mayster

Pet peeve: Shakespeare's writings are not "Old English."

This is Shakespeare.

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended—
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend.
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearnèd luck
Now to ’scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long.
Else the Puck a liar call.
So good night unto you all.
Give me your hands if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

This is Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Now wyl I of hor seruise say yow no more,
For veh wyȝe may wel wit no wont þat þer were;
An oþer noyse ful newe neȝed biliue,
Þat þe lude myȝt haf leue lif-lode to cach.
For vneþe watȝ þe noyce not a whyle sesed,
& þe fyrst cource in þe court kyndely serued,
Þer hales in at þe halle dor an aghlich mayster,
On þe most on þe molde on mesure hyghe;
Fro þe swyre to þe swange so sware & so þik,
& his lyndes & his lymes so longe & so grete,
Half etayn in erde I hope þat he were.
Bot mon most I algate mynn hym to bene,
& þat þe myriest in his muckel þat myȝt ride;
For of bak & of brest al were his bodi sturne,
Bot his wombe & his wast were worthily smale,
& alle his fetures folȝande, in forme þat he hade,
        ful clene;
    For wonder of his hwe men hade,
    Set in his semblaunt sene;
    He ferde as freke were fade,
    & ouer-al enker grene.

This is Beowulf.

Hwæt! We Gardena in geardagum,
þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon,
hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.
Oft Scyld Scefing sceaþena þreatum,

monegum mægþum, meodosetla ofteah,
egsode eorlas. Syððan ærest wearð
feasceaft funden, he þæs frofre gebad,
weox under wolcnum, weorðmyndum þah,
oðþæt him æghwylc þara ymbsittendra

ofer hronrade hyran scolde,
gomban gyldan. þæt wæs god cyning!
Ðæm eafera wæs æfter cenned,
geong in geardum, þone god sende
folce to frofre; fyrenðearfe ongeat

þe hie ær drugon aldorlease
lange hwile. Him þæs liffrea,
wuldres wealdend, woroldare forgeaf;
Beowulf wæs breme (blæd wide sprang),
Scyldes eafera Scedelandum in.

Only one of these is Old English, and it is the one you can’t read at all. I have read Beowulf, but only in a translation. The other two are Middle English (mostly doable in its original form, if you have good sidenotes or a dictionary), and early modern English (a difficult turn of phrase, but otherwise entirely readable). And let me tell you, after having been staring at Middle English poetry for the past half hour, Shakespeare is dead easy in comparison. Don’t take medieval literature classes, they’ll kill your brain.

And now you have learned a thing! Please stop calling Shakespeare “Old English.”