previous next


PRONOUNS, PERSONAL. Its post-Shakespearian

Its was not used originally in the Authorized Version of the Bible, and is said to have been rarely used in Shakespeare's time. It is, however, very common in Florio's Montaigne. His still represented the genitive of It as well as of He. Its is found, however, in M. for M. i. 2. 4, where it is emphatic; in W. T. i. 2 (three times, 151, 152, 266); Hen. VIII. i. 1. 18; Lear, iv. 2. 32, and elsewhere. Occasionally it, an early provincial form of the old genitive, is found for its, especially when a child is mentioned, or when any one is contemptuously spoken of as a child. Ben Jonson (Sil. Wom. ii. 3) uses both forms--
Your knighthood shall come on its knees.
And then, a few lines lower down--
It knighthood shall fight all it friends.
Comp. W. T. iii. 2. 109:
The innocent milk in it most innocent mouth.

“The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long,
That it's had it head bit off by it young.

But also of an unknown person:

“The corse they follow did with desperate hand
Fordo it own life.--(Folio.)

“Woman it pretty self.--(Folio.)

And of the ghost:

“It lifted up it head.--(Folio.)

Perhaps the dislike of its, even in the eighteenth century, aided the adoption of the French idiom "lever la tête." “Where London's column, pointing at the skies,
Like a tall bully lifts the head and lies.” POPE, Moral Essays, iii. 340.

"It-selfe" is found referring to "who." (See 264.)

“The world who of it-selfe is peised well.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: