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PRONOUNS, PERSONAL. Thou between intimate friends, but not from son to father

Thou and You.1 Thou in Shakespeare's time was, very much like "du" now among the Germans, the pronoun of (1) affection towards friends (2) good-humoured superiority to servants, and (3) contempt or anger to strangers. It had, however, already fallen somewhat into disuse, and, being regarded as archaic, was naturally adopted (4) in the higher poetic style and in the language of solemn prayer.

(1) This is so common as to need no examples. It should be remarked, however, that this use is modified sometimes by euphony (the ponderous thou, art, and terminations in est being avoided) and sometimes by fluctuations of feeling. Thus in the T. G. of V. Valentine and Proteus in the first twenty lines of earnest dialogue use nothing but thou. But as soon as they begin to jest, "thou art" is found too seriously ponderous, and we have (i. 1. 25) "you are over boots in love," while the lighter thee is not discarded in (i. 1. 28) "it boots thee not." So in the word-fencing of lines 36-40, you and your are preferred, but an affectionate farewell brings them back again to thou. The last line presents an apparent difficulty:

Proteus. All happiness bechance to thee in Milan!
Valentine. As much to you at home, and so farewell.

But while thee applies to the single traveller, you is better suited to Proteus and his friends at home. It may be added, that when the friends meet after their long parting, there is a certain coldness in the frequent you. (T. G. of V. ii. 5. 120.)

Fathers almost always address their sons with thou; sons their fathers with you. Thus in the dialogue between Henry IV. and the Prince (1 Hen. IV. iii. 2), line 118, "What say you?" is perhaps the only exception to the rule. So in the dialogue between Talbot and his son (1 Hen. VI. iv. 5) before the battle. In the excitement of the battle (1 Hen. VI. iv. 6. 6-9) the son addresses his father as thou: but such instances are very rare. (A. Y. L. ii. 3. 69 is a rhyming passage, and impassioned also.) A wife may vary between thou and you when addressing her husband. Lady Percy addresses Hotspur almost always in dialogue with you: but in the higher style of earnest appeal in 1 Hen. IV. ii. 3. 43-67, and in the familiar "I'll break thy little finger, Harry," ib. 90, she uses thou throughout.

In the high Roman style, Brutus and Portia use you.

Hotspur generally uses thou to his wife, but, when he becomes serious, rises to you, dropping again to thou.

Hotspur. Come, wilt thou see me ride?
And when I am o' horse-back, I will swear
I love thee infinitely----But hark you, Kate;
I must not have you henceforth question me:
This evening must I leave you, gentle Kate.
I know you wise; but yet no further wise
Than Harry Percy's wife: constant you are,
But yet a woman: and for secrecy
No lady closer---- For I well believe
Thou wilt not utter what thou dost not know;
And so far will I trust thee, gentle Kate.

Mark the change of pronoun as Bassanio assumes the part of a friendly lecturer:

Gra. I have a suit to you.
Bass. You have obtain'd it.
Gra. You must not deny me; I must go with you to Belmont.
Bass. Why, then you must.--But hear thee, Gratiano;
Thou art too wild, too rude and bold of voice, &c.

1 The Elizabethan distinction between thou and you is remarkably illustrated by the usage in E. E., as detailed by Mr. Skeat in William of Palerne, Preface, p. xli.

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