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Barron's Booknotes-Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
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Shakespearean verb forms differ from modern usage in three main ways:

1. Questions and negatives could be formed without using 'do/did' as when Brutus asks:

What mean you? (II, i, 234)
where today we would say: 'What do you mean?' or when Portia instructs Lucius:

Stay not to answer me (II, iii, 2)
where modern usage demands: 'Do not stay to answer me'. Shakespeare had the option of using forms a. and b. whereas contemporary usage permits only the a. forms:

a. b.

Do you know? Know you?

Did you know? Knew you?

I do not know I know not.

I did not know I knew not.

2. A number of past participles and past tense forms are used which would be ungrammatical today. Among these are:

'took' for 'take':

Where I have took them up (II, i, 50);

'untrod' for 'untrodden':

Through the hazards of this untrod state (III, i, 136);

'strucken' for 'struck':

How like a deer, strucken by many princes Dost thou lie here (III, i, 209-210);

'forgot' for 'forgotten':

You have forgot the will I told you of (III, ii, 236);

and 'are rid' for 'have ridden':

Brutus and Cassius Are rid like madmen through the gates of Rome (III, ii, 265-266).

3. Archaic verb forms sometimes occur with 'thou' and with 'he/she/it':

Shamest thou to show thy dangerous brows by night (II, i, 78);

Thou hast some suit to Caesar (II, iv, 27);

When the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept (III, ii, 88).


Shakespeare and his contemporaries had one extra pronoun 'thou' that could be used in addressing a person who was one's equal or social inferior. 'You' was obligatory when more than one person was addressed, as when Caesar told the conspirators:

I could be well moved, if I were as you; If I could pray to move, prayers would move me (III, i, 58-59)
but it could also be used to indicate respect, as when Antony recognizes the power of Octavius but reminds him:

Octavius, I have seen more days than you (IV, i, 18).

Frequently, a person in power used 'thou' to a child or a subordinate but was addressed 'you' in return, as when Portia speaks to Lucius:

Portia: I prithee boy, run to the Senate House; Stay not to answer me, but get thee gone.

Lucius: Madam, what should I do? Run to the Capitol, and nothing else? And so return to you... (II, iv, 1ff)
but if 'thou' was used inappropriately it could cause grave offence as when, just before the assassination, Brutus addresses Caesar:

I kiss thy hand, but not in flattery Caesar (III, i, 52).


Prepositions were less standardized in Elizabethan English than they are today and so we find several uses in Julius Caesar that would have to be modified in contemporary speech. Among these are: 'on' for 'of' in:

And be not jealous on me, gentle Brutus (I, ii, 71);

'on' for 'at' in:

If Caesar carelessly but nod on him (I, ii, 118);

'in' for 'from' in:

There is no fear in fear in him (i.e., There is nothing to fear from him) (II, i, 190);

'off' for 'down' in:

How to cut off some charges some charges in legacies (IV, i, 9);

and 'of' where today we should not require a preposition:

And then I swore thee, saving of they life (V, iii, 38).


Contemporary English requires only one negative per statement and regards such utterances as "I haven't none" as nonstandard. Shakespeare often used two or more negatives for emphasis as when Brutus insisted:

There is no harm intended to your person, Nor to no Roman else (III, i, 90-91).

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Barron's Booknotes-Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

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