The Understandability of ‘Acts and Monuments’

The language that Foxe used in his over 2,000 page, small print book Acts and Monuments is almost understandable. This book was one of the first English literary pieces written, so it shaped and established the use of English literature for the future. Writers after him used his work as an example for their own writings.

Acts and Monuments contains quite a bit of the previous old English language that sounds a tad complicated to our ears. For example, when Foxe was describing Lady Jane Gray’s father as a prosperous man he used this phrase: “…there belonged unto him a certain learned man…” The words are definitely organized differently than how we would use our English words today. If I were to “translate” that phrase into an English phrase that we would use today I would say it like: “an educated man belonged to him.” A majority of Foxe’s phrases are quite understandable, only a remnant of them need to be dissected.

What I find most difficult to grasp are his lengthy sentences that are combined with his complicated wordage. It appears that Foxe was not taught about run on sentences and what a task it can be for the reader to comprehend them. I believe that it was in second grade when I was taught about “macaroni” and “spaghetti” sentences. Macaroni sentences are easier to read and understand whereas spaghetti sentences are long and keep on going and going, leaving the reader to forget what the sentence was originally about. I was told to avoid the use of spaghetti sentences. To be honest though, once in a while I find it necessary to use a spaghetti sentence. Believe it or not, but one of Foxe’s sentences is actually 96 words long! He would be excellent at meeting the requirements of an assigned work count essay!

In reading more of Foxe’s work I found that he also uses words that are not commonly used in today’s conversation. Words such as, vehement (\ˈvē-ə-mənt\, which means showing/expressing great force), imbecility (\ˌim-bə-ˈsi-lə-tē\, meaning foolishness) can be found in in his literature. I noticed few, if any, words that ended in eth and similar letters which gives us modern day readers an advantage in understanding Acts and Monuments.

Now, is this book still compelling to readers today? Well, if the reader has patience to read each line in this book carefully, dissect the words and phrases, and had an interest in the persecutions during the day of Queen (Bloody) Mary this book would be very compelling to them. It was not that compelling to me when I read the excerpts assigned to me. Currently, I don’t have much patience in dissecting long pieces of literature, but maybe one day in the future literature like this will become a favorite of mine to read. If you decide to read this book I would highly recommend selecting small excerpts to read- I’ve heard that some of these chapters can be as long as 100 pages.

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