Original Pronunciation

English language texts in period speech

This site is devoted to the production or performance of works from earlier periods of English spoken in original pronunciation (OP) – that is, in an accent that would have been in use at the time.

David CrystalDavid Crystal

The present-day movement to perform works in OP began in 2004, when David Crystal collaborated with Shakespeare’s Globe in an OP production of Romeo and Juliet. This was so successful that the following year the Globe mounted a production of Troilus and Cressida in OP. Subsequent interest from American enthusiasts led to OP Shakespeare events in New York, Virginia, and Kansas, ranging from evenings of extracts to full productions. As only a handful of works have so far been performed in OP, interest is growing worldwide to explore the insights that the approach can provide.

I’m sure there must be other OP initiatives around the world, and until now there has been no place where they can be brought together. The time thus seems right to provide a website where people can find out about OP, archive their events, announce plans, and share their experiences of working with it and listening to it.


Although Shakespeare was the stimulus for current interest in OP, the notion is much broader. Any period of English history can be approached in this way, and indeed there have been several projects where people have tried to reconstruct the pronunciation of earlier works in Old and Middle English, notably for Chaucer. The British Library exhibition, Evolving English, which ran from November 2010 to April 2011, had an audio dimension which included OP extracts from Beowulf, Caxton, Chaucer, and the Paston letters, as well as Shakespeare. The 2011 anniversary of the King James Bible also prompted readings in OP, some of which can be found on this site.

More than literature is involved. There are opportunities for people interested in the vocal dimension of early English music, as well as for those involved in heritage projects which present original practices, such as Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts. Examples from these perspectives include an OP rendering of vocal music by William Byrd and of the songs that appear in Shakespeare’s plays.


It’s important to appreciate that there is no ‘single’ OP. All periods of English contain many accents, and this allows for variant OP performances. The evidence that allows us to reconstruct what was the case is often mixed, and choices have to be made about which sound qualities to go for. Variations in spelling can point us in different directions. Observations by contemporaries can indicate that some words had different pronunciations (as they have today). Deductions by historical linguists can reach different conclusions about the quality of a sound. Any attempt to reconstruct an earlier period of pronunciation is based on as much scientific evidence as is available, but inevitably involves a certain amount of guesswork. The more OP illustration and discussion we have, therefore, the sooner we will be able to arrive at a consensus about best practice.

This site therefore aims to act as a first point of call for those interested in promoting an OP dimension to their activities. It will include only work that is grounded in a serious investigation of the sound system of a period. There are plenty of comic pastiches of the ‘ye oldee speech’ kind and wild imaginings of how people once spoke, such as the ‘oo-arr’ voices traditionally given to pirates. These will not be found here.

  1. David Crystal says: July 12, 20207:21 pm

    Proper names are usually a problem for OP, as they’re so prone to personal idiosyncrasy (as they are today); but I think we can rely on hints from older spellings of Biblical names, which are likely to have been more conservative. The online OED can be helpful, as it usually shows spelling variations. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I treat the names as following the same sound system as any other word – so Messiah with a centralised diphthong, Jehovah with a pure /o:/ vowel, and Jah the same as today. The only likely difference is Selah, which today has a long vowel, but in OP probably had a short /e/ as in set (there’s a similar example in east, pronounced /est/).

  2. Bianca H. says: July 12, 20206:18 pm

    Dear David,

    I’ve been working on recording music from the Ainsworth and Allison Psalters from around 1600 and have been attempting to use OP by working from your Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation and videos of you and Ben I’ve found online. I’m currently working on Psalm 84 from Ainsworth’s Psalter, but don’t know how to pronounce words like Messiah, Jehovah, Selah, and Jah. Do you know how they might have been pronounced, and could you recommend a resource for working with these names and words particular to biblical texts?

    Many Thanks!

  3. David Crystal says: May 15, 20204:47 pm

    Yes, OP goes down very well in schools. I’ve only ever illustrated it to A-level students, but son Ben has illustrated it many times for younger kids. They love it because it’s closer to their own accents, in most cases, than when they hear RP. And they especially like the way the rhymes work.

    Take a look at the paper I wrote for a collection on teaching the English language that appeared in 2017: ‘Teaching original pronunciation’. You can read it on my website: go to Books and Articles, filter on Shakespeare, and scroll down a bit.

