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Flowery Elizabethan English

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Thor and Hercules get into it. It seems that a mere "Leave Him to Me!" was not enough...

Thor: You have no idea what you are dealing with.
Iron Man: Uh, Shakespeare in the park? Doth mother know you weareth her drapes?

The immense popularity of William Shakespeare and the King James version of The Bible has made the style in which those works were written very popular.note  For this reason, Flowery Elizabethan English is often the first thing that writers turn to when they want to show that a character is extremely old-fashioned — generally more so than an ordinary human could be. His speech will be sprinkled with terms like "prithee" or "forsooth", archaic pronouns like "thou" or "ye", and archaic verb endings like "-est" or "-eth". He may also speak in proverbs and flowery metaphors, since in Elizabethan era, people were very fond of proverbs, and their usage was seen as an indication of wisdom and sharp wit.

This is often used for immortals or near-immortals, like elves or gods, or for characters with a very strong connection to the era (perhaps a hyper-obsessive scholar). It can be used in alternate worlds and fantasy works where there never was an Elizabethan England. May also be used by time travelers. Works written during or set in the Elizabethan era do not qualify, however, as the purpose there is quite different.

This even occurs in translated works, where it may signal a similar level of being old-fashioned in the original, or, in a language like Japanese, a formal or traditional style of speech that has no direct analogue in English.

In extreme cases, the characters may use Gratuitous Iambic Pentameter as well. When done badly, perhaps for humor, it may shade into Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe. For characters who speak like they come from the much-later Victorian era, see Antiquated Linguistics. Talk Like a Pirate is similar, but quite distinct. Contrast Period Piece, Modern Language, when the writers have the historical characters talk like 21st-century normal people instead of something that sounds more period-appropriate.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The English dub of Inuyasha has Kaede talk this way, which is fair enough as she's from the Warring States Era. However, the writers apparently noticed that this was annoying, so only and specifically Kaede does it — every other character just speaks normal English, and Inuyasha himself is outright slangy.
  • PandoraHearts has Rufus Barma, the Duke of Barma, who speaks in an antiquated form of Japanese in the original work, and in Early Modern English in the localized translations. Though there are some exceptions, the use of grammar conventions are for the most part consistent with the rules of Early Modern English, and Barma's vocabulary consists of many old fashioned words and turns of phrases, not merely grammar conventions.
  • In Ranma ½, Tatewaki "Blue Thunder" Kuno is fond of speaking this way, particularly in the English dub.
  • Fittingly, much of the dub of Romeo X Juliet is in this style. It's done well — the script was adapted by Shakespeare fans who know what they're doing, and they cast actors who were able to read it well.
  • In Sekirei, Tsukiumi talks like this, most likely as a way of translating her formal Japanese. When she says "Have at thee, villain!", though, it's hard not to imagine her being Thor's Distaff Counterpart.

    Comic Books 
  • Parodied in a comedy version of Alpha Flight, in which the Native American character, Yukon Jack, a loincloth-clad savage from the Canadian north woods whose tribe has had very limited contact with the outside world, speaks fluent Shakespearean all the time.
  • In Empowered, the Caged Demonwolf combines this with Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness and Purple Prose (also, thesaurus abuse) for some truly remarkable dialogue.
  • Much like Thor, Hercules and the Olympians from Marvel generally talked like this, too. This is averted and subverted at different times in the current run by Greg Pak and Fred van Lente. Hercules talks in modern English. When he goes to the Underworld at one point, his former human half talks in Shakespearean English. Hercules gets mad and asks why he talks like that when they're from ancient Greece.
  • Thor, and all of the other Asgardians of the Marvel Universe, spoke until recently in Ren Faire-esque English. There have been several nods to Shakespeare over the years, including many quotes, mis-quotes, and even the character Volstagg the Voluminous, a pastiche of William Shakespeare's Falstaff (from Henry IV parts 1 and 2). (The most recent relaunch of the character has him and his fellow Asgardians speaking formally but not archaically, and they keep their own font.) The Ultimates, a reimagination of the Avengers in the Ultimate Marvel universe, averts this in the first two arcs, written by Mark Millar, as Thor speaks like a normal person. He started talking this way since The Ultimates 3. Later on, they go back to the initial style: Tony says that he's tired of it, knows Thor can talk normally, and will donate money to a charity on the condition that Thor give up ye olde Englishe.
  • Yorick And Bones: Yorick speaks in this fashion, which may be a result of the era he lived in.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin begins imagining people talking like this in real life after being forced to watch a historical drama on TV.
    Calvin: Holy schla-moly, isn't there a cop show on where they talk like real people?
    Mom: Shh.
  • In For Better or for Worse, someone who steals the door of Michael's dorm room does this when Michael asks where his door is.
  • Lampshaded in Foxtrot, when Peter decides to base his paper on Hamlet not on any of the countless thematic or symbolic topics it presents, but on the biggest question it raises of all: "What's with all the 'prithees'?"

