claims that 'bur English tongue, which hath ben the most harsh, uneven, and broken language of the world, part Dutch, part Irish, Saxon, Scotch, Welsh, and indeed a gallimaffry of many, but perfect in none, is now by this secondary meanes of playing, continually refined, every writer striving in himselfe to adde a new florish unto it; so that in processe, from the most rude and unpolisht tongue, it is growne to a most perfect and composed language, and many excellent workers, and elaborate Poems writ in the same, that many Nations grow inamored of our tongue (before despised)." (80) Chapman's "Epistle to the Understander" of Achilles' Shield (1598) emphatically defends importation of foreign words as enriching English.

On the nativist side, The Actor's Remonstrance (1643) finds in plays "the most exact and natural eloquence of our English language expressed and daily amplified." (81) Nash makes reaching a popular audience a public service: "To them that demaund what fruites the Poets of our time bring forth, or wherein they are able to approve themselves necessary to the state. Thus I answere. First and for most, they have cleansed our language from barbarisme, and made the vulgar sort here in London (which is the fountaine whose rivers flowe round England) to aspire to a richer puritie of speach than is communicated with the Commonaltie of any Nation under heaven." (82) The Preface to Robert Parry's 1595 Moderatus, or the Adventures of the Black Knight claims that English vocabulary had recently become so copious that it "may compare with most of the richest tongues in all Europe". Throughout Western Europe, the growth of vernacular literatures and linguistic theory created a lively competition for the tongues and ears of the world. The verbal inventiveness of Elizabethan and Jacobean theater could thus claim to be part of a patriotic project--perhaps making English the world language, as Alexander Gill proposed, (83) which must have seemed a much more distant fantasy in the 1590s (when Francis Meres fails to mention English in his list of the world's eight leading languages) than it does today.

A nation that (beginning in 1550) was actively trying to replace Latin with English as the language of religion, and (up through 1660) was similarly struggling to displace French as the language of high aristocracy and common law, must have been engaged in a lengthy, half-conscious struggle against its legacy as a colony rather than an empire. The connection between the linguistic project I have been describing and emerging Elizabethan nationalism, especially through Shakespeare's second history tetralogy, is explored (mostly in a New Historicist mode) by scholars such as Claire McEachern, Richard Griffin, and Stephen Greenblatt, far above my poor power to add or detract. (84) Certainly language reflects the Janus-headed aspect of early modern English nationhood described by Richard Helgerson, (85) which juxtaposed a top-down model of social organization with bottom-up populist nationalism. Tudor English resembled the Henrician church--not de-centrered, merely re-centered, and with notable foreign accents--but it also encompassed the voice of the people in an ever-expanding heteroglossia. Authority (in which writers, as academic elites, coin words) competes with community (in which writers echo emergent popular speech, which both marks and enables cells of solidarity apart from the centers of conventional power).

But the modern assumption that nations and local populations produced languages may be inside-out from a Jacobean perspective: Dekker speculates that, when the builders of the Tower of Babel scattered, "glad was he that could meet another whose speech he understood: for to what place so-ever he went, others (that ran madding up and down) hearing a man speak like themselves, followed only him: so that they, who when the work began, were all Countrey-men, before a quarter of it was finished, fled from one another as from enemies & strangers. And in this manner did men at the first make up nations: thus were words coyned into Languages, and out of those Languages have others been molded since, onely by the mixture of nations, after kingdoms have been subdued." (86) Language sorts the world, and new words threaten--or are symptoms of a threat to--the old world order.


Along with the upward learning that writers offered to the aspiring mimes of Elizabethan London, and lateral learning offered for internationalists and imperialists, writers sold access downward into a lower-class lexicon that was depicted as no less valuable to learn. The value resided partly in the sheer pleasures of billingsgate, but also in the protection these language-lessons offered against gulling or cozening (to take two words the drama itself helped popularize) by the many predatory schemers who--aided by the anonymities of the new urban landscape--lurked as parasites, using a secret "cant" or jargon. London was bulging with the purses of wide-eyed newcomers, and the right patter could carry a bold and crafty man (like Autolycus in Shakespeare's Winter's Tale) into those little domestic El Dorados.

