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Shakespeare’s use of language is often perceived as prestigious, often even pretentious, with his use of poetic language such as extended metaphors and iambic pentameter. However, as his audience has changed over time (from groundlings and gentry in the Elizabethan and Jacobean era, to working, middle, and upper classes in the 21st century) so has the understanding of his use of language. Though much has been written on Shakespeare, it is only within the past century that scholars have started writing about the bawdiness of the bard’s work (such as Eric Partridge’s Shakespeare’s Bawdy (1947)). In order to examine how language within Shakespeare’s plays works, I have been looking at the social impact of particular aspects of communication. This research explores Shakespeare’s use of language, with a particular focus on innuendo (an allusive, suggestive remark), euphemism (indirect remarks), and implicature (implied meanings), and how interpretations of such devices have changed over time. Through this, I have found that the original (and somewhat crass) comedy has been lost over time. This could lead to further research into how refocusing on these elements could encourage engagement in young adults and other groups in which engagement in classical literature is low.
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