    Fan Works 
  • In A Boy, a Girl and a Dog: The Leithian Script the author chose to write the Eldar who never left Valinor speaking this way. Notably, to catch the full scope and dissonance of it, there are dialects of it. Finrod's enraged wife regularly shouts in an over formal shade of it, Finarfin speaks a quieter, more restrained and less forced mode, Maiwe hardly uses any, being from a more rural region. Overlaps with Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe, and is amazingly well done.
  • Enlightenments carries over Dormin's archaic speech patterns from canon and pushes it further in the direction of Flowery Elizabethan English from canon's Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe. Dormin even uses "you" when they want to be more formal with someone.
  • Mordred in Justice Society of Japan speaks in an antiquated style smacking of Shakespeare (rather than the more historically credible English of Saxon or Plantagenet Times).
  • Just as many My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Fanfictions play this trope straight as subvert it, usually as an extension of Luna canonically speaking the same way after her return from exile in "Luna Eclipsed".
    • The Lunar Rebellion: At the time of the Lunar Rebellion, nine hundred years before the show's events, all ponies are depicted as speaking like this. Unlike a lot of the times it's used in fanworks, the grammar and spelling are actually correct — the author even distinguishes between the use of "you" in formal settings versus the familiar or intimate "thou".

    Film — Animated 
  • While otherwise averted in The Sword in the Stone, the sword itself has these words written on the hilt:
    "Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil is rightwise king born of England"
  • Mr. Pricklepants from Toy Story 3. He is a thespian. (And voiced by Timothy Dalton who is no stranger to Shakespeare.)

    Film — Live Action 
  • In the original Angels in the Outfield, irascible baseball manager Duffy McGovern resorteth unto this when an angel admonishes him to clean up his language. He can still argue with the umpires, though:
    Duffy. Fair? Fair ball? Why, thou knave, thou dolt, thou hast eyes but seest not!
    Home plate umpire. You heard him, he said fair.
    Duffy. Fie, fie upon you and a pox upon you too, thou art blind, thou black-livered bat!
    Home plate umpire. Hey, Hamlet — blow.
  • Oddly enough, entirely averted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thor and other Asgardians have a tendency to avoid contractions, use old-fashioned words, and sound generally vaguely poetic, but they are perfectly understandable to a Modern English speaker. (In other words, they're merely indulging in Antiquated Linguistics, not Flowery Elizabethan English.) Tony just says the page quote because it's funny.
  • The librarian in The Philadelphia Story (1940) uses the words "thee" and "thou" which somewhat irritates Jimmy Stewart's character. note 
  • Played with in the song "Romeo and Juliet from Reefer Madness 2007. Billy speaks a couple of lines of it and it's peppered throughout the lyrics.
  • Rosaline: The film opens with Romeo wooing Rosaline in the Shakespearean verse of the source material, only for her to question why he's talking like that. The rest of the characters speak in 21st-century English for the most part, and Romeo mostly slips into it when he's feeling poetic.
  • Star Wars: There's an odd use of the style ("What is thy bidding, my master?") by Darth Vader in both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Vader's speech is formal and articulate but these are the only occasions he speaks this particular way. Perhaps it's an ancient Sith greeting.
  • In Zack Snyder's Justice League, communications between Steppenwolf and his superiors on Apokolips (DeSaad and Darkseid) have a bit of this, harkening back to the Shakespearean dynamic between the New Gods by Jack Kirby.
    Steppenwolf: DeSaad! DeSaad! I call to thee!

