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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: October ::
Re: Elizabethan Accents
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1073.  Sunday, 26 October 1997.

[1]     From:   Tiffany Rasovic <
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        Date:   Friday, 24 Oct 1997 22:05:12 +0100
        Subj:   Elizabethan Accents

[2]     From:   Virginia Byrne <
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        Date:   Friday, 24 Oct 1997 17:07:08 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1070 Q: Eliz Accents

[3]     From:   Julie Blumenthal <
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        Date:   Friday, 24 Oct 1997 22:06:17 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Eliz. Accents

[4]     From:   Brooke Brod <
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        Date:   Saturday, 25 Oct 1997 02:23:12 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1070 Eliz Accents

[5]     From:   Peter Hillyar-Russ <
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        Date:   Saturday, 25 Oct 1997 08:48:48 +0100
        Subj:   Elizabethan Accents


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tiffany Rasovic <
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Date:           Friday, 24 Oct 1997 22:05:12 +0100
Subject:        Elizabethan Accents

Perhaps you could check out Anthony Burgess' book A Mouthful of Air- in
one chapter he speculates on what the Elizabethan accent sounded like-he
characterizes it as sort of a Scottish brogue, and I recall as I read
some lines according to Burgess' description they sounded quite good,
especially in rhyming parts.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Virginia Byrne <
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Date:           Friday, 24 Oct 1997 17:07:08 EDT
Subject: 8.1070 Q: Eliz Accents
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1070 Q: Eliz Accents

Regarding the question of Eliz accents...it is my understanding that the
eliz accent was closer to the contemp Scots accent and that in fact the
American accent provides an easier flow with the words than the Brits'

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Julie Blumenthal <
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Date:           Friday, 24 Oct 1997 22:06:17 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Eliz. Accents

Matt (and any others interested):

In John Barton's excellent _Playing Shakespeare_ series (done with the
RSC, tapes and paperback book transcript available), there is a nice
little discussion of accents in the original times, and a few examples
of particular rhyme schemes, etc.

Hope that helps-
Cheers!

Julie

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brooke Brod <
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Date:           Saturday, 25 Oct 1997 02:23:12 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 8.1070 Eliz Accents
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1070 Eliz Accents

> 1)  Is there any sort of consensus on how the British (well, London at
> least) accent of Shakespeare's time sounded? Was it in fact close to
> American Southern?

Southern Accents? Do you mean a generalized southern accent or one from
a particular state? They do differ.

Just a bit curious,

Brooke Brod

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Hillyar-Russ <
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Date:           Saturday, 25 Oct 1997 08:48:48 +0100
Subject:        Elizabethan Accents

I regret I know nothing in answer Matthew Bibb's question about accents
in Elizabethan London. However, any suggestion that a 20th century
British accent is particularly appropriate for the plays is
insupportable. To imply it was essential would be ludicrous. Shakespeare
was an associate of the people who set up early North American colonies,
and there is no reason to suppose the shared original, c1600, English
accent was preserved better in England than, for example, in Virginia.
One respected English theatre company "Northern Broadsides" tours,
internationally, with north of England actors who use their natural
local accents - to very great effect. This sounds very different from
BBC English, but it has no less claim to validity.

A recent production of the Dream directed by Jonathan Miller in London
did use the very strong "Upper class" English accentuation of the first
half of the century: it was wonderful to listen to, because so unusual.
It was, of course, done (I presume) to place the action where
Shakespeare places so many of his plays, on the boundary between the
known world and the exotic - in an age the oldest might recall, and a
place the wealthier might visit.  (The RSC loves setting plays in
"Ruritania", late 19th century, central Europe.)

American directors might well feel that a southern British accent
conveys, to a North American audience, this sense of being almost known
but a little exotic. That would be a valid dramatic choice, but only one
of many - to allude to the Spanish era in south western North America
would be as valid, and might be just as effective.

To import UK accents into US theatres (sorry, Theaters) as an attempt to
recover a purer form of the original would be about as daft as building
a tourist attraction with a thatched roof in central London (but
cheaper).

Peter Hillyar-Russ
 

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