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 How did Shakespeare sound?

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ferval
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PostSubject: How did Shakespeare sound?   Sun 15 Apr 2012, 14:39

The British library has produced a CD of extracts from some works spoken in what they suggest is the original pronunciation. This article has 2 examples http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2012/03/24/149160526/shakespeares-accent-how-did-the-bard-really-sound#commentBlock

How accurate do you think this might be and do you enjoy the sound? I have no idea but I rather like these; how I would respond to it in, say, the Histories, Julius Caesar or Othello, I'm not sure although if, as they suggest, pronunciation was largely homogeneous over differing social classes, it may have been perfectly acceptable then. I can't hear anything of Edinburgh in there, rather perhaps an Irish/West Country twang.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: How did Shakespeare sound?   Sun 15 Apr 2012, 16:38

I'm not sure this is by any means a commonly accepted assumption regarding accent at the time, and it also seems to suggest a "common" predominant accent, something which even today is a contentious claim. Shakespeare himself may well have spoken with a rustic accent but would Londoners have done so? His acting troupe was composed mostly of Londoners as far as we know. And even if his actors spoke as depicted offstage would he have wanted them to speak so in front of a London audience in those times when parochial borders and differences were the barriers to intelligibility that international borders are to us today?

I agree with the article's statement that the employment of an educated, articulate and stoic delivery as a standard when performing his plays is contrived and very much a modern concept. But I feel in attempting to redress this trend they have plumped for an equally contrived alternative. There was certainly a different standard employed at the time for what was considered a broadly neutral accent, and I have even heard it said that remnants of this "official speak" Elizabethan vernacular can be found in (of all places) the west of Ireland, but I imagine should it be possible to reproduce it faithfully today we would be at an even greater loss to understand what was being said than we already are with the grammatical structure and vocabulary of the day as depicted in his plays.

But you're right. Juliet as a Wurzel did have a nice tone to it. A bit like Pam Ayres with dental braces.
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PostSubject: Re: How did Shakespeare sound?   Sun 15 Apr 2012, 16:58

Thank you for that last sentence, I've had a thoroughly irritating day and it made me laugh out loud.
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PostSubject: Re: How did Shakespeare sound?   Fri 20 Apr 2012, 20:32

Aren;t there some Islands off eastern USA which are supposed to retain Elizabethan accents, or is this an urban myth?
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PostSubject: Re: How did Shakespeare sound?   Sat 21 Apr 2012, 11:14

I'm not sure Bren,although the American expression "Fall" for "Autumn" is Elizabethan.
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PostSubject: Re: How did Shakespeare sound?   Tue 24 Apr 2012, 22:28

@Triceratops wrote:
I'm not sure Bren,although the American expression "Fall" for "Autumn" is Elizabethan.

And was still being used in Britain comparatively recently; William Wheeler, a Surrey-born (I believe) non-commisioned soldier in the 51st Light Infantry, writing in the first two decades of the 19th century, used 'Fall' for Autumn. I'm not sure when it fell out of favour (or, indeed, if it continues to be used anywhere in the British Isles to the present day).

I suspect that a number of so-called 'Americanisms' are actually British terms now considered archaic.
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PostSubject: Re: How did Shakespeare sound?   Wed 25 Apr 2012, 01:30

Well, gotten is, for a start.
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PostSubject: Re: How did Shakespeare sound?   Wed 25 Apr 2012, 05:27

I think so too AN.

Diaper is another word fallen out of use elsewhere but still used in the US.
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PostSubject: Re: How did Shakespeare sound?   Wed 25 Apr 2012, 11:17

Shakespeare uses a distinct West Country dialect and accent in Act IV scene vi of "King Lear". Edgar, son of the Earl of Gloucester, is pretending here to be a peasant, and he slips into "yokel" speech when Oswald enters at line 235 -"Chill not let go, zir, without vurther 'casion." It's very clear and quite different from Edgar's "posh" accent.

http://www.bartleby.com/70/4346.html

Even Edgar's father (the blinded Gloucester, who does not know the "peasant" is his own son) has been confused by the varying accents his helper is using. The Earl comments on this at the beginning of the scene - "Methinks thy voice is alter'd, and thou speak'st/In better phrase and matter than thou didst."

There was a conventional stage dialect and accent for rustics, "approximating to that of Somersetshire", but it was used for your average *yokel* from any one of a number of other counties, even, I think, northern ones. The "Somerset" dialect/accent Edgar uses in "Lear" is identical with the "Devon" speech in "The London Prodigal" (1605) performed by WS's company. Jonson uses it too in his "Tale of a Tub".

Such peasants and yokels - usually referred to as "clowns" - were considered to speak in a manner which Alexander Gill (Logonomia Anglica, 1621) called "barbarous". Your posh folk in the South East certainly didn't talk like that. No "I've got a brand new combine harvester" accent for the Earl of Essex and his chums!

But I'm sure I've read somewhere that Sir Walter Raleigh *did* have a pronounced Devon accent which was mocked at Court - even by the Queeen herself. I think she liked to call him Warter, not Walter - if true, it was a bit mean of her.

Edit: Apologies to The Wurzels - it is of course *brand new* - not great big - combine harvester.
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PostSubject: Re: How did Shakespeare sound?   Fri 27 Apr 2012, 08:20

Really excellent article here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2001/jun/20/artsandhumanities.highereducation

Seems Thomas Cromwell - rough lad made good - was anxious that his son Gregory should learn to pronounce the "King's English" properly. I wonder if Cromwell worried all his life about his accent - if Queen Elizabeth mocked Raleigh's West Country speech, goodness knows how the Duke of Norfolk and the aristocratic Catholic faction at her father's Court had sneered at Cromwell, a man who had not attended University and who had been raised in a "cottage" between a brewery and a fishery in Putney. Cromwell, determined that his son should learn to speak like a gentleman, paid a Mr Southwell to coach young Gregory, "dailie hering him to reade sumwhatt in thenglishe tongue and advertisenge hime of the naturell and true kynde of pronuntiation thereof."

Charles Hoole worried that children would pick up sloppy speech habits from "barbarous nursses" and ignorant teachers, and years before, in 1531, Sir Thomas Elyot had given a similar warning that "noble men and gentilmennes chyldren hauve attained corrupte and foule pronuntiation" from the "rude countrey" women who nursed them.
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