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What Did Shakespeare Sound Like to Shakespeare?


Mention “Shakespeare” and  the rich pronunciations of https://www.youtube.com/embed/lsrOXAY1arg“> Richard Burton or https://www.youtube.com/embed/5ks-NbCHUns“>Sir Laurence Oliver , in Hamlet echo in our minds. But, what did Shakespeare really sound like?

What did Shakespeare’s English Sound Like to Shakespeare?

Here, thanks to Josh Jones  at Open Culture, is an explanation:

“What did Shakespeare’s English sound like to Shakespeare? To his audience? And how can we know such a thing as the phonetic character of the language spoken 400 years ago?

These questions and more are addressed in the video above, which profiles a very popular experiment at London’s Globe Theatre, the 1994 reconstruction of Shakespeare’s theatrical home. As linguist David Crystal explains, the theater’s purpose has always been to recapture as much as possible the original look and feel of a Shakespearean production—costuming, music, movement, etc. But until recently, the Globe felt that attempting a play in the original pronunciation would alienate audiences. The opposite proved to be true, and people clamored for more.

Above, Crystal and his son, actor Ben Crystal, demonstrate to us what certain Shakespearean passages would have sounded like to their first audiences, and in so doing draw out some subtle wordplay that gets lost on modern tongues.”

Wherefore, ‘Twas It Not Even in “Old English”?

“Shakespeare’s English is called by scholars Early Modern English (not, as many students say, “Old English,” an entirely different, and much older language). Crystal dates his Shakespearean early modern to around 1600. (In his excellent textbook on the subject, linguist Charles Barber bookends the period roughly between 1500 and 1700.) David Crystal cites three important kinds of evidence that guide us toward recovering early modern’s original pronunciation (or “OP”).”



More: What the English of Shakespeare, Beowulf, and King Arthur Actually Sounded Like


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