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Shakespeare: Original Pronunciation vs. Modern English

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by

Hannah K

on 18 May 2014

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Transcript of Shakespeare: Original Pronunciation vs. Modern English

‘OP’ versus modern English
Original Pronunciation
While listening to OP tingles run down your back. You start to get caught up in the tragic play before you, and find yourself on the edge of your seat. You’ve been transported to a time where TV has not yet been invented, and where the only satisfying entertainment was Shakespeare’s plays.

This is what OP does to you.

While modern English seems to cut you off from the characters, OP enhances the reader’s, actors’, and audience’s connection to them. With OP actors no longer seem fake and robotic, but alive and expressive.
by: Hannah Karter
What is original pronunciation or ‘OP’?
OP is the pronunciation that would have been used for a play when presented to audiences of its time period.


Shakespeare: Original Pronunciation vs. Modern English
OP is the pronunciation that any play from the past, should be recited with. It is the play's accent, and though some people may not realize it, using modern English takes away from the authenticity and understanding of the play.




How does OP change the way a reader or audience interprets Shakespeare’s works?
Rhyme
Puns
Characterization
Tone
Mood
Rhyme
Rhyme are words that end with the same sound.

Have you ever recited Shakespeare’s work and thought ‘this word doesn’t fit’? That is probably because you missed a rhyme. Rhyming words must end in with the same sound. However, a rhyme that may work in OP, may not work in modern English. This is because the change in pronunciation, changes the sound of words too.

Puns
Puns are jokes made with homophones, words that sound that same but are spelled differently.


Shakespeare loves to make puns in his plays. He hides them discretely in witty ways. Yet, while using modern English these puns evade us. While a word may have once sounded the same as another, it no longer does with modern English.


Characterization
Characterization are the methods the author uses to make a character come to life.


The characterization of a character is on an actor’s or reader’s interpretation. Because pronunciation can change the meaning of words, different interpretations can be lost in modern English.


Tone
Tone is the attitude a writer has towards the reader, subject, or character.


With puns and new characterization discovered from OP, the tone changes too. A serious tone may become playful or disrespectful, just with a few tweaks. The tone of a play is based on an reader's or actor’s and director’s interpretation of the play. Since pronunciation changes the meaning of words, interpretations can differ in OP and modern English.


Mood
The mood is the atmosphere; the feel of the play.


The mood of Shakespeare’s work is greatly affected by OP. While in modern English it may be hard to understand or feel the atmosphere of Shakespeare’s work, it is easy with OP. The mood is affected by the tone, and characterization. Those two things both rely on the interpretation of the actors’ and readers’, which can be limited by modern English.


Shakespeare’s writing is famous for the rhyming style
A
B
A
B
C
D
C
D

E
F
E
F

GG
.
Each matching letter rhymes, as shown below:

Let me not to the marriage of true
minds
Admit impediments. Love is not
love
Which alters when it alteration
finds,
Or bends with the remover to
remove
:
O no; it is an ever-fixed
mark,

That looks on tempests, and is never
shaken;
It is the star to every wandering
bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be
taken
.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and
cheeks

Within his bending sickle's compass
come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and
weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of
doom.
If this be error and upon me
proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever
loved.
While reading the sonnet above you may have noticed that some word do not match the rhyming pattern. Well they do, just not in modern English. In OP remove is pronounced ‘
remuv’
,

doom is pronounced
‘dum’
, and proved is pronounced
‘pruved’
. Like this:

Let me not to the marriage of true
minds
Admit impediments. Love is not
love
Which alters when it alteration
finds,
Or bends with the remover to
remuv
:
O no; it is an ever-fixed
mark,

That looks on tempests, and is never
shaken;
It is the star to every wandering
bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be
taken
.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and
cheeks

Within his bending sickle's compass
come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and
weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of
dum.
If this be error and upon me
pruved,
I never writ, nor no man ever
loved.

See how it flows better? This is because the words now rhyme with the proper pronunciation.
'Tis but an
hour
ago since it was nine,
And after one
hour
more 'twill be eleven;
And so, from
hour
to
hour
, we
ripe
and
ripe
,
And then, from
hour
to
hour
, we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.'

Although this may passage seem like simple description of time, it is not. As David Crystal said, in OP the ‘h’ is silent. In original pronunciation hour would be pronounced ‘oar’. Subsequently, in OP whore is also pronounced as ‘oar’. Also, the definition of the word ripe is to be ready for something, usually fruits and vegetables for harvesting. However, it can be used as a sexual innuendo, meaning a woman that is ‘ready to be picked’ for intercourse. In OP the man speaking is talking about picking out whores for intercourse every hour.

This is one of Shakespeare’s many dirty puns hidden throughout his works.

OP uses a deeper tone then modern English. While modern English is higher and requires you to have a straight neck, OP involuntary causes you to bend your body and neck. If you are reciting Shakespeare as a play, this can influence the actors’ and audience’s interpretation of a character. It helps actor’s become their character, by releasing their bodies from the need to stand in one position to pronunciation their lines. The actor is now able to use full body language to express themselves to the audience, like many people do on a daily basic. This along with the revealed puns can change the interpretation of a character.
Emotional, right? Well listen to this OP version.
Those two recitations were from Henry V Act 3 Scene One. In the first video you may have noticed how the actor had to keep his neck straight throughout the video. The actor had to rush through the verse, to keep the angered emotion, but at the same time it took away from the listeners understanding. The OP version is not nearly as long, but it seems slower, and is easier to understand then the first video.

In both videos ‘Henry’ sounds angry. However, because the first video is rushed and uses a lighter tone, ‘Henry’ does not seem as angry as the OP ‘Henry’. In the OP version, the actor is able to easily manipulate his voice to crescendo and decrescendo, unlike the actor using modern English. These crescendos enhance the portrayal of Henry’s anger, from his outraged outbursts to his quiet wrath. This shows how OP can enhance and clarify the tone of a recitation.
In the first video of A Midsummer’s Night Dream Act 2 Scene 2 everything seems very tragic. Hermia has yet to catch her Demetrius, and believes she is ugly. However, Shakespeare is known for his comic reliefs within tragic moments of his plays. The actor in the second video plays with this as she acts out Hermia as an overemotional girl. With body language and facial expression the actor switches from one distrait emotion to the next. This coupled with the revealed rhymes using OP, creates a much lighter mood than in the first video.
"A Midsummer's Night Dream." SparkNotes. SparkNotes, n.d. Web. 18 May 2014. <http://nfs.sparknotes.com/msnd/page_60.html>.
"Henry V." SparkNotes. SparkNotes, n.d. Web. 18 May 2014. <http://nfs.sparknotes.com/henryv/page_88.html>.
"KU Theatre - Students perform Shakespeare in original pronunciation." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 18 May 2014. <
"SCENE VII. The forest.." SCENE VII. The forest.. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 May 2014. <http://shakespeare.mit.edu/asyoulikeit/asyoulikeit.2.7.html>.
"Shakespeare Sonnet 116 - Let me not to the marriage of true minds." Shakespeare Sonnet 116 - Let me not to the marriage of true minds. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 May 2014. <http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/116.html>.
"Shakespeare: Original pronunciation." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 18 May 2014. <
"Sonnet 116 - Original Pronunciation - Shakespeare on Toast." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 18 May 2014. <
"William Shakespeare - Henry V from Act 3 (OP)." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 18 May 2014. <
"William Shakespeare - Henry V from Act 3 (OP)." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 18 May 2014. <
"William Shakespeare - Henry V from Act 3 (OP)." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 18 May 2014. <
Works Cited
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