Prince Hal in Eastcheap (especially 2.4.15-20 of 1 Henry IV and 4.4.68-71 of 2 Henry IV) may be the most famous instance of the downward curriculum in Elizabethan drama. When Hal says, "They call drinking deep, dyeing scarlet," Shakespeare might as well be coaching us directly. Decades before the earliest formal English dictionaries, prose tracts peddled a similar kind of knowledge: for example, Thomas Harman's A Caveat or Warening for Commen Cursetors (1567) warned of a criminal language sifting through London. (87) Samuel Rowlands's Martin Mark-all, Beadle of Bridewell (1610)--like the competing playwrights this article has described--explicitly advertises itself as a superior product to Harman's for the same function, then launches into an alphabetical list of the canting terms other such guidebooks fail to provide. (88) We need not take these tracts at face value, as purely objective exposures of real dangers, to recognize that they sold access to an emergent vocabulary. (89) Dekker's follow-up guide to London's villainies included an offer: "I builded up a little Mint, where you may coyne words for your pleasure. The payment of this was a debt for the Bell-man at his farewell (in his first Round which he walked) promised so much. If he keepe not touch, by tendering the due Sum, he desires forbearance, and if any that is more rich in this Canting commoditie, will lend him any more, or any better, be will pay his love double." (90) The new insider languages emerging within English--and drawing partly on foreign ones, as the term "pedlar's French" implies, allowing writers of exposes to play on xenophobic anxieties as well--were explicitly commodities to be bought and sold, and dearly so.

For the purposes of my argument, it is notable how many of the authors of such guides were also playwrights, and also how many plays provide, as a supplemental value, a translation-guide to the criminal jargon. Ben Jonson's city-comedies clearly offer a version of that protection (a selling-point adopted in our time by David Mamet), and Jonson's 1621 masque, The Gypsies Metamorphosed, offers up a slew of such "canting" language. A few years later, Jonson offers The Staple of News, about a newspaper designed to turn slang and slander into pennies--to court Lady Pecunia. It features Penniboy Canter, who spies on misdeeds by posing as a canting street-singer, suggests that some financial schemes consist of nothing more substantial than their "mint-phrase," and casts off his disguise in order to block his sons plan to endow an entire "Canters' College" teaching multiple local dialects to a paying audience across the social dasses (91)--in other words, a corrupt version of the period's theater as I have been depicting it. The starkest example may be Moll's effort to teach the canting language to an on-stage audience in act 5 of The Roaring Girl; when Jack Dapper offers to pay for further tutoring in this jargon, he becomes a surrogate for the paying audience at the Fortune. (92) But, just as lower-class characters become ridiculous when they try to mimic the latest aristocratic diction on the Elizabethan stage, the upper-class characters in Richard Brome's The Jovial Crew (1641) will humiliate themselves with unconvincing attempts to cant. (93)

Like other forms of radically expanding social fluidity in this period (and others), the development of the English language inspired horror and admiration, revulsion and desire, in equal measures. Contemporary commentators such as William Harrison and Alexander Gill decry the "canting" jargon of criminais as itself a capital crime. Obscured language has always been a haven for the disempowered, and the exposure of these niche jargons, presented as a public service to prevent crime, was also a means to limit the autonomous power of minorities and underclasses, just as the transmission of aristocratic styles was supposedly an aid to social advancement. No wonder Robert Greene was threatened--or claimed to be threatened--"that if I sette their practises in Print, they will cut off the hand that writes the Pamphlet." (94) Guidebooks to these shadowy lexicons may have protected the ruling classes in another way also: perhaps dictionaries of cant, including staged ones, served not so much to translate as to affirm the class barrier across which the translation has to reach. (95)

English dictionaries, mainly focusing on "hard words," emerged as a genre early in the seventeenth century--a high-class enterprise partly modeled on these code-books for deciphering criminal vocabularies. The playwright John Ford's commendatory poem for Henry Cokeram's English Dictionarie (1623) demonstrates that urban centers and their literary institutions were presumed fundamental to the evolution of the language:
   Born in the West? live there? so far from Court?
   From Oxford, Cambridge, London? Yet report
   (Now in these daies of Eloquence) such change
   Of words? unknown? untaught? 'tis new and strange.

Other, comparable commodities had come to market in the preceding decades. "The latter third of the sixteenth century saw vernacular books join the collection of Latin, Continental, and native manuscript manuals that aided English writers in the 'inditing' of letters." (96) Conversation guides, simile collections, handbooks for sermon-writing, and vernacular rhetorics such as Peacham's Garden of Eloquence and Puttenham's Arte of English Poesie also became saleable genres in this period. It seems worth asking why, and what else was produced to meet this perceived need.

