According to eNotes, the prologue of Romeo and Juliet reads: "Whose misadventur'd piteous overthrows Doth, with their death, bury their parents’ strife." Doth is the old third person...

According to eNotes, the prologue of Romeo and Juliet reads:

"Whose misadventur'd piteous overthrows

Doth, with their death, bury their parents’ strife."

Doth is the old third person singular of the verb "to do."

In my copy of the complete works of Shakespeare is written:

"Whose misadventur'd piteous overthrows

Do, with their death, bury their parents’ strife."

Do corresponds to piteous overthrows which is plural. Can you explain please why you have the modified the verb?

There are spoken versions of this going around the web, notably the beginning of Zeffirelli's film on YouTube where the narrator also says doth.

Thank you.

Asked on by gead

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sciftw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Changing "doth" to "do" is a simple modification to the original Shakespeare text that modernizes the language for modern audiences.  Some people, especially students in my opinion, are thrown off by the original text.  A complaint that I hear fairly often is that "I can't read Shakespere, because people don't talk like that.  He doesn't even use modern English."  The answer to that is "yes, Shakespeare did use modern English."  

Modern English is most often given the start date of around 1500.  That would put it 100 years before most of Shakespeare's writing.  Students are correct that people don't talk exactly like Shakespeare wrote. But people don't talk the same way that people in the 1960s talked either. Slang, dialect, and vocabularies are constantly changing and adapting to time periods, regions, and populations.  

Changing "doth" to "do" effectively takes the original text and puts it in accessible language for today's reader.  It's also a very easy shift to make as well.  The prologue is a sonnet, specifically a Shakespearean sonnet of 14 lines written in iambic pentameter and the ABAB rhyme scheme.  "Doth" to "do" is substituting a one syllable word for another.  It doesn't affect the rhythm and meter, nor does it affect the rhyme scheme.  

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