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Shakespeare as he was spoke
Posted: 20 March 2012 06:14 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Interesting they did this for Chaucer in the ‘60s as was discussed somewhere else here.
Billingham seems to think the only reason for doing this is to stage ‘authentic’ productions.

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Posted: 20 March 2012 07:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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It’s interesting, if nothing else.

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Posted: 20 March 2012 11:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Over the course of my life I’ve heard several ‘scholarly’ attempts to recreate the sound of Elizabethan English. Unsurprisingly all were completely dissimilar to each other save in a few vowel sounds. The truth is of course we’ll never know exactly what it would have sounded like, although we have many tantalizing clues We know, for instance, that the word suitor was pronounced shooter and we know this because of the abundant plays on words on suitor and archer in Elizabethan drama. It’s things like that which help us to know something of how they spoke but certainly not enough for anyone to assert definitively “this is how it sounded”.

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Posted: 20 March 2012 01:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Here’s one attempt at the university of Kansas to do an “original pronunciation” of Shakespeare.

And here is the director and consultant David Crystal explaining their choices.

(I may have posted these links here before. My apologies if I have.)

I went to a production of The Winter’s Tale here in Toronto last summer. The first act was a major shock. I was so used to Shakespeare being done in a modern British accent that it really threw me for a loop. But after a few scenes I got used to it.

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Posted: 21 March 2012 08:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I think there are cases of rhymes (one in Pope as I recall) showing that they did then but don’t now though it is hard to establish which was which of the two possible pronunciations ie from the spellings of the rhyming words if you follow. And there’s Marvell’s quaint/cunt pun in To His Coy Mistress.

Al Pacino was unfairly mocked in the UK for pronouncing Duke dook in Richard III. I am surprised to learn that American and Canadian Shakespearean actors go for Brit accents - it must be hard enough as it is. A blacked-up dear Larry Olivier was once criticised for giving Othello a Anglo-Carribean accent. Othello’s English is flawless so why burden him with an accent? Perhaps they thought it would underline his outsider status in Venetian society.

I think trying to reproduce Shakespearean pronunciation is an interesting exercise and might shed light on how the sounds of his English affected what he wrote as aldi’s example shows.

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Posted: 21 March 2012 09:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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IIRC, we believe the language was in the middle of the Great Vowel Shift during Shakespeare’s time.  If true, this can only complicate the whole concept of OP.

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Posted: 21 March 2012 01:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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venomousbede - 21 March 2012 08:36 AM
And there’s Marvell’s quaint/cunt pun in To His Coy Mistress.

Say what?  How does “And your quaint honor turn to dust” become a lewd pun?  I can imagine a lecherous English professors coming up with such a strained reading.  I can’t imagine the author intending this.

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Posted: 21 March 2012 01:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I am surprised to learn that American and Canadian Shakespearean actors go for Brit accents

I didn’t mean to convey that. The accents I heard were Canadian; that’s what threw me.

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Posted: 21 March 2012 03:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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JimWilton - 21 March 2012 01:26 PM

Say what?  How does “And your quaint honor turn to dust” become a lewd pun?  I can imagine a lecherous English professors coming up with such a strained reading.  I can’t imagine the author intending this.

It isn’t really strained. Quaint was once a term for the female genitals.

From OED:

quaint, n.1

Now arch. (rare after late 16th cent.)

The female external genitals. Cf. cunt n.

One of the cites is Chaucer’s well-known lines from The Miller’s Tale, “This hende Nicholas Fil with this yonge wyf to rage and pleye‥and pryuely he caughte hire by the queynte.” Marvelll is sure to have known the lines so he may well have been playing on the old meaning. Or not. It’s certainly a sexually charged poem.

[ Edited: 21 March 2012 03:22 PM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 21 March 2012 03:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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"l Pacino was unfairly mocked in the UK for pronouncing Duke dook in Richard III. I am surprised to learn that American and Canadian Shakespearean actors go for Brit accents “

Some people are ridiculously, and somewhat ignorantly, precious about this kind of thing. There were people who complained about American accents in Prince of Thieves, or even First Knight, but there is no sense in which the modern British accents are more similar to those in King John’s England (or mythical King Arthur’s England) than modern American accents are.

Then again, people complained about Harvey Keitel’s accent in Last Temptation of Christ. Some people just like to complain.

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Posted: 22 March 2012 01:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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There’s also no real reason not to mix accents in Shakespeare’s plays. I believe (and if I’m wrong, posting this is the fastest way to find out) that it’s generally held that even the English upper class didn’t acquire a single standard accent till the end of the 18th century, so that an earl brought up in Westmorland or Northumberland could have sounded quite different from a duke with his family estates in Sussex.

When Kenneth Branagh cast Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves in an otherwise British cast for his film of Much Ado about Nothing, some critics found their American accents intrusive, but I doubt very much if this would have bothered Shakespeare or his audience.

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Posted: 22 March 2012 01:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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It’s a tired point, but in some ways Elizabethan English is closer in sound to north-east US accents than it is to RP.

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Posted: 22 March 2012 03:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Emphasis on the in some ways.

Basically all modern dialects are in some ways closer to Elizabethan English than any other. It all depends on what features you pick to measure.

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Posted: 22 March 2012 12:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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aldiboronti - 21 March 2012 03:18 PM
JimWilton - 21 March 2012 01:26 PM

It isn’t really strained. Quaint was once a term for the female genitals.

Interesting.  Thanks.

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Posted: 23 March 2012 04:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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And if you have a mind, you can wear it as a Chaucerian T-shirt.

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Posted: 25 March 2012 09:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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It looks like I was wrong though in that Marvell’s pun wasn’t based on pronunciation. Hamlet’s “country matters” works now, too, with no loss at all.

I am ashamed to say I can’t distinguish American and Canadian accents if I meet people or hear them eg Mike Myers and Dan Aykroyd. Same with Kiwi and Oz (sorry OP). Tin ears perhaps unless others do too.

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