Should Shakespeare look or sound in a particular way?

shakespeare-with-shades1.jpg

Don’t think for a second that the only legitimate sound to Shakespeare is the ‘posh’ sound of British Received Pronunciation, also known as R.P.

That’s an artistic trap that breeds nothing but a kind of cultural inferiority complex and only adds more power to the already existing prejudices of some (thankfully, fewer and fewer) directors, producers and even actors.

Have no fear,

Shakespeare is not beyond your grasp.

Shakespeare sounds like YOU!

There are many wonderful videos on YouTube that will tickle your ear with what Elizabethan English might have sounded like during the time of the English colonization of North America beginning in the late 1500’s and early 1600’s, while Shakespeare was still alive. In fact, linguists often travel to certain places in the USA to hear and study the fading remnants of Elizabethan English - in remote places on the Chesapeake Bay, like Tangier Island, Va, or Ocracoke Island on the Outer Banks, off the coast of North Carolina. Some linguists often travel a little more inland, to take in the richness of the Appalachian dialect.

Because of the extreme remoteness of these places, their dialects have eroded much more slowly than dialects usually do in areas that have experienced a more rapid encroachment of radio, television and the internet, not to mention the wide-ranging power of the automobile to bring change to far-flung places.

You will be amazed at how much you can hear of the ‘American’ sound that is in these videos, mixed in with the West Country of England (with its hard ‘r’ or rhotic sound), Australian, a bit of Irish and Scottish, all jumbled up together. There are even videos of what Elizabethan English might have sounded like in what is known as “Original Pronunciation”or, O.P.

 

Here are some of those links:

The odd accent of Tangier, VA - American Tongues

North Carolina - Outer Banks English

Climate change in the US: Tangier Island in VA is disappearing

Tiny U.S. Island is Drowning. Residents Deny the Reason

"To Be or Not to Be" in Original Pronunciation

Shakespeare: Original Pronunciation

The Story of English - A Muse of Fire - Episode 3 Part 3

The Story of English - A Muse of Fire - Episode 3 Part 4

The Story of English - A Muse of Fire - Episode 3 Part 5

The Story of English - A Muse of Fire - Episode 3 Part 6

The Story of English - A Muse of Fire - Episode 3 Part 7

Marci LeBrun