|As in modern English, words often appear in a reduced or elided form, with the omitted element shown by an apostrophe. The reason for the elision varies: in some cases it enables a word to fit the metrical character of a line or focuses the emphasis within a sentence more sharply; in others it helps to capture the colloquial character of conversational speech or identifies a character’s idiosyncratic way of talking. In most cases, the identity of the underlying word is obvious from the context, though some of the more unusual forms can make the reader hesitate - such as Lady Capulet’s thou’s (RJ I.iii.10). Some patterns are frequent and predictable, and these are listed below: ’tis, for example, is the regular contraction of it is (by contrast with present-day it’s). The verbs be, have, and do are commonly contracted with a preceding pronoun in colloquial speech, as in modern English.
|Often the contracted forms are the same as those used today (e.g. he’s, we’ll, let’s, o’clock); but there are several differences, including those listed below.
In some cases, it is only the written form that is distinctive: in modern English we do not usually write y’are for ‘you are’ or o’doors for ‘of doors’, but the colloquial pronunciation of you are going or out of doors would hardly differ between then and now. The presence or absence of an apostrophe in the texts also varies, depending partly on editorial practice and partly on whether a form might legitimately be considered a word in its own right (as in squire vs. esquire); for clarity, all forms are written with an apostrophe below.