  • The Belgariad: Arendish folks talk like this, particularly the Mimbrates...though the Asturians deliberately change accents out of their contempt for the Mimbrates. One (non-Arendish) character trying to sound intelligent speaks like this for a few pages, before being explicitly told that she sounds ridiculous. Thoroughly and hilariously lampshaded in The Malloreon when Poledra remarks that if they stick around the Arends long enough, everyone will be doing it. In Mallorea, the Dals also speak this way, especially the Seers. Once the group make it to Dal Perivor, where the natives are descendents of both Dals and Mimbrates, everyone does indeed start using it, resulting in Poledra complaining that it's time to leave before everyone begins composing bad poetry. For his part, Eddings not only does the style grammatically, but (in The Rivan Codex) is highly critical of those who try but get it wrong.
  • The Book of Mormon was written in an antiquated style reminiscent of the King James Bible.
  • Captain Corelli's Mandolin: This trope is employed as a Translation Convention to indicate what Ancient Greek, spoken by an English spy, sounds like to modern Greek speakers.
  • A Clockwork Orange: The book (and Film) frequently uses 'thou', 'thee' and 'thine' in addition to many invented terms inspired by Russian words—partially because the book's author, Anthony Burgess, feared what he was writing about would not be published if written in plain English.
  • In Roger Zelazny's novel, Creatures of Light and Darkness, a fantasy set far in the future, the immortal Prince Who Was A Thousand tends towards this style of speech, especially when conversing with his bodiless love, Nephytha. Other immortals and gods speak normal modern English, for the most part.
  • In The Dresden Files a number of immortals, particularly the Sidhe, have a tendency to use "thee" and "thou" in casual speech. It also becomes a plot point in Grave Peril. Harry realises that the Nightmare is not an ancient spirit, because it misuses ancient pronouns (it's thine heart, not thy heart.
  • Appears several times in The Elenium. All the speaking dead, whether they died centuries before or a few days before. A man playing a ressurected dead hero speaks this way, plagiarizing an old play. Also Bhelliom speaks this way.
  • In Empire from the Ashes, Jiltanith learned her English during the "War of the Roses" period. She sticks to it rather strongly.
  • In Empire Star by Samuel R. Delany, the spacer woman Charona speaks this way, presumably as a translation convention to suggest that her dialect is older and more formal than Jo's.
  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series:
    • "The Mule": Magnifico's speech (In-Universe described as the accent of the galactic center) is peppered with "thee", "thou", Purple Prose, and other elements associated with Elizabethan English. The accent is dropped once he's revealed to be the Mule.
    • Foundation and Earth: A long-forgotten colony on Alpha Centauri has a population speaking an archaic dialect (stated to be "Classical Galactic") of the Common Tongue so old that they comment upon the mirroring of "F" in the ship’s name, and their sentences are peppered with "thee" and "thou", and use "score" in their numbers (meaning twenty). Hiroko describes her planet as "a fair-visiaged world", meaning it is beautiful.
  • The Goblin Emperor uses "thee" and "you" to indicate differing levels of formality, as well as reflecting the novel's pre-modern steampunk setting. Accurately, "thee" and "thou" are used to indicate an intimate relationship, whereas "you" is the pronoun that indicates formality and respect.
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne—who lived and wrote in America during the Victorian Era—did this in most of his works (particularly The Scarlet Letter, which is at least somewhat justified as it takes place in the 17th century). However, he also used an archaic style in works set in contemporary times, which made character's dialogue seem wildly anachronistic.
  • William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land, published in 1912, is written in such deliberately antiquated and convoluted prose as to be almost unreadable.
