Mr. Staunton’s Edition of “Shakespeare.” – (To the Editor.) The remarks in your Number for August 21 on the meaning of the word “achievement” in our immortal bard’s “Henry V.” caused me to reperuse the review in your Number of the 13th March; and, presuming to offer my feeble aid to discover the author’s meaning, I beg to inform you that the word is used here (in Jersey), in the old Norman French, for “to finish, conclude, and complete,” the ch being sounded like k, and not as in modern French; so that Shakespeare’s meaning must have been this, “And to conclude, offer us his ransom,” or “And, in consequence, offer us is ransom.” And, if the Constable’s speech to the nobles is historically true, his words were, “Et pour achevement, nous offrir sa rançon” (“And to finish, offer us his ransom”). The verb “achever” is used here for “to kill, or murder,” as well as “to finish;” so that the King’s answer to the herald, supposing it historically true, was doubtless in Norman French, thus, “Dites leur de m’achever, et puis vendre mes os” (“Tell them to murder me, and sell my bones”). We constantly hear here, “Acheve la poule, acheve le cochon,” for “Kill the fowl, kill the pig,” &c. A woman speaking of her son the other day told me, “Il m’acheve de chagrin” (“He kills me with grief”). I hope the above hastily-penned remarks may assist to elucidate the author’s meaning, and arrive in time to prevent a false reading being permanently placed in so valuable an edition of Shakspeare‘s plays.
T.P. Clanalbin, St. Peter’s, Jersey.
From the dictionary:
ag’ver = complete, finish; damage, do an injury; finish off, bump off, cull
adgèvement = end, completion; demolition