Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Politeness theory and Shakespeare's four major tragedies*

  • Roger Brown (a1) and Albert Gilman (a2)
Abstract

Penelope Brown and Stephen Levinson (1987) have proposed that power (P), distance (D), and the ranked extremity (R) of a face-threatening act are the universal determinants of politeness levels in dyadic discourse. This claim is tested here for Shakespeare's use of Early Modern English in Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, and Othello. The tragedies are used because: (1) dramatic texts provide the best information on colloquial speech of the period; (2) the psychological soliloquies in the tragedies provide the access to inner life that is necessary for a proper test of politeness theory; and (3) the tragedies represent the full range of society in a period of high relevance to politeness theory. The four plays are systematically searched for pairs of minimally contrasting dyads where the dimensions of contrast are power (P), distance (D), and intrinsic extremity (R). Whenever such a pair is found, there are two speeches to be scored for politeness and a prediction from theory as to which should be more polite. The results for P and for R are those predicted by theory, but the results for D are not. The two components of D, interactive closeness and affect, are not closely associated in the plays. Affect strongly influences politeness (increased liking increases politeness and decreased liking decreases politeness); interactive closeness has little or no effect on politeness. The uses of politeness for the delineation of character in the tragedies are illustrated. (Politeness theory, speech act theory, pragmatics, sociolinguistics, theory of literature, Shakespeare studies)

Copyright
References
Hide All
Abbott, E. A. (1925). A Shakespearean grammar. London: Macmillan.
Alrabaa, S. (1985). The use of address pronouns by Egyptian adults. Journal of Pragmatics 9: 645–57.
Ascham, R. ([1570] 1970). The scholemaster. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Austin, J. L. (1962). How to do things with words. London: Oxford University Press.
Barber, C. (1976). Early modern English. London: Deutsch.
Barber, C. ([1981] 1987). “You” and “thee” in Shakespeare's Richard III. Leeds Studies in English New Series 12: 273–89. Reprinted in V. Salmon & E. Burness (eds.), A reader in the language of Shakespearean drama. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 163–79.
Barnet, S. (ed.). (1963). Macbeth. (Signet Classic Shakespeare.) New York: New American Library.
Baxter, L. A. (1984). An investigation of compliance-gaining as politeness. Human Communication Research 10: 427–56.
Blake, N. F. (1983). Shakespeare's language: An introduction. New York: St. Martin's.
Blum-Kulka, S. (1985). Indirectness and politeness in requests: Same or different. Paper presented at the International Pragmatic Conference, Viareggio, Italy.
Bradley, A. C. (1905). Shakespearean tragedy. London: Macmillan.
Brook, G. L. (1976). The language of Shakespeare. London: André Deutsch.
Brown, R. (1965). Social psychology. Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press.
Brown, R., & Gilman, A. (1960). The pronouns of power and solidarity. In Sebeok, T. A. (ed.), Style in language. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. 253–76.
Brown, P., & Levinson, S. C. (1978). Universals in language usage: Politeness phenomena. In Goody, E. N. (ed.), Questions and politeness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Brown, P. (1987). Politeness: Some universels in language usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Burton, D. M. (1973). Shakespeare's grammatical style. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Byrne, Sister St. Geraldine (1936). Shakespeare's use of the pronoun of address. Its significance in characterization and motivation. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Catholic University of America.
Castiglione, B. ([1528] 1966). The book of the courtier. Trans, by SirHoby, Thomas, 1561. New York: Dutton Everyman.
Clark, H. H., & Lucy, P. (1975). Understanding what is meant from what is said: A study in conversationally conveyed results. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 14: 5672.
Clark, H. H., & Schunk, D. H. (1980). Polite response to polite requests. Cognition 8: 111–43.
