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The Shakespeare Glossary

Here you will find the meanings of old and unusual words used in Elizabethan England. If you need more information on a particular word or the context in which it is used, please see the play or sonnet in which the word appears for detailed annotations at the bottom of each page.

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Abbreviations Used in the Shakespeare Glossary

Ado. = Much Ado About Nothing
Aw. = All's Well that Ends's Well
Ant. = Antony and Cleopatra
Ayl. = As You Like It
Chor. = Chorus
Cor. = Coriolanus
Cym. = Cymbeline
Epil. = Epilogue
Gent. = Two Gentlemen of Verona
1KH4. = 1 Henry IV
2KH4. = 2 Henry IV
1KH6. = 1 Henry VI
2KH6. = 2 Henry VI
3KH6. = 3 Henry VI
H8. = Henry VIII
Ham. = Hamlet
KJ. = King John
LLL. = Love's Labours Lost
Lr. = King Lear
Lucr. = Rape of Lucrece
Mac. = Macbeth
Meas. = Measure for Measure
Mer. = Merchant of Venice
MND. = Midsummer Night's Dream
Oth. = Othello
Per. = Pericles
R2. = Richard II
R3. = Richard III
Rom. = Romeo and Juliet
Shr. = Taming of the Shrew
Tim. = Timon of Athens
Tit. = Titus Andronicus
Temp. = The Tempest
Troil. = Troilus and Cressida
Ven. = Venus and Adonis
Wint. = Winter's Tale
Wiv. = Merry Wives of Windsor
adj. = adjective
adv. = adverb
arch. = archaic
comp. = compound
conj. = conjunction
esp. = especially
F1, F2. = Folio 1, Folio 2
Fr. = French
freq. = frequently
It. = Italian
L. = Latin
obs. = obsolete
pl. = plural
prep. = preposition
prob. = probably
Q. = quarto
vb. = verb


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Notes on Shakespeare

Ale (beer made with a top fermenting yeast) was the drink of choice in Shakespeare's day. Everyone from the poorest farmer to the Queen herself drank the brew made from malt, and a mini brewery was an essential part of every household. Shakespeare's own father was an official ale taster in Stratford – an important and respected job which involved monitoring the ingredients used by professional brewers and ensuring they sold their ale at Crown regulated prices. Beer, however, eventually became more popular than ale. Read on...
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Henry Bolingbroke, the eldest son of John of Gaunt and the grandson of King Edward III, was born on April 3, 1367. Henry usurped the throne from the ineffectual King Richard II in 1399, and thus became King Henry IV, the first of the three kings of the House of Lancaster. Read on...
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An atomy is the smallest particle of matter (an atom). The most famous use of the word atomy in the plays is found in Mercutio's Queen Mab speech in Romeo and Juliet (1.4)
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Shakespeare acquired substantial wealth thanks to his acting and writing abilities, and his shares in London theatres. The going rate was £10 per play at the turn of the sixteenth century. So how much money did Shakespeare make? Read on...




Twenty-four of Shakespeare's sonnets are addressed to a woman. We have little information about this woman, except for a description the poet gives of her over the course of the poems. Shakespeare describes her as 'a woman color'd ill', with black eyes and coarse black hair. Thus, she has come to be known as the "dark lady." Find out...
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Known to the Elizabethans as ague, Malaria was a common malady spread by the mosquitoes in the marshy Thames. The swampy theatre district of Southwark was always at risk. King James I had it; so too did Shakespeare’s friend, Michael Drayton. Read on...
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Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the most captivating and complex figures in history. In 1152, Eleanor married Henry Plantagenet (later to become Henry II). Their son, John, was born in 1167 and is the title character of Shakespeare's history play. Take a Shakespeare history quiz...