Here are some questions I asked on Shakespeare's Hamlet. As you can see, they received some negative comments, downvotes, and close votes. I wonder why. Do they dislike Shakepeare's works? It's okay if that is the case. Everybody has his likes and dislikes. However, I wonder why they just can't leave such questions alone.

The meaning of "yet" in "Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears had left the flushing in her galled eyes"

Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears had left the flushing in her galled eyes

Antecedent of "whose common theme is death of fathers" in Hamlet

Is "Like Niobe, all tears" an apposition?

"To reason most absurd" in Hamlet


  • Maybe they've confused this site with ELL? Some folks over on ELL think Early Modern English (EME) should be off-topic over there. But EME is clearly on-topic on this site.
    – user28567
    Oct 19, 2014 at 20:17
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    Shakespeare writes almost entirely in verse, where there is a lot of free rein given to word order and vocabulary, so are difficult to judge as to actual correctness for his vernacular. Which is to say, grammatical questions on poetry are usually considered subjective questions and not good for a Q/A site like SE (the culture here is that poetry and lyrics are usually off-topic).
    – Mitch
    Oct 20, 2014 at 13:11
  • @Mitch Shakespeare's works are plays, which means that most of the audiences at that time understood them well. If Shakespeare did not follow the grammar, how come they could understood them? Oct 21, 2014 at 2:03
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    ivanhoescott: you may notice, if you read my words very carefully, that I did not in fact say that people of his time could not understand his plays. I just said that it is hard for us to judge faithfulness to the grammar given the great leeway used in poetry. Easy to follow it is even when followed are not the rules.
    – Mitch
    Oct 21, 2014 at 2:50
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    @Mitch As far as I can see, Shakespeare is grammatically correct in Hamlet(except possible typos). Would you please point out an ungrammatical phrase of his? Oct 21, 2014 at 3:03
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    @Mitch "Shakespeare writes almost entirely in verse, where there is a lot of free rein given to word order and vocabulary, so are difficult to judge as to actual correctness for his vernacular. Which is to say, grammatical questions on poetry are usually considered subjective questions and not good for a Q/A site like SE (the culture here is that poetry and lyrics are usually off-topic)." Then why are there books on Shakespeare's grammar? Shakespeare's Grammar by Jonathan Hope, A Grammar of Shakespeare's Language by N. F. Blake, A Shakespearian Grammar by E. A. Abbot, etc. Oct 21, 2014 at 5:06

3 Answers 3


The central problem here is that most of your so-called “questions”:

  • show no research
  • present no theories
  • and expend no effort.

That situation alone merits a downvote according to the tooltip guidelines regarding downvotes. To see why, hover over the down-arrow on any question and the following descriptive text briefly appears:

This question does not show any research effort

So if you do not show any research effort, people are perfectly apt to downvote you; it even says they should. Also, you should read our Help Center’s text on how to ask a good question, where you would learn that it advises you to:

Tell us what you found and why it didn’t meet your needs. This demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to try to help yourself, it saves us from reiterating obvious answers, and above all, it helps you get a more specific and relevant answer!”

You sometimes don’t do those things. When you don’t, it is not a good question for this Community.

That’s probably why all of these were closed:

  1. Is Shakespeare ungrammatical?
    Status: Closed as “Primarily Opinion Based”, and now deleted.

  2. “No, faith, not a jot, but to follow him thither with modesty enough, and likelihood to lead it.”
    Status: Closed as “Too Broad”.

  3. “For food and diet to some enterprise that hath a stomach in’t”
    Status: Closed as “Primarily Opinion Based”.

  4. What wouldst thou beg, Laertes, That shall not be my offer, not thy asking
    Status: Closed as “Off Topic: because it is about interpreting a stylised and antiquated literary usage”.

  5. Does not divide the Sunday from the week
    Status: Closed as “Off Topic: General Reference”.

  6. Is “Like Niobe, all tears” an apposition?
    Status: Closed as “Off Topic: Proofreading”.

  7. Etymology of the meaning of waste as a broad expanse
    Status: Closed as “Off Topic: General Reference”.

  8. Use of singular they for specific person
    Status: Closed as a duplicate of several other existing questions.

  9. Can “what” be a plural interrogative pronoun?
    Status: Closed as “Off Topic: General Reference”.

  10. Can “what” be plural?
    Status: Closed as a duplicate of an existing question.

The duplicates got closed because you couldn’t be bothered to search our site for questions similar to your own.

Another problematic type of question of yours is one that says “Is this right?” That is tepid, and it may well be construed as Off Topic Proofreading. Proofreading question come in many guises, and this is one of them. They are unlikely to be of help to future visitors to this site. They do not generate quality answers — which is only to be expected, really, since for the most part, questions of quality generate answers in kind while questions lacking in quality most often generate either no answer at all or else poor ones.

One of the standard moderator messages here contains explanatory text about one sort of off-topic question, such as this one by Andrew Leach:

Proofreading questions can come in many forms: "Help me fix this", "What's wrong with this", "Are there any mistakes", Which is correct", but they all involve reading a specific text and won't really help anyone else.

To that list can be added such questions like “Is this right?”. They have no lasting value because they apply only to a single bit of text alone and will help no one else but the original poster. They are of no lasting value to this site.

