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

Authors
  • Sato, Kiriko1
  • 1 Daito Bunka University, Department of English Studies, 1-9-1, Takashimadaira, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo, 175-8571, Japan , Tokyo (Japan)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Neophilologus
Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Publication Date
Jan 09, 2019
Volume
103
Issue
2
Pages
273–291
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s11061-018-09591-5
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
License
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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.

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