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Date of Award


Access Type

Campus Access

Document type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


First Advisor

Arthur F. Kinney

Second Advisor

Joseph L. Black

Third Advisor

Anne Lake Prescott

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature | Linguistics | Philosophy


This dissertation investigates Shakespeare as a thinker and views the stage as a place of linguistic and philosophical questioning. As Charles Schmitt and Quentin Skinner suggest in Renaissance Philosophy, "the Renaissance was one of intense philosophical activity" (1), and I suggest that Shakespeare's use of language, his tool of trade, engages with these contemporary philosophical debates. Language becomes for Shakespeare an epistemologic site of investigation: What is the nature of language? How does language both construct and challenge the understanding of what is known? Simultaneously, how does language contribute to the evolution of knowledge, and can language itself be one of the forms that knowledge takes? This dissertation explores the complex ways in which Shakespeare dramatizes on stage this profound early modern preoccupation on the nature of language.