Attention signals

Catching someone’s attention is an important interaction strategy, and in Shakespearean English several linguistic devices are used which either no longer exist in modern Standard English or (as in the case of behold and hark) are used with archaic resonance. Some of these are general-purpose calls of the ‘hello’ type, such as ho (Ham I.i.14) and what, ho (Ham III.ii.62); but others involve distinctive lexical items.


behold Ham I.i.126 [Horatio to Barnardo and Marcellus, of the Ghost] Soft, behold, lo, where it comes again!
lo 1H6 IV.vii.17 [Servant to Talbot] O my dear lord, lo where your son is borne!


hark TS I.i.84 [Lucentio aside to Tranio] Hark, Tranio, thou mayst hear Minerva speak
hark you Ham II.ii.380 [Hamlet to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern] Hark you, Guildenstern - and you too - at each ear a hearer

Be quiet!

buzz TNK III.v.80 [Gaoler’s Daughter to Schoolmaster] You are a fool. Tell ten; I have posed him. Buzz!
husht Per I.iii.8 [Thaliard alone, to himself] Husht! Here comes the lord of Tyre
let be Ham V.ii.218 [Hamlet to Horatio] Let be [as Claudius and others enter]
mum TS I.ii.160 [Hortensio aside to Grumio] Grumio, mum!
peace TN II.v.33 [Sir Toby to Sir Andrew] Peace, I say!
soft Ham III.i.88 [Hamlet to himself, ending his monologue upon seeing Ophelia] Soft you now, / The fair Ophelia! [>> ‘behold’ above]

Soft is also used in the sense of ‘not so fast’ (see Glossary entry at soft (adv.) 2) and as a DISCOURSE MARKER.

Pay attention!

audience Cor III.iii.40 [Aedile to Plebeians] List to your Tribunes. Audience!
good now Ham I.i.70 [Marcellus to Horatio and Barnardo] Good now, sit down, and tell me he that knows
hear ye 1H4 I.ii.132 [Falstaff to Poins] Here ye, Yedward, if I tarry at home and go not, I’ll hang you for going
mark Ham IV.v.28 [Ophelia to all] Pray you, mark

Mark is also used in various ways to do with ‘paying attention’: see Glossary at mark  (v.).


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