Negatives - double negatives in older English literature

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This page follows an article on double negatives, and why they are frowned on in modern academic English. It may also help students of Literature.

In older English literature, one can often find negatives being doubled in order to strengthen them, as in many other languages and in modern colloquial English. The poet Chaucer (c.1340-c.1400), for example, says, (General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, 70)

He nevere yet no vileynye ne sayde
In al his lyf unto no maner wight.

which in modern English means 'He never yet said no rude thing in all his life to nobody', which has three negatives in AWE's version - and rises to four in the Middle English of Chaucer's text. Modern teachers would disapprove. But we all realise what he means.