Most Shakespearean kinship terms look the same as their modern counterparts. The chief exceptions are the terms for grandparents, grandam (KJ II.i.159) and grandsire (MW I.i.54) alongside grandmother and grandfather; stepdame (Cym I.vii.1) alongside stepmother; and sire and dam are also used as a contemptuous way of referrring to a father and mother, as in Queen Margaret’s insult to Richard, ‘thou art neither like thy sire nor dam’ (3H6 II.ii.135). But the familiar terms regularly have a wider range of application.


Brother and sister are used to include in-laws and step-siblings

Example People involved Text Relationship
KL IV.ii.15 Gonerill of Cornwall my brother Cornwall is her brother-in-law
R3 V.iii.96 Derby to Richmond thy brother, tender George George is his step-brother
R2 II.ii.90 York of the Duchess of Gloucester my sister Gloucester the Duchess is his sister-in-law

Generation above

Mother and father are used to include in-laws and step-parents, though daughter-in law (AW I.iii.162), father-in-law (R3 I.iv.49), and stepmother (Cym I.ii.2) also occur.

Example People involved Text Relationship
Cym V.v.270 Cymbeline to Innogen of the Queen thy mother the Queen is her stepmother
R3 V.ii.5 Richmond of Stanley our father Stanley Stanley is his stepfather

In the following case, father-in-law is itself being used in a broader sense.

Example People involved Text Relationship
R3 V.iii.82 Richmond to Derby noble father-in-law Derby is his stepfather

Generation below

Son and daughter are used to include in-laws and step-children.

Example People involved Text Relationship
Cym I.ii.1 Queen to Innogen you shall not find me, daughter Innogen is her stepdaughter
2H4 II.iii.1 Northumberland to Lady Percy gentle daughter Lady Percy is his daughter-in-law
R3 II.i.19 King Edward to Lord Dorset son Dorset Dorset is his stepson
KLI i.41 Lear to Cornwall our son of Cornwall Cornwall is his son-in-law

Nephew and niece includes other relatives alongside the modern use.

Example People involved Text Relationship
TC I.ii.13 Alexander to Cressida, of Ajax nephew to Hector Ajax is Hector’s first cousin
R3 IV.i.1 Duchess of York of Lady Margaret my niece Plantagenet Lady Margaret is her granddaughter

Cousin has the widest application of all: COUSIN


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