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Keywords that characterise Shakespeare's (anti)heroes and villains

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Publication date5/10/2020
Host publicationVoices Past and Present : Studies of Involved, Speech-related and Spoken Texts: In honor of Merja Kytö
EditorsEwa Jonsson, Tove Larsson
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9789027260642
ISBN (Print)9789027207654
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Publication series

NameStudies in Corpus Linguistics
PublisherJohn Benjamins
ISSN (Print)1388-0373


This chapter undertakes a keyword analysis of seven Shakespearean characters: Titus, Tamora, Aaron, Lear, Edmund, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. The chapter discusses how, once contextualised, these keywords provide useful insights into their feelings/thoughts towards others, events, motivations to act, etc. In terms of findings, only Aaron denotes his "villainy" directly. Tamora, in contrast, draws upon a keyword that is denotatively positive; in context, though, "sweet" reveals her womanly wiles. "Weep", for Lear, and "legitimate" and "base", for Edmund, problematize their status as (one-dimensional) villains. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth draw upon grammatical keywords, "if " and "would" in ways that signal something about their (deteriorating) emotional and social positions as much as their villainous intentions.