Plurals

Several nouns appear as plural in Shakespearean English which are singular in modern English, and there are other kinds of number difference, as illustrated in the selection below. Plurality may be shown both by the form of the word (as in modern boy > boys) or by its agreement with the verb or determiner (as in this sheep is > these sheep are).
The Shakespearean situation is complicated by the existence of forms which might reflect a personal or regional dialect, as well as by usages which may be the result of printing errors.
Examples include Shylock’s use of beefs and muttons and the various plurals used by speakers with a Welsh background, such as disparagements ( WELSH). Examples of the reverse process (singular > plural) can also be found, as in ‘their business still lies out o’door’ (CE II.i.11) alongside ‘out of doors’ (Cor I.iii.72), and ‘conquer other by the dint of sword’ (E3 V.i.52), where modern usage whould use others.

Shakespearean plural > Modern singular

Item Location Example Modern use
attires AC V.ii.228 Go fetch / My best attires attire
beefs 2H4 III.ii.316 now has he land and beefs beef
behalfs TNK II.ii.53 in our behalfs behalf
behaviours JC I.ii.42 Which give some soil ... to my behaviours behaviour
companies Ham II.ii.14 by your companies / To draw him on to pleasures company
courages Cym II.iv.24 Now wing-led with their courages courage
funerals JC V.iii.105 His funerals shall not be in our camp funeral
informations H8 V.iii.110 In seeking tales and informations information
kindreds TNK II.i.62 Where are our friends and kindreds? kindred
moneys MV I.iii.105 you have rated me / About my moneys money
musics Cym II.iii.38 I have assailed her with musics music
muttons MV I.iii.164 flesh of muttons, beefs, or goats mutton
revenges Mac V.ii.3 Revenges burn in them revenge
sheeps LLL II.i.205 Two hot sheeps, marry? sheep
thunders Mac I.ii.26 Shipwracking storms and direful thunders thunder

Shakespearean both singular and plural > Modern either singular or plural

Item Location Example Modern use
news 1H6 I.i.67 These news would cause him once more yield the ghost [plural] this news [singular]
news 1H4 I.i.58 the news was told [singular] this news [singular]
nuptials MND I.i.125 I must employ you in some business / Against our nuptial [singular] our nuptials [plural]
nuptials Per V.iii.80 We’ll celebrate their nuptials [plural] our nuptials [plural]
odds R2 III.iv.89 with that odds he weighs King Richard down [singular] those odds [plural]
odds MM III.i.41 death we fear, / That makes these odds all even [plural] those odds [plural]
riches Sonn 87.6 for that riches where is my deserving? [singular] those riches [plural]
riches Tim IV.ii.32 riches point to misery and contempt [plural] those riches [plural]
tidings R2 III.iv.80 how / Camest thou by this ill tidings [singular] these tidings [plural]
tidings KJ IV.ii.132 Thou hast made me giddy / With these ill tidings [plural] these tidings [plural]
victuals MA I.i.46 You had musty victual [singular] victuals [plural]
victuals Cym III.vii.13 it eats our victuals [plural] victuals [plural]

Shakespearean double plurals > Modern plural

Item Location Example Modern use
gallowses Cym V.iv.207 there were desolation of gaolers and gallowses gallows
teeths JC V.i.41 You showed your teethes like apes [F] teeth

For archaic plurals, ARCHAISMS

SHAKESPEARE'S WORDS © 2018 DAVID CRYSTAL & BEN CRYSTAL