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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: June ::
Re: Accents and Pronunciation
The Shakespeare Conference: .  Monday, 23 June 1997.

[1]     From:   Joseph Tate <
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        Date:   Saturday, 21 Jun 1997 22:23:39 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0694  Re: Accents and Pronunciation

[2]     From:   Syd Kasten <
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        Date:   Sunday, 22 Jun 1997 16:50:07 +0200 (IST)
        Subj:   Accents and Pronunciation

[3]     From:   Dale Coye <
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        Date:   Sunday, 22 Jun 1997 10:10:39 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0694 Re: Accents and Pronunciation

[4]     From:   Phyllis Rackin <
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        Date:   Sunday, 22 Jun 1997 14:31:33 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0694  Re: Accents and Pronunciation

[5]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Monday, 23 Jun 1997 06:18:13 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 8.0694  Re: Accents and Pronunciation


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph Tate <
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Date:           Saturday, 21 Jun 1997 22:23:39 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 8.0694  Re: Accents and Pronunciation
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0694  Re: Accents and Pronunciation

Jonathan Hope writes:

> Joseph Tate suggests *Henry V* as a play which is 'aware' of the accents
> of its characters - in fact this was one of the plays I had in mind when
> I said that what treatment of accent there is in Shakespeare tends to be
> stereotyped.  I've always found the use of accents in the play unsubtle
> and tokenist - and consequently not very interesting.

To the modern ear, Shakespeare's treatment of the Scottish captain Jamy
could easily come across as unsubtle and tokenist:

        It sall be vary gud, gud feith, gud captens bath, and I sall quite
        you with gud leve, as I may pick occasion. That sall I, marry.
        (3.2.101-3)

Even Fluellen's "athversary" (3.2.60) and Macmorris's incessant "ish"
can be seen as uninteresting portraits of accents, I agree. Yet, accents
are used as they are not used in other plays. They may appear as
uninteresting representations to us, but in historical context they
could have remarkable jingoistic shadings. Macmorris, for example, can
come across as little more than a dolt: "so Chrish sa' me, la!"
(3.2.112).

Yes, it's not a question that the interpretation of accents have little
depth, but what does that tell us? How can the play get away with being
"unsubtle"? Or better yet, does it get away with being unsubtle?

Joseph Tate
U. of Washington, Seattle

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Syd Kasten <
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Date:           Sunday, 22 Jun 1997 16:50:07 +0200 (IST)
Subject:        Accents and Pronunciation

I'm not sure what he means by "tokenist".  *Henry V* has indeed struck
me as an example of Shakespeare's use and non-use of accents.  Princess
Katharine's accented English has to be taken in the context of her
natural French, and is clearly there to supply some innocent off colour
humour.  It will be later complemented by King Henry's proposal, which
gives him another human dimension and should endear him to anyone who
has tried to express a though of minimal complexity in a newly adopted
language.  The Welsh accents and usages in the context are clearly a
badge of honour.  Local English accents in other plays seem usually to
convey at least some serious social commentary. My question in their
regard is to what extent do they evoke the real thing.

What seems to my more interesting is that the enemy speaks a clear and
undistorted English.  So does the foreigner Othello, and the outsider
Shylock for other examples. What this says to me is that Shakespeare, if
not neutral, is at least fair, allowing the "bad guys" to express
themselves with eloquence.

I have to admit that in reading *Henry VIII* I detected the hint of a
strange rhythm in the speech of Queen Katharine, which I eventually
concluded was the remnant of her Spanish accent.  I found this substrate
to her eloquence as something that highlighted her plight as a pawn of
fate.  I certainly did not find it gross enough to be caricature.

Am I missing something similar in the cadences of the French in *Henry
V*?

Best wishes
Syd Kasten

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dale Coye <
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Date:           Sunday, 22 Jun 1997 10:10:39 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 8.0694 Re: Accents and Pronunciation
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0694 Re: Accents and Pronunciation

<< Furness comments that the last five lines originally rhymed,
(pronounced
 thus: beer, heer, appeer, deer, neer) but that we need not perform them
 in an "original" accent, because now there is a rhyming couplet
followed
 by a rhyming triplet.
  >>

Cercignani 1981 points out that in Eliz. Eng. many of these words (fear,
bear, dear) could vary between the vowel of bee and the vowel of bay,
and Shk used them both ways, just as he did the final vowel in words
like melody, which could rhyme with bee, or buy.

On the subject of dialect speech, the Shk's spelling is certainly
stereotyped in places, with the Welsh Evans for example showing
confusion with the f and v phonemes, which I believe (correct me someone
if I'm wrong) is not a feature of Welsh English, but outsiders sometimes
think it is because the phoneme v is spelled f in Welsh (Dafydd is
David).

Dale Coye
Princeton NJ

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Phyllis Rackin <
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Date:           Sunday, 22 Jun 1997 14:31:33 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 8.0694  Re: Accents and Pronunciation
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0694  Re: Accents and Pronunciation

About 99 years ago, when I was in graduate school, we read A. C. Baugh's
*History of the English Language*, which, in a section called "The Great
Vowel Shift," declares, "most of the long vowels had acquired at least
by the sixteenth century (and probably earlier) approximately their
present pronunciation.  The most important development that has taken
place since is . . . [that] whereas in Shakespeare *clean* was
pronounced like our *lane*, it now rimes with *lean*.[At this point
Baugh adds a note: "A pronunciation approximating that of today was
apparently in use among some speakers but was considered substandard."]
The change occurred at the end of the seventeenth century and had become
general by the middle of the eighteenth."  [Another note here:  "There
are three exceptions: *break*, *great*, *steak*"]

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Monday, 23 Jun 1997 06:18:13 -0400
Subject: Re: Accents and Pronunciation
Comment:        SHK 8.0694  Re: Accents and Pronunciation

I can't agree with Jonathan Hope that the use of accents in Henry V is
'unsubtle and tokenist' and 'not very interesting'. Fluellen's 'Welsh'
accent makes a massively important political point. For instance, it
underlines the fact that he speaks English, not Welsh. He thus on one
level embodies the ramshackle notion of unity and common purpose lying
at the heart of Henry's agenda. Isn't the play's careful and disturbing
probing of that project one of its major concerns?

Terence Hawkes
 

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