The modal verbs will/would, shall/should, can/could, may/might, need, must ought and dare/durst in the English of the time of Shakespeare
The thesis is a corpus study of the modal verbs using eight non-imaginative prose texts written in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century. Two are translations from Latin, one from French; there is an English text from Bacon with its Latin version, a text from Hooker, from Moryson's Itinerary and two texts which are collections of letters. Each text contains from 400 to 700 uses of the modal verbs. Preliminary to the corpus study is a consideration of the analyses of mood found in the grammars of English of the period, together with the sources of these analyses in Renaissance Latin grammar and in the ancient grammarians. The corpus study is conducted by means of sets of quotations, accompanied in the case of those from translated texts by the parallel Latin or French passages. Starting from the translated texts the selection, first of WILL or SHALL in translating the future, then of CAN or MAY in translating POSSUM/POUVOIR is studied. The idea of the modal pair and its behaviour in early Modern English is elaborated. An account is given of the adaptation of NEED to constitute a third modal pair with MUST. The use of MUST and OUGHT in the expression of obligation and necessity is considered and DARE is fully exemplified. A chapter is devoted to the operation of tense and mood in the modal phrase and there is an extensive exemplification and analysis of the modals in purpose and result clauses, in conditional sentences and in subordinate noun clauses. A chapter draws on the works of Shakespeare to illustrate, modify and extend the account of modal usage found in the corpus.