Sunday, March 11, 2018

Shakespeare: Original Pronunciation

Rather than get swept up in the recent personality clashes in the PulpRev, I'd rather focus on an idea somewhat tangential to that discussion: how to learn style, or what to do when Hemingway's prose just doesn't carry the rhetorical weight needed in a passage.

But before I can get to those thoughts (And because I haven't mastered how to get multiple videoes on Blogger), I am going to lay a little groundwork prior.

In English, Shakespeare towers above all, in lyrical meter, rhetorical grammar, and characterization. But 400 years of linguistic shift obscures some of the puns and the meters used in his poetry. Thus many scholars have attempted to discover the original pronunciation of the plays from period sources.

Original pronunciation (OP) changes the meter of Shakespeare--or rather restores it from years of pronunciation drift. Any attempt to study Shakespeare for style needs to consider this, as to best understand drama and poetry is to hear it performed instead of reading it on the page.

For instance, the vowel shift on the word sleep, from sla-ep with an unstressed long A to slEEP with an accented long E, affects the stress on the word and the rhythm of the sentence.

For more on OP, including snippets of performances, check out the video below.

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