In honor of the Bard’s birthday, here are six words Shakespeare used that we still find useful to describe life in the 21st century.
1. addiction: the state or condition of being dedicated or devoted to a thing, especially an activity or occupation; adherence or attachment, especially of an immoderate or compulsive kind; immoderate or compulsive consumption of a drug or other substance.
Henry V, I.i, 92-97
The Archbishop of Canterbury is talking about the change in the former prince since his accession as king.
Since his addiction was to courses vain,
His companies unletter’d, rude and shallow,
His hours fill’d up with riots, banquets, sports,
And never noted in him any study,
Any retirement, any sequestration
From open haunts and popularity.
(i.e., His addiction was to frivolous, debauched behavior and companions.)
2. assassination: the action of assassinating; the taking of the life of anyone by treacherous violence.
Macbeth is trying to make up his mind to murder King Duncan.
If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well
It were done quickly: if the assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
With his surcease success;
3. drugged: to drug: to mix or adulterate (food or drink) with a drug, especially a narcotic or poisonous drug.
Macbeth, II, ii, 7-10
Lady Macbeth is assuring her husband that killing Duncan will be easy because she has put a sleeping potion in the nighttime drinks of his guards.
I have drugg’d
That death and nature do contend about them,
Whether they live or die.
4. equivocal: of words, phrases, etc.: having different significations equally appropriate or plausible; capable of double interpretation; ambiguous.
All’s Well That Ends Well V, iii, 279-281
Parolles is being deliberately deceptive.
Parolles: He loved her, sir, and loved her not.
King: As thou art a knave, and no knave. What an
equivocal companion is this!
5. marketable: Fit to be sold or marketed; that finds a ready market; that is in demand; saleable.
As You Like It, I, ii, 84-89
Two marriage-eligible women are being sarcastic about an annoying courtier.
Celia: Here comes Monsieur Le Beau.
Rosalind: With his mouth full of news.
Celia: Which he will put on us, as pigeons feed their young.
Rosalind: Then shall we be news-crammed.
Celia: All the better; we shall be the more marketable.
6. torture: To inflict torture upon, subject to torture; to subject to judicial torture; put to the torture (from the noun torture: The infliction of severe bodily pain, as punishment or a means of persuasion).
King Henry VI, Part II, II, i , 154-158
The Duke of Gloucester is speaking to Simpcox, a man who claims to have received his sight that day after having been blind from birth, and who further claims to be unable to walk. Gloucester proves the man is a fraud by threatening him with a whipping by the local law-enforcement officer.
Gloucester: Now, sirrah, if you mean to save yourself from whipping, leap me over this stool and run away
Simpcox: Alas, master, I am not able to stand alone
You go about to torture me in vain. .
Note: One blow of the whip is enough to encourage Simpcox to jump over the stool and run away.
23 April 1564–23 April 1616
Happy Birthday, Will!