Salutations to all during this tragic time where all feels quite, quite down, Firstly I hope all are well.

Now, onward to my question: I have, for the past half-year or so writ a play based in London 1660s--It is a period piece and my distinct and wrathful convictions to historical accuracy are most vicious, to say the least--now, I have thoroughly studied the time period (period documentation and poetry writ during the time) and regardless I have quite an obsession with Shakespeare and Milton, so in other words, I am rather decently rooted into the overall essence of writing in the period's "feel"--but it has come to the point where I am looking for just a simple rulebook that gives the important grammatical rules for the period: so, for example, when to use the root -th (riseth, giveth), distinctly how to follow words such as "thou," "thy", etc. with (thou wouldst, thou couldst)--so on and so forth--

I would like to go over the play and check the rules to see if everything is as "correct" as it may be. Any sort of "collected guide to the period's rules" would be extraordinarily appreciated.

  • Well, it's a little tricky. Prior to 1660 it was whatever the Cromwells said, and after that it was what Charles II said.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 13, 2020 at 1:16
  • 3
    Wikipedia has a history of English grammars, possibly a highly opinionated article. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_English_grammars
    – Xanne
    Commented May 13, 2020 at 2:20
  • Google Books has some of these; Joseph Priestly is interesting because he objects to the commitment to Latin, but that’s 18th century.
    – Xanne
    Commented May 13, 2020 at 2:59
  • 3
    If you are so familiar with the literature of the period you should know that riseth and giveth are the third person singular of the verb (he giveth). Thy couldst makes no sense - thy means your. Commented May 13, 2020 at 8:11
  • @Xanne Thank you for all the resources, it is profoundly appreciated, and will be used well. Commented May 13, 2020 at 20:01
  • @KateBunting Thank you for taking the time to respond--yes, I am aware of (he giveth) being executed to the notion of third-person singular and me writing "thy couldst" was utterly accidental, so thank you most sincerely for recognizing it. These were merely examples to give an overall "essence" of what the "collected guide to the period's rules" that I am looking for would include. Commented May 13, 2020 at 20:03
  • Decades ago I used to have access to the Oxford English Dictionary database. It was possible to tell it to forget everything it knows since 1660 and to see what was effectively the OED as it would have appeared in 1660. You might look into that service, though I suspect that they charge a fee for it now. Commented May 14, 2020 at 1:19
  • 3
    Are you writing the dialogue in Early Modern English or the entire work? Be warned that Shakespeare's works are often written in pentametre, characters' speech would not necessarily reflect how Elizabethans actually spoke. Personally, I would choose diaries and letters to have an idea of authentic middle or aristocratic 17th century speech.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 14, 2020 at 9:16
  • bbc.co.uk/teach/…
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 14, 2020 at 9:18
  • 3
    Grammar & Early Modern English grammar
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 14, 2020 at 9:20
  • Why are your convictions wrathful?
    – phoog
    Commented May 22, 2020 at 8:26
  • @phoog wrathful in how unrelenting the convictions are towards being utterly certain in the work's authenticity, and that if it were not so certain in this sound authenticity then passionate irritation or developed anger would arise until it was made so. Commented May 23, 2020 at 7:56

1 Answer 1


A great resource is Google books.

You can specify a number of parameters including dates and key words - even key phrases if you enclose them in quotes. You will get plenty of hits although there may be duplication. Often the first hits for this period are from the Bible but scrolling down will find other publications.

Here is an example with the parameters, "but thine eyes are" and Jan 1600-Jan 1700

enter image description here

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .