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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: May ::
Re: Pronunciation
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0481  Wednesday, 20 May 1998.

[1]     From:   Louis Marder <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 May 1998 17:14:41 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Pronunciation

[2]     From:   Peter Groves <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 May 1998 14:30:32 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0477  Re: Pronunciation

[3]     From:   Jonathan Hope <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 May 1998 10:18:04 +0000 (GMT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0477  Re: Pronunciation

[4]     From:   Juul Muller-van Santen <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 May 1998 10:40:34
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0477  Re: Pronunciation


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Louis Marder <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 May 1998 17:14:41 -0500
Subject:        Re: Pronunciation

I was a student of Alfred Harbage when he was at Columbia University.
He pronounced Wriothesley as Rizley, i.e,. Rizlee. I have also heard
Roseley. Louis Marder, Shakespeare Data Bank  
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[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Groves <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 May 1998 14:30:32 +1000
Subject: 9.0477  Re: Pronunciation
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0477  Re: Pronunciation

> About pronunciation, how would you say that Wriothesley is pronounced?
> Henry, that is, friend of Shakespeare.

Daniel Jones (who records a rather old-fashioned RP) gives it as ROTTsli
(for lack of IPA symbols in ASCII).

Peter Groves
Department of English
Monash University

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jonathan Hope <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 May 1998 10:18:04 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: 9.0477  Re: Pronunciation
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0477  Re: Pronunciation

I've been continuing this discussion with Andrew Gurr off-list, and it
turns out that there is no intention to perform in 'original' accents -
the intention is to have examples of Early Modern pronunciation in the
museum there.

To take up David Lindley's point, I react, probably a bit too violently,
against notions of 'original' Shakespearean accents for the following
reasons:

1) There is a tendency for discussions to slide towards a notion that
there was one 'Early Modern English accent'.  We know, however, that
there were regional and class differences - and there were big changes
going on in English phonology at the time.  So if we are going to
reconstruct an Early Modern accent, we need to specify whose.

2)  Actors can 'do' current English accents with varying degrees of
success - but even the best have to work hard at it, usually with native
speakers of the target accent.  There are reconstructions of possible
Early Modern accents (Barber gives some in *Early Modern English*), and
even recordings of examples (Denis Freeborn's *From Old English to
Standard English* has an accompanying tape), but there are no native
Early Modern speakers to check against.

3)  But let's say a brilliant cast could learn some of the possible
accents, and were given the time to do so.  What would we get out of
it?  To most current English speakers, Early Modern reconstructions
sound like rural accents  (because of the presence of post-vocalic 'r')
- and carry connotations of low class status, and low intelligence.
Connotations which certainly wouldn't have been present in the Early
Modern period. So for all the effort, we'd just end up sending the wrong
signals to the audience - because the social significations of the
features of Early Modern English have changed.

Better, I think, to try to do more interesting things with current
accents (as Northern Broadside do), since there is more awareness of
what the accents 'mean'.

Also better to spend time and money, if they're available, teaching a
cast what the words mean, rather than different ways to pronounce them,
but don't get me started on actors not knowing what the words mean....

Jonathan Hope
Middlesex University

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Juul Muller-van Santen <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 May 1998 10:40:34
Subject: 9.0477  Re: Pronunciation
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0477  Re: Pronunciation

I wholeheartedly agree with David Lindley on the subject of 'authentic'
pronunciation. I have acted as Early [Modern] English coach to music
groups like Leonhardt's and Ton Koopman's and also to many individual
singers for years now. An effort to achieve pronunciation as close as
possible to what the author/composer was hearing in his or her mind
leads to better understanding of texts (puns!) and better timing.
Intonation and sentence/line stress go with correct pronunciation. This
holds true for verse without music as well.

The fact that one probably won't get it completely right doesn't seem to
me a good reason for not trying. In practice, it turns out that the
extra attention paid to pronunciation often leads to unexpected insights
as to performance on the part of the singers and/or actors.

One does of course have to make concessions so that the audience will
know what they are hearing. Such is life.

Julia Muller
 

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