  4. Edward Perrins says: May 15, 20202:06 pm

    Dear David,

    I hope you are keeping well in this peculiar time. I am a trainee English teacher with a background in Linguistics. I am currently completing a research piece for my PGCE, and I am exploring how OP could be used in the classroom, as an integral part of the curriculum, to enhance pupil engagement in learning Shakespeare.

    I wondered if you had any thoughts on this, whether you were aware of any initiatives to bring OP into schools, or if other education professionals have discussed or trialled teaching Shakespeare and using OP either to add to student’s knowledge of the texts or be able to reinterpret them through the new meanings that OP brings to light.

    Thank you for bringing such an interesting linguistic and historical discovery to the forefront. As a Linguist and a lover of Literature, the findings around OP research interests me endlessly.

    Best wishes,

    Edward Perrins

  5. David Crystal says: April 6, 20207:48 pm

    I’ve never studied the N Am evolution, but what you say seems right. Not just London speech, though. There were several dialects in the English of the Mayflower settlers, for example. If you get in touch with Paul Meier (www.dialectsarchive.com), he might have some relevant observations.

  6. Rich Rhodes says: April 5, 20202:38 am

    I’ve been using OP as a starting point for looking at the development of North American dialects, in a class I teach. The timing is right 1607-1690. The continued influence of London speech throughout the colonies is provable from the spread of r-vocalization in the period around the American War of Independence. Have you considered looking at N. American dialects as potential evidence for the pronunciation of particular words that might lack attestation in crucial environments in the Shakespearean record? I noticed that OP “our” is with [o] rather than [əʊ] which the forms in N. America would point to.

  7. David Crystal says: March 7, 202010:55 pm

    Interesting question. A few people have told me they’ve experimented with selective OP – for certain characters or for certain lines or scenes. I saw this in practice working with Ralph Fiennes when he was playing Richard III. He felt that in the last scenes, when Richard has his back against the wall, it would be interesting to have him revert to his roots – which might have been a modern Yorkshire, but he preferred to try the lines in OP. I suppose the principle isn’t any different from the multilingual production of Dream from India some years ago, where characters switched from their mother-tongue into and out of English. But the decision has to be a dramaturgical one. As a linguist, all I can do is draw attention to the possibilities: it’s up to the director and actors to decide how to exploit them. But as a playgoer, I do think the need for intelligibility should always be respected, so I’d be inclined to support your intuition in such cases. And if it doesn’t work, for some reason, then – well, we’ve learned something.

  8. Jane Emma Barnett says: March 7, 20209:06 pm

    Hello David!

    I’m curious about your thoughts in the occasional employment of OP in a production that would otherwise be performed in a contemporary dialect. For example, if a certain pun or rhyme scheme was understood only in OP, do you think it would be grievously distracting to utilize the sounds of OP in only those words? In other words, is it necessary to perform entirely in one dialect if it means sacrificing understanding of certain rhymes, wordplay. etc.?

    Thank you!
    Jane Emma

  9. David Crystal says: January 28, 20204:28 pm

    Yes, there are several online sources, such as the one from the International Phonetic Association:

  10. Thomas Brown says: January 28, 20203:26 pm

    Thanks for catching that. I’ll take note of it. I suppose I will have to learn at least the small roster of IPA symbols you used in the “streamlined” notation in your 2005 book. Is there a source for downloading the IPA symbols that I can put into my early-spelling scripts?

  11. David Crystal says: January 27, 202010:45 pm

    Thanks for this. Yes, I know several actors who have developed an individual respelling system, and if it helps, good luck to them! The main problem with a person-based system is that it may not travel well, as people from a different accent background will interpret the respellings differently. That’s where the IPA wins, as anyone who has learned it can be sure it will be interpreted in the same way everywhere. But individual systems, such as yours, can have great personal value for people who have a similar phonology.
    Your transcription reads well – but note that there’s no ‘ch’ in natural.

  12. Thomas Brown says: January 27, 20209:55 pm

    Hi David,

    Now that I am cast as a character in an OP production (Kent in “Lear” at the BSF), I finally got around to starting your “Pronouncing Shakespeare” book, which I’ve had since 2008. I quickly found your comments on annotation, about having considered and rejected modern-letter spellings in favor of the IPA.

