The Importance Of Tongue In A Midsummer Night's Dream

1637 WordsOct 25, 20177 Pages
The word tongue is used fifteen times in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and to a modern audience, it is evidently “in reference to speech” (OED, “tongue” II), yet to an audience contemporary to Shakespeare, it carries a much different implication. One of two primary uses of tongue as a noun is, indeed, “in reference to speech” (OED, “tongue” II) because the tongue is “considered as the principal organ of speech; hence, [“tongue” can refer to] the faculty of speech; the power of articulation or vocal expression or description; voice, speech; words, language” (OED, “tongue” II.4.a). As the Oxford English Dictionary highlights, “in many contexts it is impossible to separate the sense of the organ from that of its work or use.” From…show more content…
This usage of the alternative meaning of tongue in reference to serpents establishes the possibility of any usage of the word tongue in this text to be interpreted with this meaning in mind. Shakespeare emphasizes the link between the two meanings of tongue, in reference to speech and to serpents, and joins the two in this instance. The (false) news that Lysander is dead is more hurtful to Hermia than a snake’s bite and this suffering is the result of words because it is words that relayed the message. Most instances of the word tongue are primarily “in reference to speech” (OED, “tongue” II), or, at least, read with that connotation in mind, yet the instances can often be interpreted with both definitions. In the same nature that it is often “impossible to separate the sense of the organ from that of its work or use” (OED, tongue), the definitions of tongue in reference to speech and to a serpent’s bite are inextricably connected in this text: it is speech itself which engenders the negative results akin to a serpent’s bite. When Thisbe finds her lover’s lifeless body and laments his death, she ends her monologue by saying, “Tongue, not a word” (V.i.325), before she kills herself. This instance of the word tongue could merely be making use of definition of tongue relating to speech, but to interpret it with the serpent connotation as well unveils a
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