Discourse markers

Certain words and phrases play an important role in maintaining the dynamic of conversational interaction and the flow of connected speech in a monologue. In its basic form, a dialogue contains two elements: X speaks and Y responds.
- Within X, some discourse features show how X is organizing the utterance, and others show X acknowledging Y’s presence.
- Within Y’s response, there are features which acknowledge what X has just said.
Modern English has changed in many ways from Shakespearean English in this respect (though several expressions remain in use, such as I trust, well, come come). The list below illustrates some of the distinctive expressions.
Shakespeare was well aware of the communicative force of discourse markers and related expressions, judging by the sequence in Comedy of Errors (IV.iv.67,ff), when Dromio of Ephesus responds to Antipholus of Ephesus by varying the start of each utterance:

Antipholus: Dined at home? Thou villain, what sayst thou?
Dromio: Sir, sooth to say, you did not dine at home.
Antipholus: Were not my doors locked up, and I shut out?
Dromio: Perdie, your doors were locked, and you shut out.
Antipholus: And did not she herself revile me there?
Dromio: Sans fable, she herself reviled you there.
Antipholus: Did not her kitchen-maid rail, taunt, and scorn me?
Dromio: Certes she did. The kitchen vestal scorned you.
Antipholus: And did not I in rage depart from thence?
Dromio: In verity you did.

Within X’s speech
X draws Y’s atttention to a point

Item Location Example Gloss
conscience, o’ Per IV.ii.19 there’s two unwholesome, o’conscience [= on my conscience] I’m sure
fear me, I TN III.i.111 So did I abuse / Myself, my servant, and, I fear me, you I’m afraid, I fear
good deed WT I.ii.42 yet, good deed, Leontes, / I love thee indeed, in truth
good now WT V.i.19 [Leontes, of the word ‘killed’ being used against him] Now, good now, / Say so but seldom please, be so good as
know’t WT I.ii.204 Know’t: It will let in and out the enemy be certain of it
la Ham IV.v.57 Indeed, la, without an oath. I’ll make an end on’t indeed [i.e. an intensifier]
la you TN III.iv.100 La you, an you speak ill of the devil, how he takes it at heart! see, look now
law Per IV.i.77 Believe me, law, / I never killed a mouse, nor hurt a fly indeed
look you 1H4 I.iii.236 [Hotspur, on being called a fool] Why, look you, I am whipped and scourged with rods can’t you see
prithee, I CE II.i.55 But say, I prithee, is he coming home? I beg you POLITENESS
protest, I CE V.i.2 But I protest he had the chain of me I insist, I’m sure
say CE II.i.44 Say, is your tardy master now at hand? tell me
think it WT I.ii.202 and ’tis powerful, think it, / From east, west, north, and south be certain of it

X reformulates or adds to a point

Item Location Example Gloss
nay, more CE I.i.16 To admit no traffic to our adverse towns. / Nay, more: / If any born at Ephesus ... furthermore
which is more MW II.ii.74 there has been earls - nay, which is more, pensioners moreover

X summarizes a point

Item Location Example Gloss
all, this is for Ham I.iii.131 This is for all: / I would not ... / Have you ... give words or talk with the Lord Hamlet to sum up
concluded, be it WT I.ii.203 Be it concluded, / No barricado for a belly to sum up
few, in H5 I.ii.246 Thus then, in few: / Your highness ... in a few words
once this CE III.i.89 Once this: your long experience of her wisdom ... / Plead on her part some cause to you unknown in short
word, at a MW I.i.100 He hath wronged me, indeed he hath, at a word, he hath in short
word, with a 1H4 II.iv.251 Then did we two set on you four, and, with a word, out-faced you from your prize in a word

X lets Y know the utterance is about to end

Item Location Example Gloss
end, there an TS V.ii.97 The fouler fortune mine, and there an end and that’s that
even so much TC I.iii.283 [Aeneas reporting Hector] ‘... and not worth / The splinter of a lance.’ Even so much. [Agamemnon] This shall be told our lovers this is all I was told to say
fine, in AW IV.iii.51 in fine, made a groan of her last breath, and now she sings in heaven finally, to conclude
soft CE II.ii.118 But soft - who wafts us yonder? stop, hold on

X lets Y know the topic is changing

Item Location Example Gloss
what though AYL III.iii.46 here we have ... no assembly but horn-beasts. But what though? Courage! what of it, so what

Within Y’s response

Response sentences may be a simple yea or nay, as well as yes or no ( RESPONSES). But a response may carry an additional nuance.