    I had already experimented with such re-spellings for my own use. I believe that, while the result is certainly imperfect, it provides a fairly helpful version I can read aloud quickly, and correct for the phonic parallax. I’m getting better at sight-unseen pronouncing text in OP, but do a whole lot better when reading my spelled-out text because it at least reminds me of all the little things I often botch.

    Here is one of my attempts, the famous Hamlet passage:

    Ta beh, uhr not ta beh, that is the Questeeun :  
    Hwether ’tis Nohbler in the muhynd ta suhffer
    Th’ Slings an’ Aaras of ohtrageeus Fortun,
    Uhr ta tehk Aarmes agehnst a Seh a trohbbels,
    An’ bai opposin’, end ‘um : ta dai, ta slehp
    Na mahr ; an’ bai a slehp, to seh weh end
    The Haart-ehk, an’ dha t’ohsan’ Natch’rall shocks
    Thet Flesh is eyre ta ? ‘Tis a cahnsuhmehseeun
    Devohtlai ta beh wish’d. Ta dai, ta slehp,
    Ta slehp, parchaunce ta Drehm ; Ai, dhehre’s the ruhb,
    Fuhr in dhat slehp a’ dehth, hwut drehmes meh cohm,  
    Hwen weh have shufflel’d ahf this mahrtall cuhyl,
    Muhst give ‘s pahz.

    I only need to bear in mind a couple rules to read it, like: if the terminal “-y” is spelled “ai” (bai, mai) the “a” takes the schwa sound as in “about.” (This is, after all, the sound in ‘ta’ in unaccented syllables throughout.) And the “i” is the European i, as in “vino.”

    I used “uhi” or “uhee” at first, before trying “ai.”

    I welcome your comments. It is quite a pickle. But since many folks don’t have the time* to learn the IPA symbols, and can’t readily type them, and since we use early-spelling texts cut for production, even the fully-IPA-transcribed texts available (thank you!) won’t be usable in practicum, for us anyway. So I may keep at it.

    Be well.

    *maybe “can’t be bothered” is more often accurate, but in my case I run a custom woodworking business with five employees, live in an 1860’s house in constant need of work, and pursue the Plays in my “spare time.” Oy.

  13. David Crystal says: December 19, 20194:45 pm

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there were such comments, but I’ve never come across anything. The very slow rate of change (it wasnt a ‘shift’ in any sudden sense) over at least two generations may have made it not so noticeable.

  14. David Crystal says: December 19, 20194:42 pm

    Well, only if one breaks the rhyming convention of the text, which is couplets. It wouldn’t be a perfect rhyme, but it’s certainly close.

  15. Kate Gladstone says: December 19, 201912:10 am

    While the Great Vowel Shift was going on, did anyone ever notice and complain about “what the younger people are doing to our language,” as people often complain today?

  16. Kate Gladstone says: December 18, 201911:47 pm

    “Sphere” seems explicable on the grounds of “there” three lines earlier.

  17. David Crystal says: October 30, 201910:20 am

    I give this point quite a bit of space in the introduction to my Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakesperean Pronunciation. There are only 269 rhymes that don’t work perfectly out of the 7000 that do, in OP. And of those, 168 differ by only one distinctive feature, including many instances where the phonetic distinction is so slight that the rhymes might well have been perceived to be identical (eg /s/ vs /z/ in cases like amiss/is and precise/flies, where the final /z/ would have had some degree of devoicing). The remaining pairs include 71 instances separated by two distinctive features (eg favour/labour – labio-dental vs bilabial, fricative vs plosive), 29 by three (eg opportunity/infamy – voiceless, alveolar, plosive vs voiced, bilabial, nasal), and one by four (readiness/forwardness – mid-high, front, unrounded, short vs mid-low, back, rounded, long).The best example I know of a plausible visual rhyme is in Sonnet 81, ‘Which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read / When all the breathers of this world are dead.’ Visual rhymes were not fashionable – nor reliable, given the uncertain spellings of the day.

