minstrel: The Bard

Heather Rose Jones hrjones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Fri May 2 14:45:07 PDT 1997

On Fri, 2 May 1997 mn13189 at WCUVAX1.WCU.EDU wrote:

> I just had an interesting thought...
> Since we have more or les established on this list that by the time the
> word "bard" made its way into the English language in the 14th/15th
> centuries from Gaelic, it had taken on derogotory connotations.  So what I

Ya know ... I don't mean to be a chauvinist about this, but can we all
keep in mind that "bard" refers to a Welsh as well as a Gaelic concept and
function (although the precise use differed between Wales, Scotland, and
Ireland -- as well as between different eras within each culture). I let
slip by that long discussion that presented the "true" meaning of "bard"
solely in Gaelic-cultural terms only because I was too busy for
essay-writing at the time.

> was wondering was this. . .
> Was Shakespeare referred to in his own time as "The Bard," or is this a
> title that literary minded people gave to him later?

The first example that the OED has of this usage is from 1881, but since
they don't have a special section for "Bard=Shakespeare", I don't know how
likely this is to represent the earliest use.

Purely from a sociological point of view, I would be surprised to find
Shakespeare referred to as either "a" or "the" Bard in his lifetime. After
all, he was only a pond-scum playwright, no? I think you'd have to have
some space for romanticization and pedestal-building before he got stuck
with that appellation.


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