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"A Quick Guide to Understanding Elizabethan" by HatedLove6


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This was originally intended to be read by those who practice a religion who uses a Book of Shadows, but I still felt that this could be useful for anyone who writes stories. Also, if anything is wrong or confusing, please, by all means, let me know.
If you want your Book of Shadows to have a more archaic feel to it, an almost effortless way to achieve that is by learning a bit of Elizabethan (Shakespearean). It’s honestly not that hard, you just need to get the hang of the rules, and it’s much easier than getting a certain kind of paper and soaking it in coffee or tea, or making special kind of ink from scratch. Plus, it’s inexpensive–it doesn’t cost a penny! If you hate Shakespeare, it’s really just a heavy accent rather than an entirely new language, and hopefully this will at least make it easier to understand, even if you don’t want to learn how to write Shakespearean.

First off, let’s start with the famously confusing thee, thou, thy and thine.

Thee and thou both mean “you” however thee is used for the object while thou is used for the subject. To understand the difference of object and subject, the subject is always doing something to or with the object, even if the object is another person.

For example, in “You go with him,” you is the subject and him is the object. In, “I will go with you,” I is the subject and you is the object. In Shakespearean, they would look like, “Thou goest with him,” and, “I will go with thee.”

In the first sentence, the sentence using “thou”, notice that I changed go to “goest”. This is because an “–st” suffix is added to verbs, but only with thou.

Thy and thine both mean “your”, but, like thee and thou, have subtle differences in usage. Thine is used when the word after it starts with a vowel or a silent h while thy is used when the word after it starts with a consonant; it’s similar to the rule between using the word “a” or “an”. For example, “I would thine own self be true,” and “Discipline thy servant!”

Another suffix to be aware of is “–eth”, which is only used with he, she, or it. It doesn’t matter if you used thee, thou, thy or thine. In example, “God knoweth thy guilt!”

Even with the usage of thee, thou, thine and thy, the word “you” did have its place in Elizabethan language. Shakespeare did use it on occasion. The reason being that “you” was reserved for someone of a higher rank, status, or even age if it was significant, and thee thou, thine and thy were used of someone of lower rank, status, or was younger.

You: Use it to address your parents, your master, your social superiors, your patron, your customers, your officers and even your horse, who may be worth as much as you are. Anyone of upper class could address each other with “you” casually.

Thee, Thou, Thy, Thine: Use it to address your children, your servants, your wife, your most intimate friends, your dog, and even peculiarly God because God knows you better than anyone, so why not address Him casually? (Although to be on the safe side, I’d use “you” instead.) Anyone of lower class can address each other with any of the four casually; however anyone in the upper class can also use “thou” for affection and intimacy, hence “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” Otherwise, anyone of a lower status calling someone of a higher status with any of these suffixes would be considered extremely rude and insulting.

Ye is another “you” word that was often used, but it was used in a plural sense. For example, “You lot are a bunch of thieves!” would be “Ye lot art a bunch of thieves!”

Another set of words to keep in mind are do, did, and don’t. Don’t wasn’t invented then, so it would be impossible to get away with “Don’t be afraid”, instead, say “Be not afraid.” Do and did were around, but they were uncommon, so instead of “What did the creature look like?”, say “What looked the creature?” Or “Did she stay long?” to “Stayed she long?”

Of course Shakespearean is more than just thee, thou, thy and thine, there are other words that would be most inappropriate for that age. If I went back in time, I would be stared at if I simply asked, “Where is the bathroom?” If I went to Britain right now and asked that, they would still laugh at me. Since this is merely for your Book of Yesod/Malkuth, where the most you would write about is recording herbs, or writing spells or rules, I’ll just give you some basic vocabulary and what phrases to keep note of.

Alas – means “unfortunately“, but it isn’t an exact equivalent. It’s noted to have a sorrow undertone. “Alas, poor Yorick, I knew thee well.”

An – means “if”, so “An thou thinkest me a liar?” would be “If you think me a liar?”

Art – means “are”. So “thou art” would mean “you are.”

Ay – means “yes”.

Certes – pronounced “sir-tees”, means “certainly”, not “certain”. Don’t say “I am certes. . .”, and never use it to replace “sure,” as in “I am sure he is well.”

Drawn – For example, if you went to a barber, or a dentist, you would say that you had your hair or tooth drawn by the “barber” or “barber surgeon”.

Give me leave to – means “to allow me to.”

In – Instead of saying you live “on” Mayberry Street, you would say you live “in” Mayberry Street.

Mayhap – means “maybe, perhaps”. This is always singular and will never have an s at the end.

Poppet – is a word for a doll, or an affectionate nickname for a child.

Stay – this does mean what you think it means, “to wait”, but there is another subtle usage for it. For example, if you’re telling someone, that someone else is waiting for you, you would say “I am stayed for.”

Sweeting – a pet name for a lover or child.

Ta’en – is short for “taken” but is as “mistaken for”. “Thou thinkest me a demon? Thou art ta‘en!”

Wherefore – means “Why.” So “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” would mean “Why are you Romeo?” and if you know your Romeo and Juliet, you’ll remember that she was asking why his name was Romeo, a Montague.

Would – Although the word “wish” does appear in Shakespeare, “would” is more often used, so “I would I were. . .” would mean “I wish I were. . .”


Instead of. . . Say. . .
Bathroom . . . Privy; Jakes; Ajax; Little room of office

Bottom line . . . In the end; At the bottom; In the main; Finally; In the final analysis

Ego . . . Self-love

Excuse me . . . Forgive me; Pray pardon; I crave your forgiveness; By your love

Flirtations, promiscuous . . . Inconstant

Gesundheit . . . God save you!

Nay not . . . Nay, I shall not; Nay, it is not so; Nay

Okay . . . Very well; ‘Tis done; As you will; Marry shall I

Please . . . Prithee (I pray thee); If you please; An thou likest; An it please you; By your leave; An thou wilt; An you will.

Thank you . . . Gramercy; I thank thee; My thanks, God reward thee

Wow! . . . Marry!; In faith!; Hey-ho!; God’s Death!; What ho!

It’s important to look at the etymology of the word to find out when and where it was invented along with the original meaning. Look online for more archaic words for more inspiration.

The Holy Bible can be a good reference; however be sure to note that it is older than Shakespearean; therefore there will be some differences in formatting, how certain words were used, and such. For example, “ye”, as I established earlier, was a plural “you”, but in newer sources of English language “ye” became another word for “the” especially for places, like “Ye Olde Tavern.”



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