  18. Eduardo Esavoa says: October 30, 20192:21 am

    Dear Professor,
    I’m interested to know whether Shakespeare employed various rhyme patterns in his plays and sonnets, such as: slant rhyme, lazy rhyme, identical rhyme etc. or did he just use “perfect rhyme”? It seems that there were many examples of slant rhymes in his works, but I’m not familiar what the pronunciation of that time. Can you enlighten me?

    Thank you.

  19. David Crystal says: September 23, 20198:38 am

    The best way of developing an intuition about a dialect is to study the underlying phonology, i.e. the sound system. In a historical case, the easiest way is to draw up a table in which one column lists all the sounds in the modern system (using whatever accent you know best) and the other lists the historical equivalents. So, for example, any word that contains the diphthong heard in modern English may, say, way, etc will be a monophthong with a more open sound, like the vowel at the beginning of RP ‘air’. /r/ will always be pronounced after vowels. And so on. I give a simplified introduction to the phonology in my Pronouncing Shakespeare. There’s a very large literature in English historical phonology, and I refer to some of it in the introduction to my Oxford Dictionary.

    There’s no quick way to learn word-stress, as there’s so much variation based on the position of a word in a line. So yes, the best way of mastering that is to read as much verse as possible – but not necessarily in original spelling. The stress patterns will manifest themselves in modern editions.

    Listening to modern accents (e.g.on Paul Meier’s IDEA site) will help develop a sharper awareness of the nature of sound differences in English, and some will show echoes of OP, but remember that OP isn’t identical with any of them. No modern accent sounds the -tion ending as ‘see-on’, for instance.

  20. Ryan S says: September 20, 20191:26 pm

    Hi David,

    I was wondering if you had any advice on how to best improve the ability to intuitively guess the pronunciation of individual words and reduce the amount of words looked up in OP dictionaries.

    I’ve been listening and re-listening to the OP recordings I have from you and others, after that would it make sense to start reading long poems in their original spelling, and using the rhymes and meter to start building an intuitive sense of where the stress probably was and what words they rhymed with?

    Are there specific texts or sources that were most helpful for the linguists who did the work of getting down pronunciations of specific words?

    Would listening to different modern English dialects possibly help as well, or do you think that would be more likely to cause interference?

  21. David Crystal says: September 6, 20198:36 am

    prove, approve, move, remove… all had a short vowel, like the one in love. See my Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakesperean Pronunciation for all the instances in the canon.

  22. Shane Hartry says: September 5, 201911:52 pm

    Hello professor. I am playing Kent in an upcoming production of King Lear. In lines 211 and 212 he seems to clearly rhyme “approve” and “love”. How would these have been pronounced so that they would rhyme?

  23. David Crystal says: August 4, 20195:15 pm

    This has come up a couple of times before (if you scroll down on this page, or search for Blake or Tyger); but I’ve got a separate section on it in my Sounds Appealing,if you want to see a fuller discussion.

  24. Thad Suirs says: August 4, 20194:06 pm

    In this connection, how long might the -ly ending have preserved a diphthongal quality? I am thinking of Blake’s “The Tiger” with it’s eye/symmetry rhyme as a possible late example.
    Thank you.

  25. David Crystal says: July 28, 20198:40 am

    The s vs z contrast (in items like use, abuse, excuse…) was there in Middle English. Rhymes in Shakespeare show the contrast too: excuses (n) with e.g. sluices in Lucrece, and excused (v) with accused in MA. See the Oxford Dictionary for a complete list. So, if you take the Cor instance as a noun, then it would be /s/.

  26. Anthony says: July 28, 20196:10 am

    Hello Professor Crystal,

    I am currently in a rehearsals for a production of Coriolanus and I have a question about the pronunciation of the word ‘excuse’. On line 101 of the Arden Shakespeare edition Virgilia says, “Give me excuse, good madam, I will obey you in everything hereafter. ”
    Would “excuse” be pronounced with a z sound (as in accuse) or with a soft -ess sound (access)?

    Thanks muchly,

  27. David Crystal says: June 18, 201910:31 am

    Nice to hear of your interest, Theo. Counterfeit would have ended to rhyme with set – indeed, exactly that rhyme turns up in the Sonnet 53 (and unset in Sonnet 16). The spellings of the word are very variable, but –fet is found, as is counterfetting.

