Who and who

Who and its derivatives present a less complex scenario than what. Most interrogative uses are the same in Shakespearian as in modern English, the chief difference being the sense of ‘whoever’ illustrated below. Whoever itself differs only in the use of a contracted form, whoe’er, a contraction also seen in whosoe’er. Grammatical usage of who shows two other points of difference from modern English. There is wider use of this form after a preposition, where standard English today would use whom: for example, Edgar asks ‘To who?’ (KL V.iii.246) and Hamlet ‘Between who?’ (Ham II.ii.195). And the semantic range of who is wider, including abstract concepts, objects, and animals: among the entities that are qualified as ‘who’ are the world, ‘who of itself is peised well’ (KJ II.i.575); a golden casket, ‘who this inscription bears’ (MV II.vii.4); a drop of water, ‘Who, falling there to find his fellow forth’ (CE I.ii.37); and a lion, ‘Who glazed upon me’ (JC I.iii.21).
Item Location Example Gloss
who Oth III.iii.156 Who steals my purse, steals trash whoever, anyone who
who Mac I.iii.108 Who was the Thane lives yet the person who
whoever, whoe’er (conj.) 1H6 I.iii.7 Whoe’er he be, you may not be let in whoever
whoso 1H6 III.iv.39 whoso draws a sword ’tis present death whoever, anyone who
whosoever, whosoe’er TNK IV.ii.155 whosoever wins / Loses a noble cousin whoever, anyone who
whosomever (conj.) TC II.i.63 whomsoever you take him to be, he is Ajax whoever
whose ... soever R3 IV.iv.225 Whose hand soever lanched their tender hearts of whoever



Jump directly to