“Sister Miriam Joseph’s Shakespeare’s Use of the Arts of Language remains, after more than half a century, an immensely valuable aid to serious students of the greatest of all writers. The book manifests enormous learning and real wisdom in applying that erudition to the needs of contemporary readers.”—Harold Bloom
“The importance of this book is that it makes clear what we ought to mean when we call Shakespeare an artist in language. . . . The average person today knows two figures of speech if he knows any. . . . Shakespeare knew two hundred.”—Mark Van Doren, New York Herald Tribune
As part of their education in the trivium (the liberal arts of logic, grammar, and rhetoric), grammar school students in Shakespeare’s time were taught to recognize the two hundred figures of speech that Renaissance scholars had derived from Latin and Greek sources. Sister Miriam Joseph views this theory of composition as integral to Shakespeare’s mastery of language. In her classic 1947 book, she lays out these figures of speech in simple, understandable patterns and explains each one with examples from Shakespeare. Her analysis of his plays and poems illustrates that the Bard knew more about rhetoric than perhaps anyone else.
Sister Miriam Joseph (1898–1982) earned her doctorate from Columbia University. A member of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Sister Miriam was professor of English at Saint Mary’s College from 1931 to 1960.