  28. Theo Antonov says: June 18, 201910:18 am

    Dear David,
    I am an undergraduate student at the University of Bristol reading English. Recently I took a Shakespeare module, and I found some of your research very interesting. I wrote about how OP can contribute to our understanding of Shakespeare’s dramatic works in my final assessment. I just wanted to contact you to thank you for your work. Furthermore, I wonder how the word ‘counterfeit’ might be pronounced in OP? I had in mind Falstaff’s speech in 1 Henry IV Act V Scene iv ll. 110-127 where he stabs the body of Hotspur.
    Theo Antonov

  29. David Crystal says: April 21, 20198:47 am

    Many examples of the time (most famously, Oberon’s speech ‘purple dye’ speech) indicate that the -ly ending must have had a diphthongal quality, as well as an emerging pure vowel quality (the one RP eventually adopted), so yes, this pair of lines would have rhymed. John Hart, in his Orthographie (1569-70) is one who transcribes the syllable in a way that suggests a diphthong: boldlei, sertenlei, partlei, etc.

  30. Name says: April 19, 20198:52 pm

    Hi David, I have been asking myself whether the last syllable of ‘eternally’ in John Donne’s sonnet “Death, be not proud”, has been affected by the Great Vowel shift after the poem was written. Otherwise, the final rhyming couplet (‘eternally’ l.13 – ‘die’ l.14), which is so typical of the Shakespearean sonnet would be missing in this poem.
    I hope you can answer my question.
    Many Thanks!

  31. David Crystal says: April 14, 20197:43 am

    Yes, I think these features would have been a characteristic. No postvocalic r in Derbyshire today, as in most of the North, so that’s an open question. Short a still there, though.

  32. Chathan Vemuri says: April 13, 20198:22 am

    I see. That’s very interesting regarding this refined accent from the late 18th century that you mention, which still used the postvocalic r and the short a. Fielding, Richardson, Sterne, Swift, etc would have written before this so I’m guessing postvocalic R would probably have been strong in at least some of them. Idk about Richardson as he was from Derbyshire in the East Midlands and I don’t know if postvocalic rs and short as would have been used there. Another reason I ask is I’m interested in the shared roots of American and British English in this period, the nature of their divergence and to what extent the accent patterns in the colonies and Great Britain would have still more or less resembled each other in the accents of educated speech (as opposed to more regional and colloquial accents) before the rise of RP around 1800 or thereabouts and the general evolution of American English from 1800 onwards as well?

  33. Matt Petersen says: April 10, 201910:29 pm

    Thank you very much!

    I would very much be interested in the recording on Purcell.

    I am familiar with at least some attempts to use your work for singing, and have very much enjoyed them.

    One very interesting (and lovely) feature of some is that vowels that would, in spoken OP, have been r-colored, are sung with the r-coloration, even though, in modern classical singing diction, r-coloration is dropped. (This may, partially, be because neither RP nor Mid-Atlantic have r-coloration.) The r-coloration does show up in some modern folk singing, (I’m thinking in particular of some of Tim Eriksen’s Sacred Harp songs); but I’d be curious to know if you have any thoughts on its presence in sung English of the 17th and 18th centuries. (Though, admittedly, that’s not exactly a linguistic question.)

  34. David Crystal says: April 8, 201910:23 pm

    There are some examples of people who have had a go at these composers in OP, in the archive page of this website, and the feedback I’ve had about their performances certainly supports your intuition. As for materials… I put together a recording, focused on Purcell, a while back, and I can send this via Dropbox to anyone interested in this period. Contact me at davidcrystal1@icloud.com.

  35. David Crystal says: April 8, 201910:18 pm

    RP as we know it today didn’t emerge until the turn of the century, around 1800. A refined accent was being taught by the elocutionists in the last few decades of the 1700s, and John Walker captures aspects of it in his Critical Pronouncing Dictionary in the 1790s. But a postvocalic /r/ was still there in Walker, and lasted into the next century. So certainly, local accents would have still been present, though doubtless modified by living in London. Similarly, they probably wouldn’t have used the other very noticeable feature of RP, the long /a/ as in ‘bath’. Difficult to be more precise without contemporary personal descriptions.