Recent scholarship has increasingly focused on a materialist reading of the Elizabethan theater. I am suggesting that we look more closely at what it had to sell. Mikhail Bakhtin associated the language of theater with the language of the marketplace; more recently, Jean-Christophe Agnew has explored, again at a broad theoretical level, the analogies between evolving markets and the evolution of theater through a long seventeenth century. (97) I am interested in the theater as an actual marketplace, trading in a commodity of much interest to Bakhtin himself, namely, the evolving common language. Something big was happening in the manufacture and distribution of this commodity in the Renaissance, as Bakhtin suggests: our "world of free and democratized language" exists because the "hierarchy of discourses, forms, images, styles that used to permeate the entire system of official language and linguistic consciousness was swept away by the linguistic revolutions of the Renaissance." (98) Where better than at the new, popular, socially fluid, legally marginal institution of the public theater? (99)

Those capable of teaching the latest cool way of talking have probably never lacked customers: what I am noticing in the emergent popular medium of the 1590s surely happened again in the 1950s with the distribution of Rat-Pack and beatnik slang (including this sense of "cool"), and on through the hip-hop hits of the early twenty-first century. The school of Pierre Bourdieu--and I note with metacritical chagrin that I invoke that name in the scholarly marketplace much the way I see Elizabethans hopefully invoking a fashionable term, more confident of its prestige than of its exact meaning--argues that "the linguistic market operates according to 'the unequal distribution of linguistic capital' and the competitive struggle for social 'distinction' through language." (100) But greed in this market does not manifest itself only as a push toward the established norms of the dominant group's discourse, controlled by the official educational system, as Bourdieu sometimes appears to assume. In a period of unprecedented ferment in the development of the language--one scholar estimates that 30 percent of the neologisms created in English during the entire Renaissance emerged between 1588 and 1612, which is to say, within the quarter-century scope of Shakespeare's career as a playwright and England's greatest era of theater--the possibilities were almost unlimited, and the pitfalls many. In other words, it was a perfect market for verbal guides, and playwrights seized the opportunity and (like the canting cheats of Jonson's The Alchemist) bickered over the division of the profits. (101)

The economy of words in England was changing because words were rapidly becoming easier to manufacture, thanks to the ferment of immigration and urbanization, and to the loss of inflections that had prevented the kind of zero-derivation neologisms favored especially by Shakespeare, in which (for instance) an existing noun becomes a verb. At the same time, due to some of the same social changes, the business of teaching upwardly mobile behavior thrived (including citizen-comedies such as Dekker's or Middleton's, and prose narratives such as Thomas Deloney's which narrated the ascending path). These staged diction-lessons are a subset of that business: plays for the common man analogous to Castiglione's Book of the Courtier. (102) Even within dramatic language, the lessons went far beyond vocabulary, into flourishes of style and innovations of syntax. (103) My hope is simply that neologisms offer a helpfully concrete instance of an overlooked function of Elizabethan and Jacobean theater--a function that can be understood only by combining literary and materialist approaches to the production of culture.

University of California, Los Angeles


(1) Thomas Dekker, The Guls Horne-booke (1609), 27-28. Unless otherwise noted, the place of publication of all early English books is London.

(2) Geoffrey Hughes, A History of English Words (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), 149, notes that such conversion (many linguists prefer the term "zero-derivation") becomes "possible only after the loss of grammatical inflections" See, also Dick Leith, A Social History of English, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 1997), 99: "the loss of distinctive forms for, say, nouns and verbs, could offer enormous syntactic possibilities for a poet and dramatist like Shakespeare."

(3) Paula Blank, Broken English: Dialects and the Politics of Language in Renaissance Writings (London: Routledge, 1996), 40; see also 44: "The period from 1580 to 1619, the era of Nashe and Shakespeare, seems to have been the heyday of neologizing in England."

(4) The argument of this companion-piece is that Shakespeare's commercial success then, like his dominant influence on modern English, depended partly on a talent for finding the right degree of variation to make neologisms attractive--and offering contextual definitions that made them comprehensible, which he often does by providing instant glossaries. His famous supremacy as a creator of new words resulted partly from the importance of new language as an incentive for attending plays, though he also waged protracted campaigns on behalf of some that filled gaps in his expressive palette. The article traces his development of several words--"reclusive" "premeditated," "compunctious," "abstemious" "exposure," "critical" "pious" "lonely" "retirement" "sequester" and "revolve" (in its older meaning of "ponder at length, turn over in the mind")--that articulate a boundary between the ethical, thoughtful, withheld, or withholding inner self, and the outer world of that self's objects and obstacles. In other words, several of Shakespeare's most assiduous developments of vocabulary confirm, at a microscopic level, some of the largest speculations about his character--both the Romantic tradition of a sensitive, withdrawn genius, and more recent theories depicting an inventor of human subjectivity.

This attention to neologisms also illuminates Shakespeare's characterizing practices. Othello's efforts to introduce himself to the Senate, and Shakespeare's simultaneous effort to introduce him to us, require Othello to seem both exotic and accessible--the double-bind of racial-ethnic minorities obliged to stand out and yet to assimilate, at once to exemplify and reject the stereotyped expectation of the majority. Othello often pairs a common word with a new or rare one, making the on- and off-stage audiences perceive him as cool enough to produce chills, and yet communicative ,enough to generate the warmth of connection. This greatly complicates Pierre Bourdieu s model of speech's relationship to power. To secure his place in Venetian society, Othello replicates, at the level of vocabulary, the charm already cast on Desdemona at the level of story--something that demands distant admiration but also enables sympathetic identification.

