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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: October ::
Re: Elizabethan Accents
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1080.  Tuesday, 28 October 1997.

[1]     From:   David Skeele <
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        Date:   Monday, 27 Oct 1997 12:13:57 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Eliz. Accents

[2]     From:   Juul Muller-van Santen" <
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        Date:   Monday, 27 Oct 1997 19:09:10
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1076  Re: Elizabethan Accents

[3]     From:   Mike Sirofchuck <
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        Date:   Monday, 27 Oct 1997 03:58:00 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1073  Re: Elizabethan Accents

[4]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Monday, 27 Oct 1997 13:54:51 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1076  Re: Elizabethan Accents

[5]     From:   Ronald Moyer <
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        Date:   Monday, 27 Oct 1997 14:51:37 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1076  Re: Elizabethan Accents

[6]     From:   Mary Jane Miller <
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        Date:   Monday, 27 Oct 1997 16:12:39 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1076  Re: Elizabethan Accents

[7]     From:   Robin P. Newbegin <
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        Date:   Monday, 27 Oct 1997 16:47:34 -0500
        Subj:   ELIZABETHAN ACCENTS


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Skeele <
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Date:           Monday, 27 Oct 1997 12:13:57 -0500
Subject:        Re: Eliz. Accents

Though it is of course impossible to know what the Elizabethan accent
sounded like, there are some who are regarded as experts on the
subject.  John Barton has made an extensive study, and has concluded
that the accent mixed elements of Southern-ish "American" and Scottish
brogue.  On one Playing Shakespeare video, he actually speaks a
soliloquy in this hypothetical accent (I can't remember which tape or
which soliloquy at the moment).  Others insist that a straight
Appalachian dialect is truest, arguing that their almost complete
isolation has kept their accent "pure" for centuries.  The truth is
probably that, given the influx of people from around the globe, there
were a number of variants on the Elizabethan accent, and no one "true"
accent.

One thing we KNOW, however, is that no one went around speaking like
David Niven (barring, of course, some fantastic linguistic
coincidence).  Anyone who insists that Shakespeare must be spoken with
an aristocratic English accent is being patently absurd.  This attitude
stems from the worship of some dim idea of Victorian Shakespeare, the
same attitude which insists, against all evidence and logic, that
Shakespeare must be produced with pedagogic attention to historical
detail, because "that's the way Shakespeare did it."

David Skeele
Slippery Rock University

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Juul Muller-van Santen" <
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Date:           Monday, 27 Oct 1997 19:09:10
Subject: 8.1076  Re: Elizabethan Accents
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1076  Re: Elizabethan Accents

Yes, some people do try to reproduce Elizabethan accents. I confine this
to the classroom, as I teach. My students are interested, to an extent.

It's nice to see that people link this to period instruments. In fact,
the Dutch Early Music Movement got me interested. Dutch Baroque vocal
groups now ask me to help with the pronunciation of 16-17-18th C English
when anything from Dowland to Handel is being performed.  Undoubtedly
some of the things I do are wrong, but most of what I have learned comes
from E.J.Dobson, >English Pronunciation 1500-1700< Oxford U.P., second
ed. last printed in 1985, as far as I know.  This is a two-volume work,
with Volume I containing a survey of the (orthoepist) sources and Volume
II Dobson's sound-by-sound discussion. Fascinating stuff!

Julia Muller, Amsterdam

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Sirofchuck <
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Date:           Monday, 27 Oct 1997 03:58:00 -0800
Subject: 8.1073  Re: Elizabethan Accents
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1073  Re: Elizabethan Accents

In regard to Elizabethan accents, check out Program 2 "Mother Tongue"
of  The Story Of English video series that was on PBS a while ago and is
available commercially.  There are clips of native Brits and Americans
speaking in similar accents that are supposed to be similar to the
Elizabethan accent.

