Volume 15, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1566-5852
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9854
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The opening scene of Hamlet portrays two military-related speech events — changing of the guard and unknown persons approaching a sentry. This article utilizes insights from military history, Shakespearean playhouse practice, and military protocol pragmatics to analyze these speech events. Diachronic pragmatics investigation reveals military protocol for changing of the guard portrayed by Shakespeare has continued to be followed from the late 1500s to the present time.Identifying early seventeenth-century military protocol for guard duty at night and analyzing the function of the opening scene in Shakespearean theater, the article compares use of direct and indirect speech acts, including use of conventional and institutional ellipses, in the 1603 Quarto and 1623 First Folio. Pragmatic stylistic analysis shows the Folio version violates military protocol through use of more indirect speech acts, including expressives, unusual in these two military speech events, more effectively portraying underlying tension through the sentries’ sense of an inward, personally disturbing threat than the Quarto’s presentation of straightforward military protocol regarding unknown persons approaching sentries on duty.


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