Record

19th May 2006 at 01:00
Record (noun) "written evidence; recognised facts; superlative achievement; musical disc"

The array of modern senses overlaps a little with those which were used in Shakespeare's time. The word is known from the Middle Ages, especially in its legal senses, but the commonest senses today (in sports and music) are 19th-century. We find four main uses in Shakespeare. There is the general sense of "recollection, memory", found twice in the sonnets (59 and 122), and illustrated once in the plays, when Sebastian reflects to a disguised Viola of his father's death, "that record is lively in my soul" (Twelfth Night, V.i.243). It has the sense of "witness" when Bolingbroke tells King Richard: "heaven be the record to my speech!" (Richard II, I.i.30). It is a musical instrument, a recorder, in the stage direction:

"Still music of records" (Two Noble Kinsmen, V.i.137). And it comes close to one of the modern senses when Antony says "My queen and Eros Have by their brave instruction got upon me A nobleness in record" (Antony and Cleopatra, IV.xiv.99). Here it means "recorded history, public remembrance".

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