Mike Sirofchuck
Kodiak High School

P.S. I sent a post giving a source for obtaining the C-Span Trial of
Hamlet.  If you need that phone number, send me a note.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Monday, 27 Oct 1997 13:54:51 -0500
Subject: 8.1076  Re: Elizabethan Accents
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1076  Re: Elizabethan Accents

>I remember from forty years ago, Helge K:okeritz' book on Shakespearean
>pronunciation.  He was a historical linguist (Yale), and his work was
>then regarded as definitive.  Has he been disproved, or simply
>forgotten?  As I practiced the sounds he described, they came out as an
>Irish (not Scottish) brogue.

No, Norm, Kokeritz hasn't been forgotten. But any reconstruction of
accents from 500 years ago has to be conjectural. If you recall my
question about "th" some weeks ago, in F <italic>Troilus and
Cressida</italic> Antenor/Anthenor appears in both forms. Antenor
appears early in the script, and Anthenor later-and Anthenor appears
more often.  Did Shakespeare prefer the "th" form? And, if he did, how
did he vocalize the "th"? Obviously any answer to these questions must
be based on argument rather than voice recordings from the 16th century.
And the shift in spelling may be compositorial (or scribal) rather than
au"th"orial.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ronald Moyer <
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Date:           Monday, 27 Oct 1997 14:51:37 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 8.1076  Re: Elizabethan Accents
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1076  Re: Elizabethan Accents

Mr. Burt,

Hypothetical examples of Elizabethan accents are available from a
variety of sources, including _The Story of English_ (Peter Hall, as I
recall) and John Barton's _Playing Shakespeare_ videos.  While there is
a wonderful richness to the sound-a hint could usefully add relish to a
modern production, I think most audiences would find it curious and,
perhaps, a bit humorous and off-putting.

Regarding use of British accents, there seems no good reason for a
production in the USA to do so-except possibly playing with varieties of
accents in the histories (notably the mixture in H5).  Certainly an
American production adopting modern RP for Rome or Illyria seems
wrong-headed.  John Barton notes that Elizabethan pronunciation seems to
be "a funny mixture of West Country, Ireland, a bit of American," and
goes on to suggest, "I think that American is actually closer to
Elizabethan English than our current English speech.  That's ironic,
because American actors are often worried about not speaking what they
call Standard English, yet they're actually doing it closer to
Shakespeare's way than we are" (_Playing Shakespeare_, 53; the "Language
and Character" video).

Best,
Ron Moyer

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mary Jane Miller <
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Date:           Monday, 27 Oct 1997 16:12:39 -0500
Subject: 8.1076  Re: Elizabethan Accents
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1076  Re: Elizabethan Accents

As I recall, Tyrone Guthrie  said that he wanted the Canadian actors at
Stratford Ont. to use their own accents not some fake English or mid
Atlantic accent  (common in the 50's) because he thought their delivery
was closer to the Elizabethan originals  than mid 20th century English
accents were. Of course that also made the plays more accessible to the
audience - and did not particularly create problems when those accents
were played against those of Alec Guiness, Irene Worth or even  the
strange mix that was James Mason's. Jason Robards, on the other hand,
sounded very American indeed but when I look back that may also have
been playing style.

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin P. Newbegin <
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Date:           Monday, 27 Oct 1997 16:47:34 -0500
Subject:        ELIZABETHAN ACCENTS

Dear All,

Although I have no books or readings to suggest to the posed question on
the effects of differing accents in Shakespeare, I do however have some
feedback on the subject.  I recently watched a video version of "A
Midsummer Night's Dream" in which Puck was portrayed as having an
extremely cockneyed accent (and not to mention a very evil and
frightening nature too.)  Despite my distaste for this version of Puck,
I found myself very intrigued by his accent and felt that it added
greatly to the overall effect of his character.

I also recently watched a South African version of "Othello" that was
both filmed in and portrayed by South African actors.  With the over
bearing issue of racial tension and discrimination in South Africa, I
felt that to portray the characters with a S.A. accent was extremely
effective.  after recently studying in South Africa and witnessing first
hand the on-going racial tension there, I felt the accent made for an
even more powerful effect in respect to the build up of tension between
the characters in the play.

-Sincerely, Robin
 

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