(5) E.g., Lukas Erne, Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist (Cambridge U. Press, 2003), 74-75.

(6) Cf. OED, "utter," v.I.1.a (e.g., Romeo and Juliet, 5.1.67) and v.I.2.a. All references to Shakespeare's works are based on The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. B. Evans et al., 2nd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997), except as otherwise noted.

(7) Paul Yachnin, Stage-Wrights: Shakespeare, Jonson, Middleton, and the Making of Theatrical Value (Philadelphia: U. of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), 45-64.

(8) Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine, pt. 1 (1587-88; the 1590 edition is my copy-text here), Prologue; because neologisms present special problems (and temptations) for editors, I have relied mostly on digital facsimiles of Renaissance texts (silently modernizing the transposed u/v and i/j forms), though with additional information--especially lineation--from standard modern editions where available, to facilitate access for scholars for whom online sources are unavailable.

(9) "Timber, or Discoveries," Ben Jonson, ed. C. H. Herford, Percy and Evelyn Simpson, 11 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1952-54), 8:587.

(10) John Marston, The History of Antonio and Mellida. The first part (1602), A4v (Induction, lines 91-92). Line numbering based on Antonio and Mellida, ed. W. Reavley Gair (Manchester U. Press, 1991).

(11) The Second Part of The Return From Parnassus, The Three Parnassus Plays, ed. J. B. Leishman (London: Ivor Nicholson & Watson, 1949), 1.2.282. "Action is eloquence, and the eyes of the ignorant / More learned than the ears," Volumnia tells Coriolanus as she directs his performance in the marketplace (3.2.76-77), but physical actions were also described as eloquent speech: although the OED seems not to have noticed it, "well said" often praised a deed rather than a phrase in this period.

(12) Wayne A. Rebhorn, The Emperor of Men's Minds: Literature and the Renaissance Discourse of Rhetoric (Cornell U. Press, 1995), 15; quoted by Russ McDonald in Shakespeare and the Arts of Language (Oxford U. Press, 2001), 29. Whether or not this is still widely believed may be a crucial question for the viability of literary study in the twenty-first century.

(13) Blank, Broken English, 3. Mak's mimicry of dialect in The Second Shepherd's Play is a famous fifteenth-century example, bur there (as opposed to the sixteenth-century London-based mockery I am describing) northerners are mocking the pretentious speech of their southern neighbors; see Kathleen Irace, "Mak's Sothren Tothe: A Philological and Critical Study of the Dialect Joke in the Second Shepherd's Play," Comitatus 21 (1990): 38-51.

(14) Higgins's offer to Eliza Doolittle is a hyperbolic version of what I hear Elizabethan playwrights offering visitors to their theaters: "you are to live here for the next six months, learning how to speak beautifully.... At the end of six months you shall go to Buckingham Palace in a carriage, beautifully dressed. If the King finds out youre not a lady, you will be taken by the police to the Tower of London, where your head will be cut off as a warning to other presumptuous flower girls"; George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion, Act 2, in Collected Plays, Bodley Head Complete Shaw, Vol. IV (Max Reinhardt: London, 1972), 697. Such deals were certainly struck outside the theater in Elizabethan England: Blank, Broken English, 42, quotes Thomas Wilson's The Art of Rhetoric (1560) quoting a disastrously overwritten letter supposedly from a Lincolnshireman seeking patronage. Wilson thus sells his handbook on much the same basis that Shakespeare and Jonson do their comedies: because an inset piece warns what fools people will look if they mimic the wrong form or do it without the proper discrimination the plays themselves teach.

(15) See the Stage-Keeper's rejection of "mistaking words" in Bartholomew Fair, ed. Eugene Waith (Yale U. Press, 1963), Induction, line 39--apparently a critique of the night-watch scenes in Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing.

(16) Margaret Schlauch, "The Social Background of Shakespeare's Malapropisms," A Reader in the Language of Shakespearean Drama, ed. Vivian Salmon and Edwina Burness (Amsterdam: Benjamins, 1987), 99. See also Barbara Hardy, Dramatic Quicklyisms: Malapropic Wordplay Technique in Shakespeare's "Henriad," 2 vols. (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 1979).

(17) John Dryden, Marriage a la Mode, ed. Mark S. Auburn (Lincoln: U. of Nebraska Press, 1981), 3.1.200-32. John Kerrigan, Archipelagic English: Literature, History, and Politics, 1603-1707 (Oxford U. Press, 2008), 68, notes in Restoration England a "hostility to the fashionable borrowing of words from the national enemy, France." (18) 1 Henry IV, 2.4.4-20; Henry V, 3.4.

