Bright Ideas and True Confessions: How and What to Do and Why
Everyday Language Use for the SCA

Reading the Bible Without Fear of Religion [1]
Ælflæd of Duckford

A good way to learn about Renaissance English is to read it. The two most available sources are the works of Shakespeare and the King James version of the Bible. Of those two, the Bible is the easier to read and is closer to everyday speech and writing of the period.

You can't learn to use the phrases and vocabulary of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries until you have a feel for how they do and do not fit together. You can use the "thee"s and "thou"s without the pain of conjugation and memorization by reading them until they sound natural.

Here are some interesting passages that can be read painlessly and without fear of religious effect. The first number is the chapter, and the second is the verse. There will probably be a list of the books in order in the beginning of the Bible.

For a little more serious reading, try Genesis 27, the entire chapter. It's the story of Jacob and Esau - disguise and intrigue. The chapters following that are good, too (including the mandrake story recommended above, and a genetics lesson).

If you read a more modern version of the Bible you won't get the effect we're after. Language like "And the King said unto Haman, The silver is given to thee, the people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee" will be changed to "'Keep the money,' the king said to Haman, 'and do with the people as you please.'" (Esther 3:11, chosen at random, first King James and then New International)

I don't recommend using "seemeth" in everyday speech, but the word order can be used with our own verbs and pronouns. "Do with this as seems good to you" sounds more formal and exotic than "Do whatever you want to do with it." "If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my petition, and to perform my request, let the king and Haman come to the banquet that I shall prepare for them, and I will do tomorrow as the king hath said. Then went Haman forth that day joyful and with a glad heart. . ." See? Even the verses that don't say anything weighty and wonderful can be pretty. If you don't own a King James Bible, check a thrift store, used book store, or ask an older protestant friend of yours if you can borrow one or have an extra. The library may have one you can check out. Regular bookstores probably have them, and most religious supply houses will have. Don't steal one from a motel room if you can help it.



[1] A word to the devout: Please don't be offended by my suggestion that it's possible to read lots of the Bible without finding much of religious value. I've scouted out these passages, and they're unlikely to bring anyone closer to or further from God.

© Sandra Dodd, 1991
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