  36. Matt Petersen says: April 8, 20198:53 pm

    I am interested in learning to sing Purcell and Handel in their original pronunciation. Do you know any resources on that? In particular, I’m finding relatively little on 18th century pronunciation–especially on how their class would have affected their singing. (Ben Crystal comments on how his RP Shakespeare can sound like it’s only from the head up, and that using OP makes the language much more earthy: Singers of Handel often end up, similarly, sounding like they’re only singing from the head up; and I think changing the accent may fix that.)

  37. Chathan Vemuri says: April 6, 201912:36 am

    Dear Professor Crystal,

    Hi, I hope you’re doing well. My name is Chathan Vemuri and I’m a 29 year old law student in Chicago, IL, US with a strong interest and passion for English literature. I love your demonstrations of original pronunciation in Shakespeare’s era as well as the history of English accents so I thought perhaps you’d be a good person to ask about this. I don’t know if you work on this particularly but perhaps you might know more than me.

    I’ve often wondered about accents of key authors in the 18th century, the last century in England where rhoticity seems to have been somewhat prevalent in different varieties of regional speech before the rise of RP towards the end of the century and beginning of the next. I watch period dramas based on the work of Henry Fielding, Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, Jonathan Swift and Laurence Sterne, yet all use a standard RP for the characters’ accents, except for some characters. Do you know if modern “RP” would have been used by these authors inasmuch as they were working in London? Or would they have rather used their own regional accents that they grew up with? So for instance Fielding would have spoken with a Somersetshire accent with its hard r or Samuel Richardson maybe with a southern English accent?

    I apologize if any of this sounds like a stupid question and I look forward to hearing your reply if you’re available to answer this.

    Chathan Vemuri

  38. David Crystal says: February 13, 201912:58 pm

    No, it would be ABBA, but not very noticeably so.The lay/obey pair had a mid-open front vowel (close to the sound at the beginning of air). The tree/be pair had a quality closer to the present-day vowel in these words, slightly more open, but enough to distinguish this vowel from the other one.

  39. Olivia Hurton says: February 13, 201912:51 pm

    Hi David,

    I’m reading Shakespeare’s ‘The Phoenix and Turtle’ for the first time and it has struck me that although critics have identified the first section of the poem as having enclosed rhymes (ABBA), the first stanza seems to be mono-rhyme in OP (lay/tree/be/obey). Please could you confirm this!

    Best wishes,


  40. David Crystal says: February 3, 20199:34 am

    Indeed. Incidentally, the ee spelling in bear was very common in the Middle Ages, with several variants, such as beeyre. The ea spelling is the norm in the First Folio.

  41. Thomas Brown says: February 3, 20194:05 am

    Hi. The other day I came across an excellent one-word argument for OP:

    The famous 1647 View of London by Hollar shows the Glode Theatre and a Bear-Baiting Arena… although I’ve heard they are labeled backward. The thing is, the latter’s label spells bear, “Beere.” Certainly the OP for that spelling is consonant with the modern word. But we also have a word “beer!” So in modern pronunciation (MP?”) the label could easily be read “Beer Garden,” which is not even just plain innocent nonsense, it is actually misleadingly incorrect!

    If so much damage can be done to a single word on a drawing, how much more can befall the Canon by pronouncing it in MP?

  42. David Crystal says: January 28, 20199:27 pm

    Lots of evidence in the rhymes that haste was pronounced hast, to rhyme with fast, last etc – all with short ‘a’ vowels as in northern British accents. And then lezer and plezer to follow. Very nice sound.

  43. Kai LeFranc says: January 28, 20198:59 pm

    Hi David,
    My choir is working on Thomas Morley’s “Sing We and Chant It,” and I’m wondering about the pronunciation of “hasteth” in the lines “Not long youth lasteth, / And old age hasteth; / Now is best leisure / To take our pleasure.” It seems like most groups pronounce this HASTE-eth, which just sounds ugly and wrong especially since each other pair of lines clearly rhymes. (as here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciIvhB-zTfc)

    Any ideas? Should lasteth and hasteth rhyme here? And if so, how?

  44. David Crystal says: January 24, 201910:44 am

    Do you mean how was Othello pronounced in OP? There would have been two pronunciations. The popular one would be Otello – no ‘th’ (as in modern Irish accents). Spellings show that medial ‘th’ was often pronounced ’t’, as in words like ‘apothecary’. But people who could read, and who would be influenced by the spelling, would have pronounced the ‘th’.

