Shakespearean English involves frequent reference to astrological and astronomical notions. Several terms form part of the general Ptolemaic view of the universe in which the Earth was thought to be the centre of a series of spheres around which the heavenly bodies revolved. A number of heavenly bodies are named, with the Moon, Sun, the known planets, and various constellations all assigned particular roles, as in present-day astrology, and thought to influence a person’s destiny, situation, behaviour, and character.

General notions

Term Example Gloss
aspect TC I.iii.92 direction of alignment of heavenly bodies as seen from Earth; especially, the way people are influenced by their relative positions
centre TC I.iii.85 the Earth, seen as the centre of the Ptolemaic universe
collateral AW I.i.87 parallel or side-by-side, referrring to the relative movement of the spheres
conjunction 2H4 II.iv.258 the apparent coming together of heavenly bodies as seen from Earth
constellation TN I.iv.35 configurations of stars as seen from Earth
predominant AW I.i.194 describing a heavenly body in the ascendant, and thus exercising ruling influence
retrograde AW I.i.195 describing a heavenly body moving in an apparently contrary direction to the order of the zodiacal signs
sphere AYL II.vii.6 celestial globe in which a heavenly body was thought to move; especially, those thought to carry the heavenly bodies around the Earth
stars Ham I.iv.32 planets and constellations, especially those in the zodiac
trigon 2H4 II.iv.260 a set of three signs of the zodiac in the form of an equilateral triangle
wandering Ham V.i.252 describing a heavenly body having its own motion

Specific stars, domains, and signs of the zodiac

Term Example Gloss
Aries Tit IV.iii.71 (Ram) first sign of the zodiac
Bear Oth II.i.14 the Little Bear constellation, Ursa Minor
burning zone Ham V.i.278 the path of the Sun between Cancer and Capricorn
Cancer TC II.iii.194 fourth sign of the Zodiac, associated with heat
Charles’s Wain 1H4 II.i.2 [wagon of Charlemagne] the Plough; Ursa Major
dog-days H8 V.iv.41 the hottest days of the year; associated with the astrological position of Sirius, the Dog-star
dragon’s tail KL I.ii.129 the intersection of the orbit of the descending moon and that of the sun; associated with lechery
equinoctial TN II.iii.23 celestial equator
Guards Oth II.i.15 the Guardians; two stars within the Little Bear constellation, Ursa Minor
Hesperus AW II.i.164 the evening star
house RJ IV.i.8 one of the twelve divisions of the Zodiac
Mars AW I.i.189 planet particularly associated with martial or aggressive temperaments
Mercury WT IV.iii.25 planet particularly associated with eloquence, feats of skill, and the commercial world
Pigrogromitus TN II.iii.22 mock-astrology jargon
Pole Oth II.i.15 the pole-star, ‘ever-fixed’
Queubus TN II.iii.23 mock-astrology jargon
Saturn MA I.iii.11 planet particularly associated with melancholic, morose, or vengeful temperaments
Septentrion 3H6 I.iv.136 the seven stars of Ursa Major
Sol TC I.iii.89 the Sun [here referred to as a ‘planet’]
Taurus TN I.iii.130 (Bull) second sign of the zodiac, associated with cuckoldry (through the notion of horns), and also the neck and throat
Ursa Major KL I.ii.129 the Great Bear; associated with lechery
Vapians TN II.iii.22 mock-astrology jargon
Venus 2H4 II.iv.258 planet particularly associated with love, beauty, and fertility
Virgo Tit IV.iii.65 (Virgin) sixth sign of the zodiac, associated with Astraea, goddess of justice

Jump directly to