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How Shakespearean are you?

The words of Shakespeare are still held, nearly 400 years after his death, to be some of the most poetic ever written and his influence on modern English is indisputable. Contributions such as pound of flesh (Merchant of Venice) and green-eyed monster (Othello) are fairly well-known, but did you know that he was the first person to use the adjectives misplaced (from King Lear) or neighbouring (Henry IV, Part 1); or the adverbs obscenely (Love’s Labour’s Lost)  or out of work (Henry V)?

These days we often hear accusations of the English language having been dumbed down, so it is interesting to compare English now to that used by Shakespeare. Grammar, punctuation, and spelling are now more standardized than in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but can English today hold a candle to the Bard of Avon’s work?

Enter some English text in the box below and click the button. Your words will be compared with all the words used by Shakespeare in his plays and our verdict will be delivered on its Shakespearean content. Why not paste song lyrics or dialogue from your favourite television show into the box to see how much overlap there is with Shakespeare’s English?

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Technical notes:

To produce this page we took the freely available text from our 1916 edition of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare and processed it with a script that extracted all the unique words used in the plays. Your input is compared word-by-word with this list and a percentage correlation between the two is generated. No advanced techniques were used in processing the plays, so the Bard’s words have not been lemmatized and the list contains the names of all his characters.

In some cases you may notice some anomalous results, particularly when you cut and paste a passage of Shakespeare from the web and see a result that might only be 98% Shakespearean. These results can occur because sometimes text from other sources might be from a slightly different edit of the original play, or might contain special characters that this page might not understand. Please remember this is a bit of fun rather than a serious linguistic tool.

The opinions and other information contained in OxfordWords blog posts and comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Oxford University Press.