Counterfeiting Shakespeare: Evidence, Authorship, and John Ford's Funerall Elegye

By Brian Vickers | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Grammar:'the Shakespearean “who”'

In his attempt to establish Shakespeare's authorship of the Funerall Elegye Donald Foster identifed a number of what seemed to him 'stylistic quirks' in the poem, which he then investigated. One of these 'quirks' involves a grammatical construction which would be anomalous in modern English, the use of 'who' for inanimate antecedents, such as 'th'assault of death, who' (FE, 490). Such a usage would be unacceptable today, but in Shakespeare's age it might have been common, and in order to form an accurate estimate of this matter the Shakespeare scholar must turn to histories of the English language, of which there is no lack. It seems that Foster made a hasty raid on this material, did not look very far, and misinterpreted what he saw. His account of this grammatical feature is a travesty of the historical record, and it must be a matter of some embarrassment to the scholarly community that so many writers on Shakespeare have seized on his account of 'the anomalous who' as if it represented a reliable account of the English language in Shakespeare's age. Far from being a distinctive Shakespearian usage, it turns out to be an entirely commonplace grammatical variant, which persisted right through the seventeenth century, and well into the eighteenth.

In his 1989 monograph Foster relied largely on one main source of information, which was not and did not pretend to be an authority on the development of the English language, A. C. Partridge's analysis of the grammatical conventions in Shakespeare's poems (1976), 1 with a brief nod to Charles Barber's Early Modern English (1976). According to Foster, Partridge had identified some 'syntactical features that are characteristic of Shakespeare's verse', including

the frequent substitution of one relative pronoun for another; thus in the Elegy, where we find who for which when used with animals or with personified nouns:truth who (dedication), death who (490), time who (497), dove who (455). But a survey of Renaissance verse shows these examples in fact to be quite ordinary. What makes Shakespeare's practice unique is that he frequently


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Counterfeiting Shakespeare: Evidence, Authorship, and John Ford's Funerall Elegye


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 568

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?