Will's word

25th February 2005 at 00:00
The modern usages all derive from the older sense of the word - a "little room" (or cabin), especially one in which special things are displayed or special events take place.

It is a short step from here to find the word applying to the furniture within a room, or to the people who meet there.

In the Shakespeare canon, the word occurs only three times - twice in the long poems - and in each case it is the oldest meaning which is retained.

The sense of lodging or dwelling-place is found in The Rape of Lucrece (442), which talks of a "quiet cabinet" and Venus and Adonis (854), where the lark "from his moist cabinet mounts up on high" (in other words, from his nest).

In King Edward III (II.i.62), the king tells his secretary Lodowick to make an arbour "our counsel house or cabinet". Here the sense is one of intimacy - a private meeting-place - for his intention is to compose a love letter there.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today