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Raveled sleave of care

Posted by ESC on June 27, 2000

From the archives of the Columbia Journalism School online, Language Corner. Brush Up Your Shakespeare, Act III, Raveled Sleave, with an "A."

Find the misspelling: "Sleep, as Shakespeare wrote, knits up the raveled sleeve of care." No, not "raveled," though it can be spelled differently. The error, a very frequent one, is "sleeve." Macbeth wasn't talking about the arm of a garment; it wouldn't really make sense. He was talking about a tangled skein, of silk or other material, which makes perfect sense. And for that, the spelling -- which the original author used, correctly - is "sleave." It's an obsolete word now, but spelling it right is still the way to go. Many readers may dismiss it as just another typo (a NEXIS search shows it's a frequent typo for "sleeve"), but those who know better will smile.