(19) Samuel Daniel, Musophilus, ed. Raymond Himelick (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Studies, 1965), 939-60.

(20) Stephen Greenblatt, Learning to Curse: Essays in Early Modern Culture (London: Routledge, 1992), 16-39.

(21) Blank, Broken English, makes this point at length and convincingly.

(22) Jonson, "Timber," Herford and Simpson, Ben Jonson, 8:622; quoted by Blank, Broken English, 39.

(23) Christ's Tears over Jerusalem, in The Complete Works of Thomas Nashe, ed. Alexander Grosart, 6 vols. (London, 1883-85), 4:6.

(24) For the role of monetary metaphors in the inkhorn controversy, see David Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language (Cambridge U. Press, 1995), 60-61.

(25) Kerrigan, Archipelagic English, 64.

(26) Sir John Cheke, "A letter of Syr. J. Cheke to his loving frind Mayster Thomas Hoby," 1557, in Castiglione, Book of the Courtier, (1561) trans. Sir Thomas Hoby, ed. W. H. D. Rouse (London: Everyman, 1966), 7.

(27) Thomas Dekker, "Lanthorne and Candlelight," The Non-dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker, ed. Alexander B. Grosart, 5 vols. (London, 1884-86), 3:188.

(28) George Pettie, The Civile Conversation of M. Steeven Guazzo (1581), Preface, 3r: quoted in R. F. Jones, The Triumph of the English Language (Stanford U. Press, 1953), 205.

(29) Quoted by Jones, Triumph of the English Language, 208.

(30) As if in ironic fulfillment of this point, the 2008 Scripps National Spelling Bee prize was won by spelling "guerdon." Shakespeare seems aware that Costard is doing what the audience would also be doing: recognizing the words as presumptively nouns by their endings: the obvious "-ation" and the less obvious "-on" (Donka Minkova, private communication, reports that all English words ending in "-on" are nouns, except "common" and "wanton").

(31) Terttu Nevalainen, "Shakespeare's New Words," Reading Shakespeare's Dramatic Language: A Guide, ed. Sylvia Adamson, Lynette Hunter, Lynne Magnusson, Ann Thompson, and Katie Wales (London: Arden, 2001), 238.

(32) Francis Meres, Poetrie, Poets, and a comparative discourse of our English Poets, in Palladis Tamia. Wits Treasury (1598), 280.

(33) Richard Carew, "The Excellencie of the English Tongue (1595-967), in William Camden et al., Remaines Concerning Britaine (1636), 41; cf. John Davies, "The Holy Roode," 1609, line 507: "O! that there were some new words lawf'lly coyn'd." (34) This is the central argument of Robert N. Watson's Ben Jonson's Parodic Strategy (Harvard U. Press, 1987).

(35) Jonson, "Timber," Herford and Simpson, Ben Jonson, 8:597.

(36) Cynthias Revels, 2.4.15-18, Herford and Simpson, Ben Jonson, 4:77.

(37) Jonson, "Timber," Herford and Simpson, Ben Jonson, 8:622.

(38) "To the World," Satiromastix, The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker, ed. Fredson Bowers, 4 vols. (Cambridge U. Press, 1953-62), 1:309.

(39) Ben Jonson, Every Man Out of His Humour, ed. Helen Ostovich (Manchester U. Press, 2001), 3.1.201-4, 3.3.141-45. See Watson, Ben Jonson's Parodic Strategy, 71, 74.

(40) John Marston, The Dutch Courtesan, in The Selected Plays of John Marston, ed. Macdonald P. Jackson and Michael Neill (Cambridge U. Press, 1986).

(41) Gustav Cross, "Some Notes on the Vocabulary of John Marston--V," Notes and Queries (1955): 336.

(42) Marston, Antonio and Mellida, 3.2.24; Marston, Jack Drurn's Entertainment, 2.3.33; ed. John S. Farmer (Tudor Facsimile Texts, 1912), 56; cf. Marston, Dutch Courtesan, 2.126.

(43) In the "Parnassus" plays, "the student-playwrights nervously depict the advent of a commercial system that does not value the cultural capital represented by a Cambridge MA as much as did the patronage system"; Edward Gieskes, Representing the Professions: Administration, Law, and Theater in Early Modern England (Newark: U. of Delaware Press, 2006), 217.

(44) Elizabeth M. Yearling, "'Mount Tufty Tamburlaine': Marston and Linguistic Excess," SEL 20 (1980): 257-69, offers a valuable survey of Marston's mistrust of theatrical bombast and its effect on naive audiences.

(45) What You Will, 1.1.32, in The Works of John Marston, ed. A. H. Bullen (London, 1887), 2:332.

