Early modern grammar: ‘choice’ (from Adamson)
Literary authors (like human beings) tend to exploit the linguistic variation available to them
§ not only for rhythm or rhyme!
Ex: neuter pronoun, possessive form:
§ from his (OE; Shakespeare’s unmarked form) through of it, thereof, it
§ to its later in the 17th century
1. “when Horatio describes his encounter with the Ghost”
Hamlet Did you not speak to it?
Horatio: My lord, I did,
But answer made it none. Yet once methought
It lifted up it head and did address
Itself to motion like as it would speak.
2. (5.1.218-9) “where Hamlet, seeing a funeral, infers that”
The cor[p]s they follow did with desp’rate hand
Fordo it own life. ‘Twas of some estate
3. “in this couplet from the Fool in King Lear (Quarto 1.4.206-7)”
The hedgesparrow fed the cuckoo so long
That it had it head bit off by it young.
4. “Heaven grant us its peace, but not the King of Hungaries.”