Masters Thesis

Shakespeare as wordsmith of feeling: a stylistic analysis of word formation in Hamlet, King Lear, and The Tempest

For the bulk of my project, I will be using the Oxford English Dictionary to single out words recorded for the first time in three plays (Hamlet, King Lear, and The Tempest). The tragedies, Hamlet and King Lear, were chosen for their high levels of emotional content. My theory is that plays with significant emotional content will feature a larger number of words that reflect the emotional content within the play. The Tempest was chosen as a control for this theory; as a late romance, the content of the play does not fit into either of the two designations of tragedy or comedy, and I believe the word choices will primarily remain between the two designations as well. I will use the Oxford English Dictionary’s definitions to understand the denotations of each of these created words. Additionally, I have looked at the context of these words in the plays themselves and I have noted how the connotation differs from the strict dictionary definition. The goal here is to understand what differences there are between these connotations and denotations and why, in several contexts, Shakespeare created a word only to have it changed by the context. By doing this, I hope to provide a better understanding of the works themselves by way of stylistics, a better understanding of word formation for William Shakespeare, and how the process of word formation affected the works as a whole.

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