The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0170 Friday, 12 April 2013
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