Julius Caesar Vocabulary

Instructor: Rachel Noorda
William Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar' is a tragedy about Roman history. This lesson will cover some of the important yet difficult words from the play. The diction used in 'Julius Caesar' is made complex by Shakespeare's tendency to make up words, make references, cut words short, and also wrote in a different time period from modern English.

Introduction to Vocabulary in Julius Caesar

William Shakespeare created many new words for the English language. Sometimes Shakespeare's writing can be difficult for modern readers to understand because Shakespeare made up words, wrote during the 1600s, made references to the Bible and Greek mythology, and shortened words.

1. Shakespeare made up over 1700 words and you may not be familiar with many of them, making reading Shakespeare tricky.

2. Shakespeare was writing during the 1600s, which was during a stage of the English language known Early Modern English. Early Modern English was written and spoken much differently than modern English is today.

3. Shakespeare mentions characters and stories from the Bible and from Greek mythology. Understanding both of these types of stories is important to understand Shakespeare.

4. Shakespeare shortens words. Shakespeare's plays are written in iambic pentameter, a type of poetic rhythm. Because of this, Shakespeare sometimes shortens words so they would fit this rhythm. Plenty of words in Julius Caesar have removed vowels with an apostrophe to replace that vowel (deck'd, pluck'd, etc).

A Julius Caesar Dictionary

What trade, thou knave? thou naughty knave, what trade?

Knave: a dishonest man

These growing feathers pluck'd from Caesar's wing

Will make him fly an ordinary pitch,

Who else would soar above the view of men

And keep us all in servile fearfulness.

Servile: trying to please someone excessively

Beware the ides of March.

Ides of March: March 15th

By means whereof this breast of mine hath buried

Thoughts of great value, worthy cogitations.

Cogitations: reflection

Upon the word,

Accoutred as I was, I plunged in

And bade him follow

Accoutred: equipped

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world

Like a Colossus

Bestride: straddle

And look you lay it in the praetor's chair,

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