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ENGL 3933: Shakespeare: Oxford English Dictionary (OED)

This guide will cover the OSU Library resources to help you in English 3933 taught by Dr. Andrew Wadoski.

Oxford English Dictionary

The Oxford English Dictionary is the definitive historical dictionary of the English language.  Started in the nineteenth century, it has gone through many different editions.  The OSU Library has one of the 24-volume print editions in the General Reference area on first floor (in the 423 call # area), but we also have an online searchable database version of the dictionary that is easier to consult.  The link below will take you to the online version (Note:  you will have to log in with your O-Key id and password if you are off-campus).

Searching for History of Words with OED

The Oxford English Dictionary Online (OED) can be used to trace the history of a specific word you encounter in one of Shakespeare's plays.  For example, here is part of the witches' incantation in Act IV of Macbeth:

Add thereto a tiger's chawdron
For th' ingredience of our cau'dron.
Double, double, toil and trouble
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble. (Macbeth IV.i.33-36)

If you want to look up "chawdron," you can access the OED database by going to the OSU Library homepage, and under FIND ARTICLES go to Databases, the "O."  In the search box, enter the term.

The result can be viewed as an Outline or Full Entry (choose Full Entry).  This gives you the different spellings of the word in various periods, the etymology of the word (its origins in Middle English and other langauges), and provides quotations that give you the earliest instance of the word for a given meaning, and also some later quotations using it.  Note that the line from Macbeth is one of the examples the OED editors list.

The OED is the standard source for establishing the history of the English language, and can be useful when trying to look unfamiliar or unusual words that occur in Shakespeare.  Note that the 1616 beside Shakespeare is the date of his death, the latest the word could have been used in that context (since there is not an exact date for the play), and 1623 is the date of the publication of the First Folio in which the text appears.

To look up the various instances of a particular word in Shakespeare's plays, you can use one of the several concordances in the library that will tell you the play, act, scene, and line number in which terms appear.

Most concordances to Shakespeare are on the 4th floor in the call number range

822.33 G  xxxx 

Some online concordances to Shakespeare include

OpenSource Shakespeare

Shakespeare's Words