sea change

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See also: seachange and sea-change



From Act I, scene ii, of The Tempest (1610–1611) by the English playwright William Shakespeare (1564–1616), spelling modernized: “Full fathom five thy father lies, / Of his bones are coral made: / Those are pearls that were his eyes, / Nothing of him that doth fade, / But doth suffer a sea-change / Into something rich and strange”.[1] The passage refers to how a drowned person’s body lying on the sea bed is transformed by the sea.



sea change (plural sea changes)

  1. (idiomatic) A profound transformation; a metamorphosis.
    Public opinion has undergone a sea change since the 2002 elections.
    • 1910, Jack London, Theft: A Play In Four Acts, Actors' Description of Characters,
      Anthony Starkweather. [] Essentially a moral man, his rigid New England morality has suffered a sea change and developed into the morality of the master-man of affairs, equally rigid, equally uncompromising, but essentially Jesuitical in that he believes in doing wrong that right may come of it.
    • 2005, Bryan Ward-Perkins, The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization, p. 4:
      There has been a sea change in the language used to describe post-Roman times. Words like ‘decline’ and ‘crisis’, which suggest problems at the end of the empire and which were quite usual into the 1970s, have largely disappeared from historians’ vocabularies, to be replaced by neutral terms, like ‘transition’, ‘change’, and ‘transformation’.

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  1. ^ William Shakespeare, “The Tempest”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, 1610–1611, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act I, scene ii], page 5, column 1:
    Full fadom fiue thy Father lies, / Of his bones are Corrall made: / Thoſe are pearles that were his eies, / Nothing of him that doth fade, / But doth ſuffer a Sea-change / Into ſomething rich, & ſtrange: []

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