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The Relative Which with Personal Antecedents in Shakespeare’s History Plays

  • Kiriko SatoEmail author
Article
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Abstract

This paper examines Shakespeare’s use of the relative which with personal antecedents. The personal use of which was acceptable in Shakespeare’s period, when the animacy parameter had not yet been established for the choice of relative pronouns, although it was being replaced by who and whom and became confined to things in the eighteenth century. I shall analyse contexts where Shakespeare has his characters use personal which in his history plays, demonstrating that it tends to appear when the speaking character is superior in social status to his/her referent(s) or highly emotional, usually displaying anger towards them; otherwise, the referent is dead or present as a corpse. The history plays I examined provide 39 instances of personal which, and at least one of these three factors are relevant in 38 cases. Interestingly, Shakespeare is known to use thou in the same contexts in place of you, the more ordinary or unmarked form as the singular second person pronoun. In conclusion, Shakespeare did not consider which as a simple variant for who(m); instead, he must have found which to be a marked form, exploiting it in particular contexts where thou was generally preferred.

Keywords

Early Modern English Relative pronouns Shakespeare History plays Personal antecedents Which 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This is a revised version of the paper read at the 90th General Meeting of the English Literary Society of Japan held at Tokyo Woman’s Christian University on 19–20 May 2018. I would like to express my thanks to the audience at the presentation for their questions and comments. I am also grateful to the anonymous reviewers of this article for their valuable suggestions and advice, which helped me to improve my argument.

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Copyright information

© Springer Media B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of English StudiesDaito Bunka UniversityTokyoJapan

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