History of Shakespeare in Arden


But, no, it’s not the “Shakespearean” spelling of “guild.” In Shakespeare’s day, the English language was growing by leaps and bounds, and spelling was inconsistent. “Gild” does appear as an alternate to “guild,” but it’s not a peculiarly Elizabethan or even British spelling. So why g-i-l-d? The late Holley Webster, community theater activist and founder of Stage Monthly, once told me that early Ardenites chose “gild” because they were following George Bernard Shaw’s efforts to reform spelling of the English language.

While I haven’t searched the Arden Archives for Arden Club documents to confirm this, it’s a likely explanation. Spelling reform was a hot topic in the early 1900s. Mark Twain and Theodore Roosevelt were also notable supporters of spelling reform. Along with linguistic arguments for reform were concerns for social welfare: simpler spelling would eliminate barriers to literacy, especially for an immigrant population. I can easily imagine that, when they created a guild structure for their new Arden Club, Arden folk chose the reformed spelling for “gild,” just as they embraced so many other intellectual, political and artistic trends of the time (Esperanto, housework co-operatives, organic schooling).