Gender (noun) "grammatical class

David Crystal

But in the handful of other instances in Shakespeare, the noun has a much more general sense: "kind, sort, type". This is the sense required when Iago, talking to Roderigo, compares their bodies to a garden: "supply it with one gender of herbs or distract it with many" (Othello, I.iii.320).

And when Claudius worries about "the great love the general gender bear" towards Hamlet (Hamlet, IV.vii.18), there is a similarly general sense of "common people". "The Phoenix and Turtle" has a further example: a crow is described as having a "sable gender" (line 18) - black offspring. The sexual sense emerges in the verb, when Othello talks of "a cistern for foul toads To knot and gender in" (Othello, IV.ii.61): here the word means "copulate".

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David Crystal

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