(46) John Marston, The Malcontent, 4.4.4, based on the edition by Bernard Harris (London: Benn, 1967).

(47) Sophonisba, 2.1.74, in Jackson and Neill, Selected Plays of Marston.

(48) Marston, Dutch Courtesan, 3.3.19-73, in Jackson and Neill, Selected Plays of Marston.

(49) Marston, Antonio and Mellida, Induction, 65; Induction, 36-40; 2.1.107-8; 5.2.43-44.

(50) BALURDO: If you see one in a yellow taffata dubblet, cut upon carnation velure, a greene hat, a blewe paire of velvet hose, a gilt rapier, and an orenge tawny pair of worsted silk stockings, thats I, thats I.

FELICHE: Very good, farewell.

BALURDO: Ho, you shall knowe me as easily, I ha bought mee a newe greene feather with a red sprig, you shall see my wrought shirt hang out at my breeches; you shall know me.

FELICHE: Very good, very good, farewell.

BALURDO: Marrie in the maske twill be somewhat harde. But if you heare any bodie speake so wittily, that hee makes all the roome laugh; that's I, that's I. (Marston, Antonio and Mellida, 5.1.81-93; H3r-H3v in the 1602 Quarto.)

(51) John Marston, Antonio's Revenge, ed. W. Reavley Gair (Manchester U. Press, 1978), 1.3.21-22.

(52) Histriomastix, 3.1, 2.1, in Plays of John Marston, ed. H. H. Wood, 3 vols. (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1934-39), 3:274, 260, 274.

(53) John Marston, Scourge of Villainie (1598), Satire 10, H4r. Tiffany Stern, "Watching as Reading: The Audience and Written Text in Shakespeare's Playhouse," How to Do Things with Shakespeare, ed. Laurie Maguire (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008), 142, cites this example along with several other attacks on persons who copy language they have heard in theaters.

(54) Ben Jonson, The Poetaster, 2.2.86-90, ed. Tom Cain (Manchester U. Press, 1978); cf. Kitely's final words in Jonson's Every Man In His Humour, "I ha' learned so much verse out of a jealous man's part in a play" (5.1.281-82); in Ben Jonson, Every Man In His Humour, ed. Robert N. Watson (London: A&C Black, 1998).

(55) Jonson, Poetaster, 3.4.165-74.

(56) Jonson, Poetaster, 5.3.537-38; cf. Vittoria, in Webster's The White Devil, mocking the way "hard and indigestible words / Come up, like stones we use to give to hawks for physic" in the lawyer's speeches (3.2.37-38); in Selected Plays of John Webster, ed. Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield, (Cambridge U. Press, 1983). The Return from Parnassus offers a comparable critique of Marston:
   Methinks be is a ruffian in his style;
   Withouten bands of garter's ornament
   He quaffs a cup of Frenchman's Helicon.
   Then, royster-doyster, in his oily terms ...
   Tut, what cares he for most modest close couched terms ...

Marston was also notorious for his ingenious and insistent use of similes (here the modern parallel may be Updike rather than Mamet), which was also a rhetorical fashion of this moment.

(57) "That Jonson was actively involved in the project of commonplacing his plays is shown not only by his use of midline commas but also by the reprinting of some (but by no means all) of the commonplace markers from the quartos in the 1616 folio. Jonson may have overseen the reproduction of his own manuscript commonplace marks in print, as John Marston certainly did in the first two reprints of The Malcontent in 1604 and in the reprint of The Fawn in 1606. Moreover, in some of Jonson's and Marston's plays--especially Sejanus (1603), Catiline (1611), and The Dutch Courtesan (1605)--marginal commas occur frequently and throughout the book rather than sporadically"; Zachary Lesser and Peter Stallybrass, "The First Literary Hamlet and the Commonplacing of Professional Plays," Shakespeare Quarterly 59 (2008): 402-3. On the competitive similarities of Jonson and Marston, see David Riggs, Ben Jonson: A Life (Harvard U. Press, 1989), 78-79.

(58) John Dryden, An Essay of Dramatick Poesie (1668), 50; in The Works of John Dryden, ed. Edward Niles Hooker, H. T. Swedenberg, 20 vols. (Berkeley: U. of California Press, 1956-2002), 17:58.

(59) Thomas Nash condemns neologisms with one of his own: "absonisms" (Strange Newes, 15927), K1r. According to Nash's preface to Greene's Menaphon (1589), 6: "every mechanical mate abhors the English he was born to, and plucks with a solemn periphrasis his ut vales from the inkhorn; which I impute not so much to the perfection of arts as to the servile imitation of vainglorious tragedians ... that intrude themselves to our ears as the alchemists of eloquence, who (mounted on the stage of arrogance) think to outbrave better pens with the swelling bombast of a bragging blank verse." George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie (1589), censures innovations while admitting that he has imported "many straunge and unaccustomed wordes"; modern version ed. Gladys Dodge Willcock and Alice Walker (1936; Cambridge U. Press, 1970), 145 (bk. 3, chap. 5).

