Royal plural

Monarch as representative

A mode of address, used historically and in Shakespeare, is the ‘royal plural' — that is, the monarch using the plural form ‘we' to refer to him or herself.

This stems from the fact that the ruler (usually a king rather than a queen) was seen as the representative of, almost the embodiment of, the whole country:

  • In Hamlet, Claudius means himself when he tells Laertes, ‘You cannot speak of reason to the Dane and lose your voice.'
  • In Act V sc i, Hamlet finally lays unequivocal claim to the throne when he announces, ‘This is I, Hamlet the Dane.'
  • In Shakespeare's King Lear, King Lear demands, ‘Call France! Who stirs? Call Burgundy' — meaning that the King of France and the Duke of Burgundy are to be sent for.


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