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Elizabethan Pronunciation Question


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0170  Friday, 12 April 2013


From:        David Frankel < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         April 11, 2013 3:57:02 PM EDT

Subject:     Elizabethan Pronunciation Question


The actor playing Claudius in my upcoming production of Hamlet surprised me the other night on the following line:


Bow, stubborn knees, and heart with strings of steel,

Be soft as sinews of the newborn babe!


He pronounced “bow” like the weapon, connecting the idea of the bow with the “strings” (as bow strings).  Is there any evidence that the two senses of “bow” (the weapon and the bend of the knees) were pronounced the same way around 1600?  If they weren’t, does the pronunciation my actor used make sense?


I’m inclined to argue against it (and to use the bending version), but wanted to make sure I was on level ground.



C. David Frankel

Assistant Director of Theatre

School of Theatre and Dance

University of South Florida


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