    "Now I went forward for a space, and took heed not to look backwards; but to be strong of heart and spirit; for that which did lie before me had need of all my manhood and courage of soul, that I come to the succour of that Maid afar in the darkness of the World, or meet my death proper, as it might need to be."
  • Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians: In The Titan's Curse (the third book in the series), Zoë Nightshade (leader of the Hunters of Artemis) speaks formally. When she tries to speak in a more modern way, it comes out awkwardly. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In the Retief short story, "Ballots and Bandits", the natives of the planet Oberon all speak this way, for no apparent reason beyond Rule of Funny. (The name of the planet is a reference to the character from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.)
  • In H. Rider Haggard's She, when the protagonists first meet the followers of she-who-must-be-obeyed, they speak a language described as "some dialect into which Arabic entered very largely." The English translation of this dialect is rendered in an Elizabethan style, e.g. "art thou awake, stranger?"
  • Spaced Out (2016): When playing a VR game based on Romeo and Juliet, Roddy and Dashiell get to Juliet, who begins saying her lines from the balcony scene, "Deny thy father, and refuse thy name; or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, and I'll no longer be a Capulet.". Roddy has no idea what Juliet's saying.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium: J. R. R. Tolkien was fond of writing in an archaic style like that of the King James Bible.
    • This is deliberate as part of his Translation Convention. The Rohirrim, in chapters centred on them, are deliberately styled on Anglo-Saxons and their speech follows the cadence and vocabulary content of Old English. Even the narrative of these chapters uses a minimum of Latinate English vocabulary - this came later with the Norman invasions - and attempts to use only "pure" English words descended from Anglo-Saxon. This is to convey the impression of a proud warrior race who are distinct from, and less advanced than, the Gondorians. Who do use the full-blown more Middle English to denote their greater cultural depth and history.
    • The Silmarillion also features similar language to an even larger degree, which makes sense, considering it's a chronicle of Elvish legend and history covering tens of thousands of years prior to The Lord of the Rings, making it biblical in breadth. The Ainulindalie features overt use of Biblical pronouns (thee and thou) befitting its status as a creation narrative, and particularly dramatic spoken lines (Fëanor's threat to Fingolfin, Beren's response to Thingol's accusations, and Gurthang speaking to Turin) are commonly written in an overtly archaic style.
  • In Steven Brust's To Reign in Hell, most of the angels speak modern English, but Beelzebub speaks in a flowery Elizabethan flavor due to being injured by chaos:
    "Rumors do fly about the land, milord. These have little truth in them. Whoso they light on taketh the worst o' the lie and sends that forth; whoso that lights on them doth likewise. 'Tis a most potent distillation of falsehood; milord, it will fall like the dew and make every angel drunk unawares."
  • Tough Magic has an outtake in the back of one of the books, with a scene from the book redone in a rather over-the-top parody of the Shakesperean style.
  • In Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles, vampires who were "made" several centuries before the present tend to hold on to the speech patterns and formal grammar of their time as humans. This is subtly done and not overplayed, and allowances are made for their adapting somewhat over the centuries: but Louis in particular preserves something of the mannerisms and formal language of a Deep South Louisiana-French slave plantation grandee of the late 1700's. his French is noted to be somewhat archaic and "colonial" even to 19th Century native speakers in Paris.

