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Not Shakespeare

William H. Matchett
On Time (March 2014)

Dear Editor: Whoever wrote the passage boxed on page 10 of the last issue, I have no idea, but I do know that it was not Shakespeare. Not only is there no play into which that speech would fit, but the key words – patriotic, patriotism, and citizenry – are words he never used anywhere, as reference to a concordance makes quickly clear.

According to the OED, “patriotic” first appears in English in Ben Jonson’s Volpone in 1605, so Shakespeare could have known of it, though he never borrowed it. “Patriotic” apparently first appeared in English in 1653, and “patriotism” in 1726, “citizenry” not until 1819.

Once having arrived, “patriotism” received enough use that Boswell can report on Dr. Johnson as defining it in 1775 as “the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

So ends the lesson for today.

I suppose the constant misattributions to Shakespeare are supposed to imply profundity; I don’t know.

Incidentally, it is a fine issue. I skipped very little of it.

With appreciation, Bill Matchett
University Friends Meeting, Seattle, WA (NPYM)

Literature Shakespeare Language politics History

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