(60) Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents (1930), trans, and ed., James Strachey (New York: Norton, 1989), 72.

(61) Blank, Broken English, 33.

(62) Dekker, Guls, 32, misprinted 30.

(63) Thomas Tomkis, Albumazar (1615), 2.1.12-14; Tomkis's Lingua (1607) had mocked the "Gallemaufry of speech" as being like a cold lump of different metals congealed, "like your Fantasticall Gull's Apparell," with one garment from each of many countries' styles (3.5.24-36).

(64) Geoffrey Miller, The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature (New York: Anchor, 2001), 369-92.

(65) The First Part of The Return From Parnassus, The Three Parnassus Plays, ed. J. B. Leishman (London: Ivor Nicholson & Watson, 1949), 3.1.986-87. Quoted by Charles Whitney, Early Responses to Renaissance Drama (Cambridge U. Press, 2006), 289n50; the book as a whole is excellent, although it does not attend to the particular topic of this article.

(66) Sir Gyles Goosecappe, 4.2.131-33, in The Plays of George Chapman: The Tragedies, ed. Allan Holaday et al. (Cambridge: Brewer, 1987). This and many other useful examples for my argument are found in David Klein, The Elizabethan Dramatists as Critics (New York: Philosophical Library, 1963).

(67) Ben Jonson, The Staple of News, in the 1631 Folio, Bb4; modern lineation, 1.2.48-49, ed. Anthony Parr (Manchester U. Press, 1985).

(68) John Ford, The Lover's Melancholy, 1.1.18; ed. R. F. Hill (Manchester U. Press, 1985).

(69) The Roaring Girl, Epistle. 3-4, The Collected Works of Thomas Middleton, ed. Gary Taylor and John Lavagnino (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2007).

(70) Monsieur D'Olive, 1.1.302-4, The Plays of George Chapman: The Comedies, ed. T. M. Parrott, 2 vols. (New York: Russell and Russell, 1961).

(71) Revenge of Bussy, 1.2.38-41; in Holaday, The Plays of Chapman.

(72) George Gascoigne, Certain Notes of Instruction (1575), recommends sticking to monosyllables to sound more truly English. George Peele's Old Wives Tale (1595) makes fun of his rivals' bombast. Cf. Thomas Wilson, The Art of Rhetoric (1560), bk. 3, pt. 1 ("Plainnesse"): "Some seek so far for outlandish English that they forget altogether their mother's language. And I dare swear this, if some of their mothers were alive, they were not able to tell what they say, and yet these fine English clerks will say they speak in their mother tongue, if a man should charge them for counterfeiting the king's English. Some far-journeyed gentlemen at their return home, like as they love to go in foreign apparel, so they will powder their talk with overseas language ... The unlearned or foolish fanatical that smells but of learning ... will so Latin their tongues that the simple can not but wonder at their talk, and think surely they speak by some revelation"; quoted from English Renaissance Literary Criticism, ed. Brian Vickers (Oxford U. Press, 1999), 120-21. The conclusion of Samuel Daniers 1602/3 Defence of Ryme raises similar objections: "And I can not but wonder at the strange presumption of some men, that dare so audaciously adventure to introduce any whatsoever forraine wordes, be they never so strange; and of themselves as it were, without a Parliament, without any consent or allowance, establish them as Free-denizens in our language." On the other hand, the Prologue to Peele's 1593 "Honor of the Garter" salutes Harington "That hath so purely naturaliz'd / Strange words, and made them ali free denizens" (lines 41-43).

(73) See the introduction to Renaissance Figures of Speech, ed. Sylvia Adamson, Gavin Alexander, and Katrin Ettenhuber (Cambridge U. Press, 2007), 13.

(74) Puttenham, Arte of English Poesie, 251-52 (bk. 3, chap. 22). A few years earlier, in 1586, Angel Day writes mistrustfully of"new coyned tearmes" and "odd coyned tearmes," and the preface to the 1582 Catholic attempt at an English Bible acknowledges "new words coyned in court" to defend its own neologizing; see Jones, 105-11. But Puttenham's book may have been in composition and even in manuscript many years before it was published.

(75) Abraham Fraunce and Thomas Wilson, as discussed in Blank, Broken English, 41; see also Charles Barber, Early Modern English (Edinburgh U. Press, 1996), esp. the section on "Attitudes"; and James Siemon, Word Against Word: Shakespearean Utterance (Amherst: U. of Massachusetts Press, 2002), 46-90.

