Category Archives: Elizabethan 1558 – 1603

Shakespeare’s Original Pronunciation

Shakespeare’s Original Pronunciation

Shakespeare’s original pronunciation, what do we mean by this?

Most of us hear Shakespeare spoken in a modern voice, the language of the 21st century. To hear it spoken with the original pronunciation changes both both the obervers perception and understanding of the work.

Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets come alive when pronounced in the voice of the 1600’s

Shakespeare’s plays, read with the original pronunciation of the 1600’s are completely stunning. In the anniversary year of Shakespeare’s death, lines of Shakespeare can be heard across the media but few will sound like the Shakespeare in the following clip. To understand the reasoning behind the pronunciation is in itself a revelation and a nod to pragmatic methodology. It is all well and good for people who are engaged academically with Shakespeare to know and understand this but is it ever taught to children studying Shakespeare in our schools?

Shakespeare's original pronunciation
What would Shakespeare have made of his works in modern English?

Not just Shakespeare’s missing language

If, as is suggested, we misunderstand the meaning behind some of Shakespeare lines, then surely we are doing the same with other great writers. When Chaucer is taught, how much do we lose by not understanding the missing language?

Shakespeare spoke with a rhotic accent

So how do we know how people in the 17th century pronounced their words? The video below explains it very well but in particular, it’s the way the ‘R’ is pronunced that changes the whole sound structure of the line. It might seem odd but spoken English¬†in the 16th and 17th century and the sound of the ‘R’ was much like the ‘R’ pronunciation of Americans and Canadians today. The rhotic ‘R’ was much more like the growl and bark of a dog. Listen to the video below to understand the difference.

 

Shakespeare’s missing language should be heard by all

And it can be, there are many places to go and listen to Shakespeare’s original pronunciation. Listen below to an extract from Romeo and Juliet part of the British Library Board Collection.

The Mercers’ Company

The Mercers’ Company

The Mercers’ Company is one of the top twelve Livery Companies in the City of London Considered by many to hold first place in the rank of the Livery Companies, the illustrious names on its roll of members,¬† charitable associations and trusts, it can have a justified claim to its position as such. Its corporate…

Queen Elizabeth I Statue London

Queen Elizabeth I Statue London

The Queen Elizabeth I statue in London is that city’s oldest outdoor statue but it no longer stands where it was intended. It was re-positioned in the 1920’s and unveiled by Millicent Fawcett, the noted feminist.

Crossbones Graveyard

Crossbones Graveyard

Crossbones graveyard in Southwark is adorned with colourful ribbons, a tribute to those Winchester Geese and others who exist on the margins of society. This burial ground has been in existence since Medieval times.

Edward Coke 1552 – 1634

Edward Coke 1552 – 1634

Edward Coke, supreme barrister and politician of the C16th and C17th, whose belief and work in Common Law became part of the English and US Constitution whose name should be known by every child in the UK.

Shakespeares Quartos Digitised with full text search

Shakespeares Quartos Digitised with full text search

Shakespeares Quartos in high resolution with searchable online text, precious artefacts at your fingertips so that you can virtually touch these priceless resources and harness them in your own historical research…a beacon of light in the field of digital history and humanities…led by the Bodleian Library quite inspiring