  45. Lewis Baker says: January 21, 201911:49 am

    Hi David,

    I am writing an essay for my English literature A-Level and the question is whether Othello should be written in OP. I would just like to know your opinion and whether this can help my essay and develop it further.

    Thanks in advance,


  46. David Crystal says: December 5, 20188:29 pm

    Yes, this is a good rhyme. The -y ending of words like company (and of course throughout Oberon’s ‘purple dye’ speech) had the same diphthong as in eye – though, being in an unstressed syllable, it would be said more quickly.

  47. Ylva Öhrnell says: December 5, 20184:58 pm

    Hello David! I would just like to ask you about a line from Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”!

    “And thence from Athens turn away our eyes
    To seek new friends and stranger companies”

    This is one of Hermia’s lines, quite early in the play. I would just like to ask about the pronounciation of the word “companies”. I found it quite odd these two verses didn’t rhyme, given that all of the others do, at least when pronounced in modern English. Did “companies” have a differnt pronounciation during the Elizabethan Era? And if so, how did it sound?

    Thank you in advance for your help! (And I do apologize for my English, as I am not a native speaker)

  48. David Crystal says: November 28, 201810:11 am

    Replacement of /wh/ by /w/ is referred to by several writers over a long period of time. It was going on in Middle English in some dialects, but doesn’t attract real attention until the 18th century. It seems clear that at the beginning of the century the merger was taking place, e.g. John Jones in his Practical Phonography (1701) says that ‘what, when etc [are] sounded wat, wen, etc by some’. By the time of George Johnston (in his Pronouncing and Spelling Dictionary 1764), ‘the h is very little heard’. Not everyone liked it. John Walker in his Critical Pronouncing Dictionary (1791) says that ‘not sounding h after w‘ is a fault of Londoners. He is thinking mainly of Cockneys. But slowly the vulgar associations disappeared. The merger begins in the south among educated people and moves north (but not as far as Scotland). I grew up in North Wales and never had it. So whether you recognize it in the early 18th century will depend on your interpretation of the social setting.

    The ‘see-an’ pronunciation of -tion etc had long gone. This was already ‘shee-an’ in the 17th century. It is routinely recorded as ‘shun’ in 18th century dictionaries

    As for your timbre question… No idea. I doubt it.

  49. John Toyne says: November 28, 20186:16 am

    Hello, David

    I’ve been away for a few days and have just read your reply to the Queen Anne question. Thanks.

    One or two questions that I forgot to ask. Was the wine/whine merger completed by then in England ? Or was the distinction still more or less preserved, as it is (for instance) in Scotland/Ireland today ?

    What about the -cian/-sion pronunciation ?

    And beyond all that…. is it possible early 1700s voices had in general a timbre or quality that would strike us as odd if we could somehow hear them ?

    Once again, many thanks

    John Toyne

  50. David Crystal says: November 26, 20186:38 pm

    It certainly is (to answer your last question first). As for resources, there are two from me. One is the audio file accompanying the third edition of The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, out this week, which has some recordings of Caxton and others from that time. Info via the CUP website. And then there’s my recording of the Tyndale Matthew Gospel, available on CD from the British Library, which has an OP from around 1530. Hope these will help.

  51. Ryan S says: November 26, 20185:25 pm

    Hello David,

    I really enjoy your recordings of Shakespeare, and I’ve also been listening to any Middle English recordings I can find. I’d like to learn to read transitional texts between these periods and texts immediately after Shakespeare in their original pronunciation and possibly do my own recordings one day. Do you have any advice for resources to learn how the pronunciation would be at the various stages from Middle to Early Modern, to Modern English? Is it feasible to learn a decent pronunciation of these as an amateur enthusiast?

  52. David Crystal says: November 24, 20187:31 pm

    By then it as well on its way to sounding like Modern English, but some properties of Shakespearean OP were still there, notably the pronunciation of /r/ after vowels, which lasted until the early 1800s. Short /a/ (in bath, father, etc.) would still have been there too. And lots of stress differences in polysyllabic words – as shown a few decades later in John Walker’s Dictionary. Certainly enough to make the accent of the early 1700s sound different to what we have today.