An alternative or contrast

Item Location Example Gloss
nay MW IV.iv.74 [Page] Go, send to Falstaff straight. [Ford] Nay, I’ll to him again in name of Brook rather
nay, but Cor I.i.253 [Brutus] Marked you his lip and eyes? [Sicinius] Nay, but his taunts. never mind X, what about Y

A stronger degree of affirmation or assurance than ‘yes’

Item Location Example Gloss
e’en so Ham V.i.196 [Hamlet] Dost thou think Alexander looked o’this fashion i’th’ earth? [Horatio] E’en so. exactly, quite
heart, with all my KL IV.vi.32 [Edgar] Now fare ye well, good sir. [Gloucester] With all my heart. I thoroughly agree with you
warrant you, I AC III.iii.47 [Cleopatra] All may be well enough. [Charmian] I warrant you, madam. I certainly agree
what else? 3H6 IV.vi.56 [Warwick] And all his lands and goods be confiscate. [George] What else assuredly, certainly

A stronger degree of denial or rejection than ‘no’

Item Location Example Gloss
let go Cor III.ii.18 [Volumnia] I would have had you put your power well on / Before you had worn it out. [Coriolanus] Let go. enough, stop

A confirmation check on what X has just said

Item Location Example Gloss
pray ye? AC II.vi.111 [Enobarbus] But she is now the wife of Marcus Antonius. [Menas] Pray ye, sir? I beg your pardon?
say you? Ham IV.v.28 [Gertrude] Alas, sweet lady, what imports this song? [Ophelia] Say you? what did you say?
say’st me so? TS I.ii.187 [Petruchio] I hear no harm. [Gremio] No, say’st me so, friend? is that what you tell me?

A prompt for X to continue

Item Location Example Gloss
good TC I.ii.14 [Alexander] They call him Ajax. [Cressida] Good, and what of him? all right
good, make that TN I.v.6 [Feste] He that is well hanged in this world needs to fear no colours. [Maria] Make that good. explain that
have at you CE III.i.51 [Dromio of Ephesus] Have at you with a proverb ... [Luce] Have at you with another ... initiating a mock-hostile exchange
trow MA III.iv.52 [Margaret] ... there’s no more sailing by the star. [Beatrice] What means the fool, trow? I wonder, can one suppose

An acknowledgement that X has made a point

Item Location Example Gloss
go to KL III.iii.7 [Edmund] Most savage and unnatural! [Gloucester] Go to. Say you nothing. no more of that
said, you have AC II.vi.106 [Enobarbus] sure he cannot weep’t back again. [Menas] Y’have said, sir. you have said what has to be said

An acknowledgment of X’s attitude

Item Location Example Gloss
come H5 IV.i.196 You’ll never trust his word after! Come, ’tis a foolish saying come on, come off it
may, you Cor II.iii.33 [Third Citizen] ... to help get thee a wife. [Second Citizen] You are never without your tricks. You may, you may! have your little joke

An expression of unwillingness to continue with X’s topic

Item Location Example Gloss
all one, that’s / ’tis TNK V.ii.30 [Wooer] She’s eighteen [Doctor] She may be - / But that's all one, ’tis nothing to our purpose that makes no difference
said, I have AC I.ii.58 [Iras] Give me particulars. [Soothsayer] I have said. I have said what I wanted to say
ways, go thy AW IV.v.54 [Clown] ... the broad gate and the great fire. [Lafew] Go thy ways. I begin to be aweary of thee. no more, be off

An expression of response uncertainty to X

Item Location Example Gloss
O Lord, sir! AW II.ii.40 [Countess] I pray you, sir, are you a courtier? [Clown] O Lord, sir! - There’s a simple putting off. catch-phrase to fill an awkward silence

Some discourse markers are intended to elicit actions, not further speech,
as in modern English (such as saying take that before a blow).

Item Location Example Gloss
come your ways KL II.ii.35 Draw, you rascal! Come your ways! come on, then - starting a fight
have with you Cor II.i.262 [Brutus] Let’s to the Capitol ... [Sicinius] Have with you. let’s go / I’m with you

Jump directly to