(76) Jonson, Poetaster, 5.3.540.

(77) George Chapman, The Gentleman Usher, ed. John Hazel Smith (Lincoln: U. of Nebraska Press, 1970), 1.1.192-95.

(78) Puttenham, Arte of English Poesie, 82 (bk. 2, chap. 8). See similarly, 251-52 (bk. 3, chap. 22), and cf. Volumnia's observation in note 11 above.

(79) Nathan Field, Amends for Ladies (1618), B3r; 1.1.327-30 in The Plays of Nathan Field, ed. William Peery (Austin: U. of Texas Press, 1950).

(80) Thomas Heywood, Apology for Actors (1612), 37.

(81) The Actor's Remonstrance (1643), 5.

(82) Thomas Nash, Pierce Pennilesse (1592), D3v. Cf. Puttenham, Arte of English Poesie, 59 (bk. 1, chap. 31): "their thankefull studies so much beautified our English tong (as at this day it will be found our nation is in nothing inferiour to the French or Italian for copie of language, subtiltie of device, good method and proportion in any forme of poeme, but that they may compare with the most, and perchance passe a great many of them)." (83) Alexander Gill, as discussed by Blank, Broken English, 24-25. Kerrigan, Archipelagic English, 66, points out the ironic fact that Gill made this suggestion in Latin. The same is true of Richard Sherry's dedication to his Treatise of the Figures of Grammer and Rhetorike (1555).

(84) Claire McEachern, The Poetics of English Nationhood, 1590-1612 (Cambridge U. Press, 1996), 83-137, is especially helpful on this topic.

(85) Richard Helgerson, Forms of Nationhood: The Elizabethan Writing of England (U. of Chicago Press, 1992).

(86) Thomas Dekker, English villanies eight severall times prest to death by the printers, but (still reviving againe) are now the ninth time (as at first) discovered by Lanthorne and candlelight (1609; rpt. 1648), L3v.

(87) Thomas Harman, A Caveat or Warening for Commen Cursetors (1567; rpt. 1573), G3v.

(88) Samuel Rowlands [Rid], Martin Mark-all, Beadle of Bridewell (1610); E1v.

(89) William Carroll, Fat King, Lean Beggar: Representations of Poverty in the Age of Shakespeare (Cornell U. Press, 1996), offers useful perspective on several of these works, suggesting that at least some were written to create and exploit a fear, rather than to address a real danger.

(90) Dekker, English villanies, M2r.

(91) Jonson, Staple of News, 4.4.74-82.

(92) William N. West, "Talking the Talk: Cant on the Jacobean Stage" ELR 33 (2003): 235-40, explicates this scene convincingly as the equivalent of foreign-language instruction books of the period.

(93) West, "Talking the Talk," 242-43, observes that Jonson allows the aristocrats in Gypsies Metamorphosed to master cant better than the rustics, but in Brome "the nobles fail miserably to convince as beggars." (94) Robert Greene, A notable discovery of coosenage Now daily practised by sundry lewd persons (1591), A4v.

(95) West, "Talking the Talk," 235, makes a similar suggestion.

(96) W. Webster Newbold, "Letter Writing and Vernacular Literacy in Sixteenth-Century England," Letter-Writing Manuals and Instruction from Antiquity to the Present, ed. Carol Poster and Linda C. Mitchell (Columbia: U. of South Carolina Press, 2007), 127.

(97) Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, trans. Helene Iswolsky (1940; rpt., Bloomington, IN, U. of Indiana Press, 1984); Jean-Christophe Agnew, Worlds Apart: The Market and the Theater in Anglo-American Thought, 1550-1750 (Cambridge U. Press, 1988).

(98) Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: U. of Texas Press), 17.

(99) It is illuminating to compare this progressive aspect of theater with the regressive practice of many prominent poets such as Spenser, who preferred to reach back for archaic words, rather than importing or inventing new ones, to fill out the English literary lexicon.

(100) Quoted by Blank, Broken English, 34.

(101) Bryan A. Garner, "Shakespeare's Latinate Neologisms," in Salmon and Burness, Reader in Shakespearean Drama, 209.

(102) Norbert Elias's The Civilizing Process (1939), trans. Edmund Jephcott (New York: Urizen Books, 1978), has become very influential, over the past forty years, in studies of the functions of the Early Modern habitus.

(103) However, as Russ McDonald observes in Shakespeare and the Arts (Oxford U. Press, 2001), 36, drawing on the excellent scholarship of Jane Donawerth and Judith Anderson, "sixteenth-century educators and commentators thought and wrote much more extensively about words than about grammar and syntax." {deletethisline}
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Author:Watson, Robert N.
Publication:Philological Quarterly
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2009
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