William Shakespeare is considered as the greatest English playwright who was quite categorical in demonstrating his mastery in the use of English language. Shakespeare’s work has managed to utilize different words that are full of complex nuances that readers have to struggle to find their meanings. For instance, the word “engild” is mentioned in Act 3 Scene 2 in the statement “Fair Helena, who more engilds the night” to mean illuminating or lighting up, but Shakespeare could have other meanings in his mind. This review will focus on the word “engild” in an endeavor to deduce its hidden meaning through the context of Shakespeare’s comedy.
In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare portrays how individuals passionately pursue elusive things with emotions that can only be expressed in a dream. In this comedy, Shakespeare used the word “engild” while referring to the conversation between Lysander and Hermia. The word “engild” is an etymology of an almost similar word “gild,” which means “to cover with a thin layer of gold.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “engild” is a borrowed from the verb “gild” that means “to brighten with golden light.” This means that the object that is engilded actually has another color, but to make it appealing to human eye, a golden light has to be passed on it.
In the late 16th century, as well as early 17th century, English language was quite influential, and many history books were translated into English, leading to emergence of different word meanings. The word “engild” had a different meaning as compared to what it means today. Having originated from the word “gild,” the 16th century people perceived the word to mean painting or applying golden color on top of the original color. In this context, it is explicable to think that not all paintings last long. Thus, engilding an object may make it quite appealing for some time, but after a given period, the color fades, leaving the object with an unattractive look. Thus, Shakespeare opted to use the word to suggest that the golden color was temporary and would disappear during the darkness disappeared.
In ancient days, the stars were considered the most precious objects and anything that was shiny or golden was compared with the stars. Thus, to engild is to glow with shining colors that resembles the shining stars. The word could have also carried the meaning of organized form of protection that societies established for their people. This form of protection, or guild, was essential for offering tribute and compensation to the affected party.
In the play, Shakespeare talks of two men, Demetrius and Lysander, and two women, Helena and Hermia, who had fallen in love with each other, respectively. However, a strange occurrence made two men become attracted to a Helena while Hermia does not understand why it happened. In Act 3 Scene 2, Lysander is trying to explain to Hermia why he wants to ditch her for Helena:
Lysander’s love, that would not let him abide,
Fair Helena, who more engilds the night
Than all yon fiery oes and eyes of light
Lysander’s explanation was that Helena appeared to be more beautiful than Hermia and her glow surpassed anything that he could think of in that occasion. Lysander was overwhelmed by Helena’s physical appearance, which was brighter than the brightest stars. He wanted to demonstrate to Hermia that Helena had already won his heart and he was no longer in love with Hermia. Lysander is confused about love because he had just eloped with Hermia into the forest, but the sight of Helena changed his heart. He was ready for anything, including a duel with Demetrius, to win Helena’s love.
Shakespeare utilizes the word “engilds” in his play to mean “brightens up,” “illuminates” or “lights up,” as he embarked on displaying how individuals are carried away by illusions that are manifested through physical appearance. To engild is to illuminate by applying a layer that shines like gold so that something can appear attractive and presentable. According to Lysander, Helena’s beauty was capable of shining more in the night than the blazing stars. The word may also have been used to mean “giving a deceiving attraction to another thing.” The night is already dark, thus, introducing a shiny golden light in a room would make it more appealing and presentable even for a few seconds. Shakespeare did not elaborate whether the love that Lysander had on Helena was real, but since the words came from Lysander, the use of the word engild tends to mean illumination of the heart from Helena’s beauty.
Shakespeare is known to apply intricacy in his choices of words and phrases, leaving the audiences struggling in trying to deduce the meanings from his work. Rather than stating that Helena’s beauty brightened Lysander’s heart, Shakespeare indicated that Helena “engilds” the night more than all the brightest stars that Lysander knows. By using this word, the author may have insinuated that the person in the context was not attractive during the day, but due to some strange obsessions, the person became attractive to other people’s eyes. In Shakespeare’s era, the word “engild” meant “brightening an object with golden light,” but Shakespeare seemed to have used the word to mean winning somebody’s heart through lave. Literary, the word means to illuminating using shiny light, thus, the person in reference appeared to radiate light in the eyes of her suitors.