Shakespeare in the original pronunciation

posted by Jason Kottke Oct 25, 2010

Quite a bit is known about how English was spoken back when Shakespeare wrote his plays but productions of his plays using the original pronunciation (OP) are quite rare. Now a University of Kansas theater professor and his students are putting on a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in the OP.

"American audiences will hear an accent and style surprisingly like their own in its informality and strong r-colored vowels," Meier said. "The original pronunciation performance strongly contrasts with the notions of precise and polished delivery created by John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier and their colleagues from the 20th century British theater."

Meier said audiences will hear word play and rhymes that "haven't worked for several hundred years (love/prove, eyes/qualities, etc.) magically restored, as Bottom, Puck and company wind the language clock back to 1595."

"The audience will hear rough and surprisingly vernacular diction, they will hear echoes of Irish, New England and Cockney that survive to this day as 'dialect fossils.' And they will be delighted by how very understandable the language is, despite the intervening centuries."

Here's a sample of what to expect:

(via the history blog)