Segments in this Video

Shakespeare: Diction of Everyday Speech (05:12)


Shakespeare's mastery of the diction of everyday speech places him at the heart of Elizabethan England's expansive use of English. An excerpt from one of his plays reveals Shakespeare's mastery of imagery.

Shakespeare's Works: Every Kind of English (04:13)

Shakespeare's plays contain "every kind of spoken English" such as pidgin, philosophical, bawdy, heroic, and pastoral miracle. Excerpts: "Midsummer Night's Dream," "Henry V," and "The Tempest."

Shakespeare's Inventiveness and Creativity With Language (04:20)

Shakespeare's prodigious vocabulary of nearly 34,000 words has a profound influence on the today's spoken English. He invented more words and "quotable quotes" than any other person in history did.

Sounds of Elizabethan Speech (05:31)

The Prologue to "Henry V" delivered in both contemporary and Shakespearian English reveals the differences in the music of the language. Strong echoes of Elizabethan English can still be heard in the counties of Britain's West Country.

Sounds of Elizabethan Speech (03:14)

British countrymen today speak much the same way Shakespeare's contemporaries did. This is the English that made its way to America.

King James' Authorized Translation of the Bible (05:51)

The King James translation of the Bible made God's word accessible to the common person. Instead of Shakespeare's 34,000-word vocabulary, only 8000 words were used in the translation that was completed by a committee of scholars.

Roanoke and Jamestown Settlements (04:14)

In 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh was the first to take English to the New World. The settlers integrated hundreds of Indian words and phases into their speech. In 1607, settlers established Jamestown and became the first English-speaking Americans.

American Language Communities Using West Country English (05:42)

On Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay, local speech is reminiscent of the first English speakers 400 years ago. Double negatives and playful use of opposite meanings mark the speech. Viewers hear Tangier English from adults and children.

English of Early American Settlers (03:24)

Using only words found in the King James Bible, the inflexible ideology of Puritan settlers influenced how they spoke. Today, the Plymouth community recreates the customs and speech of original settlers from East Anglia.

East Anglian English: Roots of Puritan English (04:06)

Linguists visit East Anglia to hear the speech of many of the original American settlers. Viewers hear the speech of wheelwrights in Suffolk and get a sense of what the first settlers to America sounded like.

East Anglian English: Roots of Puritan English (04:01)

In East Anglia, church and parish records reveal what kinds of people immigrated to America in the 17th century. Many New Englanders today have remnants of East Anglian English in their speech.

American English (03:59)

New England speech today is a combination of English from the West Country as well as from East Anglia. These two dialects lie at the heart of American English and from which we have the "flat a," and the final "r" as in "mother."

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A Muse of Fire

Part of the Series : The Story of English
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $149.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $224.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $149.95



As the landscape of the New World awakened England’s imagination, so did a new landscape of words—in the English of William Shakespeare and the King James Bible. This classic PBS program describes the spread of English to North America and explains how Shakespeare’s prodigious vocabulary filled the language with startling new words, phrases, and constructions. Recording strong echoes of Shakespearean English in the little villages lying near Stratford, the program also describes the making of the Authorized Version of the Bible—the only great work of literature ever created by committee—and examines the linguistic dissent perpetrated by the Puritans. (59 minutes)

Length: 59 minutes

Item#: BVL36925

ISBN: 978-1-4213-6089-8

Copyright date: ©1986

Closed Captioned

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Only available in USA and Canada.