Naked (adjective) "unclothed"

19th November 2004 at 00:00
Apart from a few idioms (such as "naked truth") the modern usage is entirely with reference to clothes. Not so in Shakespeare's time. His main use was in the sense of "defenceless, undefended", as when Othello says to Gratiano "Or naked as I am I will assault thee" (Othello, V.ii.256) or Wolsey says that God would not have left him "naked to mine enemies" (Henry VIII, III.ii.457). But there are four other senses. When Hamlet tells Claudius in a letter "I am set naked on your kingdom" (Hamlet, IV.vii.43), he means "stripped of all belongings". When Lord Bardolph describes an incomplete building project as "A naked subject to the weeping clouds" (Henry IV Part 2, I.iii.61), he means "exposed, unprotected". When Coriolanus tells Menenius that he cannot "stand naked" in front of the crowds (Coriolanus, II.ii.135), he means "exposed to view" - or, possibly, "wearing only an outer garment". And when the Princess tells the King to go to "some forlorn and naked hermitage" (Love's Labour's Lost, V.ii.790), she means "bare, austere".

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