Cody, M., McLaughlin, M., & Schneider, J. (1981). The impact of relational consequences and intimacy on the selection of interpersonal persuasion tactics: A reanalysis. Communication Quarterly 29: 91106.
della Casa, G. ([1558] 1958). Galateo. Trans, by Pine-Coffin, R. S.. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Doran, M. (1976). Shakespeare's dramatic language. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Elias, N. ([1939] 1978). The history of manners. Vol. 1, The civilizing process. New York: Random House.
SirElyot, Thomas ([1531] 1962). The book named the Governor. Ed. by Lehmberg, S. E.. New York: Dutton Everyman.
Falbo, T., & Peplau, L. A. (1980). Power strategies in intimate relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 38: 618–28.
Fang, H., & Heng, J. H. (1983). Social changes and changing address norms in China. Language in Society 12: 495507.
Fraser, B., & Nolen, W. (1981). The association of deference with linguistic form. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 27: 93109.
Fraser, R. (ed.). (1963). King Lear. (Signet Classic Shakespeare.) New York: New American Library.
Friedrich, P. (1966). Structural implications of Russian pronominal usage. In Bright, W. (ed.), Sociolinguistics. The Hague: Mouton. 214–59.
Gillett, P. J. ([1974] 1987). Me, U, and Non-U: Class connotations of two Shakespearean idioms. Shakespeare Quarterly 25(3): 297–3O9. Reprinted in V. Salmon & E. Burness (eds.), A reader in the language of Shakespearean drama. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 117–29.
Goffman, E. (1956). The nature of deference and demeanor. American Anthropologist 58: 473502.
Goody, E. N. (ed.). (1978). Questions and politeness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gordon, D., & Lakoff, G. (1971). Conversational postulation. In Papers from the seventh regional meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society. Chicago. 6384.
Grice, H. P. (1975). Logic and conversation. In Cole, P. & Morgan, J. L. (eds.), Syntax and semantics, III: Speech acts. New York: Academic. 4158.
Grimshaw, A. D. (1980a). Social interactional and sociolinguistic rules. Social Forces 58: 789810.
Grimshaw, A. D. (1980b). Mishearings, misunderstandings, and other non-successes in talk: A plea for redress of speaker-oriented bias. Sociological Inquiry 50: 3174.
Grimshaw, A. D. (1980c). Selection and labelling of instrumentalities of verbal manipulation. Discourse Processes 3: 203–29.
Harris, R. (1984). Truth and politeness: A study in the pragmatics of Egyptian Arabic conversation. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Cambridge University.
Holtgraves, T. (1986). Language structure in social interaction: Perceptions of direct and indirect speech acts and interactants who use them. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 51: 305–14.
Holtgraves, T., Srull, T. K., & Socall, D. (in press). Conversation memory: The effects of Speaker status on memory for the assertiveness of conversation remarks. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Hubler, E. (ed.). (1963). Hamlet. (Signet Classic Shakespeare.) New York: New American Library.
Hulme, H. M. (1962). Explorations in Shakespeare's language: Some problems of word meaning in the dramatic text. New York: Longman.
Hussey, S. S. (1982). The literary language of Shakespeare. London: Longman.
Hymes, D. (1983). Report from an undeveloped country. In Bain, B. (ed.), The sociogenics of language and human conduct. New York: Plenum.
Jespersen, O. (1972). Growth and structure of the English language. 9th ed.Oxford: Blackwell.
Joseph, Sister M. (1966). Shakespeare's use of the arts of language. New York: Hafner.
Kempff, R. (1985). Pronouns and terms of address in Neues Deutschland. Language in Society 14: 223–37.
Kernan, A. (ed.). (1963). Othello. (Signet Classic Shakespeare.) New York: New American Library.
Kittredge, G. L. (1916). Shakespeare: An Address. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Kroger, R. O., Wood, L. A., & Kim, V. (1984). Are the rules of address universal? III Comparison of Chinese, Greek, and Korean usage. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 15: 273–84.
Labov, W., & Fanshel, D. (1977). Therapeutic discourse: Psychotherapy as discourse. New York: Academic.
