The royal plural

Another mode of address, used historically and in Shakespeare, but for which there is really no modern equivalent, is the ‘royal plural' – that is, the monarch using the plural form ‘we' or ‘us' to refer to himself.

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 state, or country.

When Leontes is acting most tyrannically, condemning the baby to be exposed in ‘some remote and desert place', he uses the royal plural to enforce his right to obedience (incidentally also addressing Antigonus as ‘thee', underlining his inferiority):

‘We enjoin thee, as thou art liege-man to us, that thou carry
This female bastard hence...'.

This use of language would immediately reinforce th's position for his courtiers – and for Shakespeare's audience.

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