Hamlet Vocabulary Words

Instructor: Rachel Noorda
This lesson discusses difficult words in 'Hamlet' by William Shakespeare. Because Shakespeare made up new words, referenced myths and religion, wrote in Early Modern English, cut words short, and uses British spelling, it is useful to have a list of difficult words from this lesson to enhance your understanding of 'Hamlet'.

Introduction to Vocabulary in Hamlet

Painting of Prince Hamlet
princehamlet

If you are looking for an author who created dozens of words that are now a part of the English language, look no further than William Shakespeare. His language is sometimes difficult to understand for several reasons: he made up his own words, wrote during the 1600s, referenced symbols of Christianity and Greek mythology, cut words short, and used the British spellings.

1. Shakespeare made up his own words. He invented over 1700 new words, some of which are still in use today, but others that you do not really hear anymore.

2. Shakespeare was writing in the 1600s, the Early Modern English period. People writing and speaking in that period used many words then that we no longer use now.

3. Shakespeare references Christianity and Greek mythology. These references to religion and myths make it difficult if you are not familiar with the stories.

4. Shakespeare cut words short to fit his iambic pentameter rhythm, sometimes cutting out the middle of words. You will see lots of words in Hamlet that have cut out vowels with an apostrophe to replace the vowel: appear'd, prick'd, seal'd, etc.

5. Shakespeare was British, so he used British spellings. If you are used to American spellings, this may be difficult at first until you start to recognize which words you already know, but are just spelled differently.

A Hamlet Dictionary

Tush, tush, 'twill not appear.

Tush: a word to express reprimand

When yond same star that's westward from the pole

Had made his course to illume that part of heaven

Illume: make light

Before my God, I might not this believe

Without the sensible and true avouch

Of mine own eyes.

Avouch: testimony or declaration of truth

Against the which, a moiety competent

Was gaged by our king

Moiety: one part

Hath in the skirts of Norway here and there

Shark'd up a list of lawless resolutes

Sharked: to gather hastily

Well may it sort that this portentous figure

Comes armed through our watch

Portentous: something warning about bad things that will happen

The extravagant and erring spirit hies

To his confine

Hies: to go quickly

Nor windy suspiration of forced breath

Suspiration: a sigh

Fie! 'tis a fault to heaven,

A fault against the dead, a fault to nature,

To reason most absurd

Fie: an expression of disgust

A figure like your father,

Armed at point exactly, cap-a-pe,

Appears before them

Cap-a-pe: from head to foot

thrice he walk'd

By their oppress'd and fear-surprised eyes,

Within his truncheon's length

Truncheon: a club or baton

It was, as I have seen it in his life,

A sable silver'd.

Sable: black color

And in the morn and liquid dew of youth

Contagious blastments are most imminent.

Blastments: a bad influence

Whiles, like a puff'd and reckless libertine,

Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,

And recks not his own rede.

Dalliance: a brief and not serious romantic relationship

Rede: advice

Ay, springes to catch woodcocks.

Springes: a trap

This heavy-headed revel east and west

Makes us traduced and tax'd of other nations

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