    Live Action TV 
  • Averted for the most part in series two of Blackadder, which is actually set in Elizabethan England. The trope is, however, parodied a couple of times:
    • In "Bells", when Blackadder asks a "young crone" if he's in Putney:
      Young Crone: It be! That it be!
      Blackadder: "Yes it is", not "That it be". You don't have to talk in that stupid voice to me, I'm not a tourist.
    • In "Beer", with Lord Percy Percy saying things like "beshrew me" and "tush" and Blackadder immediately pointing out that only "stupid actors say 'beshrew me'."
      Blackadder: And don't say "tush" either. It's only a short step from "tush" to "hey nonny nonny" and then I'm afraid I shall have to call the police.
  • In the Bones episode "The Archaeologist in the Cocoon". The team solves a 25,000 year old murder involving both modern humans and Neanderthal. They are recreating the scene, and Dr. Hodgins is playing the part of a Neanderthal male:
    Hodgins: Hark, I bring thee meat which we thus shall feast upon, and...
    Angela: Hey, honey, it's not Shakespeare.
  • The Greeks and Trojans in "The Myth Makers", a William Hartnell Doctor Who serial, drop in and out of this kind of speech depending on how dramatic they're feeling.
  • In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, The Last Kingdom director Nick Murphy said he explicitly wanted to avert this in the series, which takes place in 9th century England.
    Nick Murphy: I banned any people talking in silly voices because it's old [...] You can have somebody walk in and say 'Good morning,' and they did it the way you and I do it today because why wouldn't they? They wouldn't walk in and say, ‘Morning, sire!'
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: The Elves and the Numenorians speak in a more archaic manner than the other Races of Middle-earth:
    • Queen Miriel addresses Galadriel with "thyself" when she demands to know who are the two newcomers to her island.
    • Tamar "weager she'd [Galadriel] prefer someone of a better breeding" than Halbrand.
  • On Star Trek: The Original Series, the aged Vulcan matriarch T'Pau talks this way—presumably to show that, even by Vulcan standards, she's very old.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Frog in the original English release of Chrono Trigger on the SNES speaks with an Elizabethan dialect. In subsequent releases of the game, he speaks normally.
  • While most characters from the Dark Souls series speak in Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe, there are a few whose dialogue uses archaic constructions mostly correctly. One of them, fittingly enough, is Elizabeth the mushroom.
    Ah, Princess Dusk's saviour. Thine aura is precisely as she described.
  • Anti-Mage in Dota 2 speaks in this manner.
  • Dragon Quest:
  • Fate/Grand Order:
    • First Hassan speaks this way in the English translation, to give an added air of gravitas to his lines. Lampshaded humorously by Sanzang when he makes his first appearance:
      First Hassan: My blade will be the raptor that pecketh out his eyes. My black shroud will be the night that swalloweth the light of the Holy City.
      Sanzang: I'm sorry, mighty skeleton man! I don't understand a word you're saying! Can you use easier, simple words?
    • Sieg uses this while talking to the protagonist in the English version of the game when they first meet, likely in an attempt to come across as a noble and wise dragon. He starts fumbling his words and eventually gives it up altogether, later asking the protagonist to forget all about it.
      Sieg: I mean, all that faux Old English and such...what was I thinking? It's embarrassing! Please...just do me a favor and forget all that?
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Cyan from Final Fantasy VI, while his speech isn't quite as fancy as Frog's (see above), also speaks in an old-fashioned manner, earning him the nickname "Mr. Thou" from Gau (which Gau sometimes mistakenly calls Sabin due to having met him at the same time as Cyan thus causing him to confuse the two).
    • Most of the characters in the DS remake of Final Fantasy IV speak this way. Cecil, Golbez, and Kain still have this dialect in Dissidia Final Fantasy.
    • Most of the characters in Final Fantasy XII already speak in Antiquated Linguistics, but the Occuria speak in this. They also speak in metric lines; the Occuria leader, Gerun, utilizes iambic tetrameter, while the rogue Occuria, Venat, utilizes the Shakespearean iambic pentameter.
      Gerun: The treaty held with kings of old is but a mem'ry, cold and still. With you we now shall treat anew, to cut a run for hist'ry's flow.
      Venat: My counsel did but guide your hand. Through power of Man, the stones did you perfect.
    • Urianger from Final Fantasy XIV is an interesting case. Although many ancient beings in the game speak this way, Urianger is extremely young, especially for an Elezen, yet talks in such strong Elizabethan English, it has become a running joke in the community. This manner of speaking was chosen to represent his absurdly high erudition.
  • This was one of many, many jarring changes made to the King's Quest series by King's Quest: Mask of Eternity. For seven games everyone's talk was very plain and modern, and then out of nowhere it's pseudo-Shakespeare city, even though this is supposed to be happening a decade or two later. The one exception to the plain and modern speech is Alexander in King's Quest VI, who uses a number of old-fashioned quirks, with "Zounds!" in particular reaching a sort of Running Gag status.
  • In Legacy of Kain, most of the dialog is Shakespearian speech, laden with archaisms and florid language.
  • The Great Deku Tree from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time uses flowery words and phrases such as "Thou hast verily demonstrated thy courage."
  • The English translation of the remake of Live A Live uses this in its secret eighth chapter. Justified, as it's set during the Middle Ages.
  • In Mishap 2 An Intentional Haunting wrestler Larry Lerpis, aka "The Savage Romeo" combines this with being a Large Ham for an... interesting effect.
  • Octopath Traveler has H'annit and the people of her village speak in a toned-down Middle English, which goes along with the The Canterbury Tales influence of the game.
  • In the original Apple Macintosh version of Shadowgate, the Game Over scene (with The Grim Reaper staring you in the face) was titled "Thou Art Dead!"
  • Intriguing example in Shadow of the Colossus. Dormin speaks a fictional language, but Their lines are translated into English as verses peppered with 'thees' and 'thous'.
  • In general, YHVH or his various incarnations from the Shin Megami Tensei series speak like this.
  • Valkyrie Profile has many characters use this kind of English.
    Lenneth: "It shall be engraved upon your soul."
  • In Taming Dreams, the Atonae speak mainly in this, with the occasional sprinkling of Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe, Rhymes on a Dime and Added Alliterative Appeal for flavor.
  • Grahf from Xenogears has a tendency to do this, along with a more general tendency to be a ridiculously Large Ham whenever he makes an appearance. "Dost thou desire the power?"

