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October 26, 2017


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Gaylord B

I remember learning of another example in Hamlet where the nuance of each usage seems especially relevant.
In Act 3, sc 4, Gertrude accosts her son with "Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended," using his name and the familiar 'thou' -- to soften the reproach? or to remind him of her superior status? Hamlet, it seems, assumes the latter. In any case, he throws it back at her-- "Mother, you have my father much offended" -- with the coldly formal "Mother' and 'you' that underline the rebuke with an implicit rejection of any closeness or affection.
Authors writing in languages with the thou/ye distinction likewise commonly exploit it to signal varying and shifting stages of intimacy in relationships.

Virtual Linguist

Thank you, Gaylord. I vaguely knew there were good examples of this nuanced usage in Shakespeare, but I couldn't remember the speech. Thanks for jogging my memory.

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