What does the word "constant" mean in Shakespeare?

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Though in late modern English we most often use the word constant to mean continual, as in the phrase "constant traffic on the highway," Shakespeare uses it primarily to mean unchanging or faithful/truthful. We can perceive how the two meanings are close: something that is continual seems unchanging. But while we today usually use the word to describe physical circumstances, such as traffic, pain, or noise, Shakespeare most often uses it to describe a state of mind or a way of behaving that will not change.

Shakespeare frequently applies the words "constant" or "constancy" to love, with the idea, especially in his sonnets, of his love as unchanging. He often contrasts the constancy of love to the inconstancy of time, for time changes the outward appearance in the beloved and leads to death.

An example of expressing the kindness of his love as constant or unchanging can be found in Sonnet 105:

Kind is my love to-day, to-morrow kind,
Still constant in a wondrous excellence;
Therefore my verse to constancy confin'd . . .

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The Oxford English Dictionary gives three definitions for the adjective "constant":

1. occurring continuously

2. remaining the same

3. faithful and dependable

While we typically use the word "constant" to mean something that occurs continuously, Shakespeare's usage typically means the second and third definitions.

An example from enotes is this dialogue from Julius Caesar:

"I am constant as the northern star,
Of whose true-fix'd and resting quality
There is no fellow in the firmament."

Julius Caesar Act III, Scene I.

With this statement, Caesar makes it clear that, despite three different warnings, he will not change his mind about going to the Senate on the Ides of March.

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