First published in 1979.
How do the elements of swearing and perjury work in Shakespeare's plays? What effect did Shakespeare intend when he wrote them? How did they contribute to the delineation of character? These questions are investigated by combining a history of ideas approach with close textual analysis.
The book begins by bringing together material from a wide range of contemporary sources in order to create a sense of popular awareness of oaths in Queen Elizabeth's time. Out of this emerges a scale of the relative strength of various oaths, an awareness of the ways in which people regarded perjury, and an appreciation of the attempts to prohibit profanity. Shakespeare's work is then examined against this background.