Lambert, W. E., & Tucker, G. R. (1976). Tu, vous, usted. Rowley, Mass.: Newbury House.
Levinson, S. C. (1977). Social deixis in a Tamil village. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.
Levinson, S. C. (1982). Caste rank and verbal interaction in Tamilnadu. In McGilvray, D. B. (ed.), Caste ideology and interaction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 99235.
Levinson, S. C. (1983). Pragmatics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lustig, M. W., & King, S. (1980). The effect of communication apprehension and situation on communication strategy choices. Human Communication Research 7: 7482.
Mack, M. ([1960] 1963). Jacobean Shakespeare: Some observations on the construction of the tragedies. In Brown, J. R. & Harris, B. (eds.), Stratford upon Avon studies: Jacobean theater Vol. 1. London: Arnold. Reprinted in A. Kernan (ed.), Othello. (Signet Classic Shakespeare.) New York: New American Library.
Mehrotra, R. R. (1981). Non-kin forms of address in Hindi. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 32: 121–37.
Millward, C. ([1966] 1987). Pronominal cases in Shakespearean imperatives. Language 42: 1017. Reprinted in V. Salmon & E. Burness (eds.), A reader in the language of Shakespearean drama. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 301–08.
Mulholland, J. ([1967] 1987). “Thou” and “you” in Shakespeare: A study in the second person pronoun. English Studies 48: 19. Reprinted in V. Salmon & E. Burness (eds.), A reader in the language of Shakespearean drama. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 153–61.
Ogino, T. (1986). Quantification of politeness based on the usage patterns of honorific expressions. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 58: 3758.
Onions, C. T. ([1911] 1986). A Shakespeare glossary. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Paulston, C. B. (1976). Pronouns of address in Swedish: Social class semantics and a changing system. Language in Society 5: 359–86.
Poutsma, H. A. (1914). A grammar of late modern English. Groningen.
Quirk, R. ([1971] 1987). Shakespeare and the English language. In Muir, K. & Schoenbaum, S. (eds.), A new companion to Shakespeare studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 6782. Reprinted in V. Salmon & E. Burness (eds.), A reader in the language of Shakespearean drama. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 3–21.
Replogle, C. ([1973] 1987). Shakespeare's salutations: A study in stylistic etiquette. Studies in Philology 70: 172–86. Reprinted in V. Salmon & E. Burness (eds.), A reader in the language of Shakespearean drama. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 101–15.
Sadock, J. (1974). Towards a linguistic theory of speech acts. New York: Academic.
Salmon, V. ([1965] 1987). Sentence structures in colloquial Shakespearian English. Transactions of the Philological Society. 105–40. Reprinted in V. Salmon & E. Burness (eds.), A reader in the language of Shakespearean drama. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 265–300.
Searle, J. R. (1969). Speech acts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Searle, J. R. (1976). The classification of illocutionary acts. Language in Society 5: 124.
Slugoski, B. R. (1985). Grice's theory of conversation as a social psychological model. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Oxford University.
Slugoski, B. R., & Turnbull, W. (in press). Cruel to be kind and kind to be cruel: Sarcasm, banter, and social relations. Journal of Language and Social Psychology.
Spevack, M. (1973). The Harvard concordance to Shakespeare. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Stone, O. (1966). Social mobility in England, 1500–1700. Past and Present 33: 1755.
Vygotsky, L. S. ([1934] 1962). Thought and language. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Whigham, F. (1984). Ambition and privilege: The social tropes of Elizabethan courtesy theory. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Wildeblood, J. (1965). The polite world. A guide to English manners and deportment from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Yassin, M. S. F. (1975). A linguistic study of forms of address in Kuwaiti colloquial Arabic. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Leeds University.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Language in Society
  • ISSN: 0047-4045
  • EISSN: 1469-8013
  • URL: /core/journals/language-in-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed