The word

Revolting (adjective) "rebellious, mutinous, insurgent"

Today the word can mean only "repulsive, disgusting", which is why you sometimes hear a giggle when Cardinal Pandulph describes King John as a "revolting son" to his mother the Church (King John, III.i.257) or the Lieutenant talks to Suffolk about "the false revolting Normans" (Henry VI part 2, IV.i.87). In all Shakespearian cases the meaning is simply "rebelling". The word can be used with inanimate nouns, too. Bedford appeals to comets to "scourge the bad revolting starsThat have consented unto Henry's death" (Henry VI part 1, I.i.4), and Richard hopes his tears will "make a dearth in this revolting land" (Richard II, III.iii.163). Incidentally, Shakespeare's is the first recorded usage of this word, as also of the related word revolted, whose senses include rebellious (as in "revolted faction", Richard II, II.ii.57), faithless ("revolted wives", Merry Wives of Windsor, III.ii.35) and delinquent ("revolted tapsters", Henry IV part 1, IV.ii.28).

David Crystal is author, with Ben Crystal, of Shakespeare's Words, published by Penguin

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you