A Midsummer Night's Dream Vocabulary

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

William Shakespeare's vocabulary in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' uses both everyday language and some terms that may be unfamiliar to readers. In this lesson, we'll explore some of the more complex terms.

A Midsummer Night's Dream

One of William Shakespeare's best-known works, the comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream, features one of the most universal themes the world over: love and all its various complications. The tale follows several sets of lovers in a magical forest and some actors trying to stage a show for the Duke of Athens' wedding.

The story uses a lot of regular, everyday language, as well as some styles that are more poetic. Let's take a closer look at some of the vocabulary used to help tell the story.

Shakespeare's Vocabulary

Have you ever read something and seen a word or three that you didn't recognize? Developing a deeper understanding of difficult or unusual vocabulary can help increase your overall knowledge of the material itself. Here are some words of interest in A Midsummer Night's Dream and examples of how they're used inside the text.

1. abjure: to avoid; to renounce in a more formal sense

Example: ''Either to die the death or to abjure, For ever the society of men.''

2. aby: to make amends for; to endure, usually a suffering

Example: ''Lest, to thy peril, thou aby it dear.''

3. avouch: to admit or confess, or to make an acknowledgment of something

Example: ''Demetrius, I'll avouch it to his head, Made love to Nedar's daughter, Helena,''

4. colly: Soot, or the color of soot; darkness

Example: ''Swift as a shadow, short as any dream; Brief as the lightning in the colly'd night.''

5. dulcet: something that is pleasing to the senses (sight, smell or sound)

Example: ''And heard a mermaid on a dolphin's back, Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath, That the rude sea grew civil at her song''

6. engild: to brighten, as with light

Example: ''Fair Helena, who more engilds the night, Than all you fiery oes and eyes of light.''

7. hobgoblin: a mischievious imp or a creature that causes superstitious beliefs or fears

Example: ''Those that Hobgoblin call you and sweet Puck, You do their work, and they shall have good luck:''

8. knavish: dishonest or not trustworthy

Example: ''Cupid is a knavish lad, Thus to make poor females mad.''

9. leviathan: something large, like a whale or ship; immense in power or size

Example: ''Fetch me this herb; and be thou here again, Ere the leviathan can swim a league.''

10. minimus: a small or insignificant creature or object

Example: ''Get you gone, you dwarf; You minimus, of hindering knot-grass made; You bead, you acorn.''

11. ninny: someone who is simple-minded or foolish

Example: ''This is old Ninny's tomb. Where is my love?''

12. officious: meddlesome or unwanted behavior; a behavior that is forward

Example: ''You are too officious, In her behalf that scorns your services.''

13. oxlip: a primrose with a cluster of yellow blooms

Example: ''I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,''

14. paramour: a lover; sometimes an illicit lover of one who is already married.

Example: ''Yea and the best person too; and he is a very paramour for a sweet voice.''

15. parlous: clever or shrewd; dangerous

Example: ''By'r lakin, a parlous fear.''

16. promontory: part of land that projects outward, like a plateau or a cliff overlooking the sea

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