You cannot expect demand quality answers of the community when you cannot be bothered to produce a quality question. This overall lack of quality is the central problem in all your many questions of wonderment. They aren’t real questions. Such non-question musing might work somewhere else, like a discussion forum or a social-media site or a chat room.

But these wandering non-questions of wonder seem to have no other purpose than to provoke discussion, and that is something specifically counter to the fundamental question-and-answer nature of the SE network in general and of ELU in particular. I’m talk about the way you again and again and again go tossing off non-questions like this:

I'm wondering about the meaning of "yet" in the sentence above.

All the while pretending it an actual question. However, it is nothing of the sort. We have no idea what you’re asking, what it is you’re wondering. You haven’t done your own legwork, and you’re expecting us to do that work for you. That is not reasonable. At best, such questions merit a closevote on those grounds alone. At worst, they come off as pestiferous trolling, because they seek to provoke discussions not answers.

By now you should have gotten the idea that things that say nothing more than “I wonder what blah means” are apt to be closed. They aren’t proper questions. At the time of this writing, you have four and twenty questions in which you “wonder”. Most of these are not real questions. Many are already closed, and several others are well on their way.

Moreover, in the case of your wondering about “yet”, even if it were a genuine question, it’s nothing but a trivial matter of General Reference. If you had bothered to explain what you were wondering, then maybe it would have been a question, but I doubt it: you would have figured it out yourself.

As one commenter justly wrote here:

Well, I do not believe this website is meant to be a resource for explaining the language of Hamlet. There are probably websites that do that, and I know there are books that have plenty of notes on the play's language

Given that you’re turning out to be something of a help-vampire regarding Shakespeare, you should not be surprised that the Community does not take kindly to that sort of behavior and reacts accordingly.

  • "That in and of itself merits a downvote according to the tooltip guidelines regarding downvotes." Could you tell us where we can read that guidelines? Oct 20, 2014 at 1:37
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    I usually check at least three annotated Hamlet books and two Shakespeare glossary books(A. Shcmidt's and C.T. Onions') before I ask a question. I don't write about them in my questions because there's no clue in them. Oct 20, 2014 at 1:57
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    @ivanhoescott You need to present research and theories; otherwise you will be downvoted for no effort, closevoted for Too Broad, or both.
    – tchrist Mod
    Oct 20, 2014 at 2:01
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    Could you tell us why you have to show your research when you ask a question? Oct 20, 2014 at 2:05
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    @ivanhoescott first of all, if you found a question where another user failed to show research, that just makes it a bad question and does not invalidate the points being made here. Second, the question you link to clearly shows that tchrist did at least some research since he is quoting the relevant wikipedia page. As for why, he told you. Read the help page, it's explained there.
    – terdon
    Oct 20, 2014 at 18:42
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    @ivanhoescott Why do you have to show research? It shows that you're trying and not just dumping on us here. It shows what you've looked at already so that we don't repeat it or can show how to interpret it better. It shows that you have common courtesy not to waste other people's time (it may well have already been answered here or elsewhere).
    – Mitch
    Oct 20, 2014 at 20:38
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    @Mitch "It shows that you're trying and not just dumping on us here." Not necessarily. Not writing about his research does not necessarily mean he is trying to dump on you. Oct 21, 2014 at 2:52
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    @Mitch Anyway, if you think he is just trying to dump on you, you can always ignore him. Nobody says you have to answer his question. Oct 21, 2014 at 2:56
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    @terdon "if you found a question where another user failed to show research, that just makes it a bad question" Would you please explain why that is a bad question? Oct 21, 2014 at 3:23
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    I would upvote for your telling revision if I could (already up voted). Thank you. Oct 22, 2014 at 2:03

You have a right to be here, and you have a right (it is not off topic) to post questions about Shakespeare's writing. You've gotten upvotes (including mine on occasion) and answers (including mine once).

Other people have a right to be here, and to express their (whatever). They have a clear right to express themselves with anonymous downvotes, with closevotes and with comments (as long as they don't violate comment policy).

Why do you think this system is defective? Why do you think people should not down vote you or comment if they believe your question is somehow deficient?

If you're asking why people leave anonymous down votes, that has been addressed here on multiple occasions. My biggest problem with commenting on down votes is that people get defensive. No one likes to be down voted, no one thinks they deserve it, and people tend to insist (in the form of a tedious argument I don't really want to engage in) that I prove to them why my issue with their question is legitimate.

Not everyone here is nice. One user recently reacted to a comment I made challenging his answer by telling me to pull my head out of my ass and telling StonyB (one of the most helpful people here) that he was wrong and to mind his own business. Who needs that? It's only entertaining the first few dozen times.

The system works. Good questions get answers, and great questions rise quickly. If you can't abide down votes or comments, you should not be posting on this (or any) SE site. What is that line that in Hamlet?

...for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.


People are downvoting your questions, not Shakespeare's plays. The reasons are known only to the downvoters (though they presumably include "does not show any research effort; is unclear or not useful").

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    "People are downvoting your questions, not Shakespeare's plays." How do you know that? Here's one of members opinion who has gotten over 85k reps. "EL&U is all about how we speak and write today and tomorrow. If people specifically want to learn about earlier forms, they need their own site (unless linguistics.se wants such stuff, which I doubt)." meta.english.stackexchange.com/questions/2048/… Oct 21, 2014 at 2:15

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