    Visual Novels 


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Brother Andrew (1928 - ) spoke like this when he was attending a missionary school in Great Britain some time after World War II, because he learned English by using a Dutch-English Dictionary and the King James Bible (first printed in 1611). In his autobiography God's Smuggler, he showed the effect this had on his English by recalling an incident where he once asked for butter saying "Thus saith the neighbour of Andrew, that thou wouldst be pleased to pass the butter." Oh, and he had a very thick Dutch accent that made it hard for him to pronounce the "th" digraph.
  • Some churches, for the humor value, denote No Parking areas with signs reading "Thou shalt not park."
  • The King James Bible is an odd case. The period following the Elizabethan period (i.e. when the eponymous James was on the throne) is formally the Jacobean period (because Latin is weird). However, it's still an example, because it was deliberately written in so-called "flowery" language to make it sound pleasing to the ear when read aloud. This form of English was already slightly out of date and very formal sounding to an average English speaker of the time- which to the translators, made it sound more "biblical" and authoritative.
  • When Emperor Hirohito (Shōwa) decided to have the Japanese empire surrender, he took the unprecedented step of delivering the announcement that Japan was surrendering personally over the radio to his subjects. For many Japanese at the time this was the first time they had ever heard the voice of their Emperor, and many didn't fully understand the type of Classical Japanese the Emperor was speaking.
  • This is how the North Korean dialect is usually translated into English in English-language media, in contrast to the South Korean dialect, which is normally translated into neutral English. This is because the North Korean accent is quite archaic compared to its South Korean counterpart. This became extremely notable when Kim Jong Un called Donald Trump a "deranged U.S. dotard", "dotard" being a very archaic word for a senile old man in English. Other languages translated that insult into their local equivalents as well.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Flowery Shakespearean Speech, Flowery Biblical English


"O man..." (Spoilers)

Odio bitterly condemns mankind from his throne of Archon's Roost, overseeing the now destroyed Kingdom of Lucrece.

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