  53. John Toyne says: November 24, 20185:27 pm

    Hello, David

    I saw the trailer for “The Favourite”, the new film about Queen Anne and wondered how much different from Shakespeare’s OP that of the Addison and Steele generation circa 1711 when the Spectator first appeared. I know this is a general question, David.

    Many thanks,

    John Toyne

  54. David Crystal says: October 30, 20189:58 am

    Got it wrong.It was Mary COY. She’s a voice coach. (I was thinking of her name in OP – sorry!)

  55. Chris K says: October 29, 201811:27 pm

    Valuable information indeed — thank you. Is Mary Key an actor? A journalist?

  56. David Crystal says: October 23, 20188:06 am

    I don’t think I ever knew exactly what they did. I have a vague recollection of some of Hamlet. But the person who would know is Mary Key, as she was the one who was at the Globe performance and who took the idea back. If you can track her down…

  57. Chris K says: October 23, 201812:01 am

    Hi David! I’m trying to learn more about the OP Shakespeare extracts that were presented in 2006 during the 400th anniversary of Jamestown. (I heard about this event from your 2016 OUPblog article, here: https://blog.oup.com/2016/03/original-pronunciation-shakespeare/.) I can’t seem to find any details about Shakespeare in the official record of that Jamestown commemoration; I’d be very grateful if you happened to remember which Shakespeare extracts were presented, or if you could point me toward any information about OP Shakespeare in Jamestown. Thank you very much, and thank you for your wonderful scholarship!

  58. Albert Soler i Cruanyes says: September 22, 201810:46 am

    I had only focused on individual words pronunciation, and so I hadn’t noticed the syllable timing/stress-timing difference.

    The more I’ve been looking into it these past days, the less I found the resemblance to be strong.

    Thank you very much for your rapid answer!

  59. David Crystal says: September 21, 201810:44 am

    It’s possible to do a phoneme by phoneme comparison of OP to any other accent, to get a rough idea of the similarities. No modern accent is identical, of course. (None,for instance, pronounces -tion endings as -see-on.) When I did this informally, a while back, I found Irish to come closest – which corresponds to a common first impression. I didn’t do Jamaican, but there are some important differences, such as the ‘j’ glide heard before the vowel in the second syllable of Jamaican. Also, the syllable timing of Caribbesn English is a contrast with the stress-timing of Elizabethan OP.

  60. Albert Soler i Cruanyes says: September 19, 201812:19 pm

    Hi David!

    In my own experience, I’ve found that, when it comes to Standard Englishes, the one resembling OP the most is Jamaican. Is that really so? Or is there another standard accent that holds a closer similarity?

    Thank you for your great work!

  61. Drew says: August 27, 20186:02 pm

    found it. thank you

  62. David Crystal says: August 27, 20185:21 pm

    My recording of all the sonnets in OP are available in the Shop section of this website.

  63. Drew says: August 27, 20184:52 pm

    Hi David, I’m a junior in college and for one of my classes one of the assignments is to memorize sonnet 121, I’ve already done so (for a previous class) and I think it would be interesting to recite it in the original pronunciation instead. Could you direct me to a recording of 121 I could listen to in order to improve my understanding of how it is meant to sound, or if a recording of this sonnet doesn’t exist and you’re willing to help out a college student, can you create one? Thank you.

  64. David Crystal says: August 13, 20185:59 pm

    The central quality of the first element of the diphthong is based on an estimate of how far the shift to modern /ai/ would have travelled from its Middle English value as /i:/. The essential difference with immediately is that the final syllable is unstressed. John Hart is one who writes such endings as a diphthong in the mid 16th-century, and this was surely still present in Shakespeare’s day, otherwise the rhymes (in e.g. Oberon’s ‘purple dye’ speech) are lost, and the mystical atmosphere evaporates. But there are also some cases where that unstressed ending rhymes with /i/, as today, suggesting that the diphthongal ending was on its way out.

    The rhymes also show that there were many cases where words had two pronunciations, just as many do today (think scone rhyming with both on and own). Fear is a case in point (and also several other words with an ea spelling). It sometimes rhymes with (e.g.) cheer and deer and sometimes with there and swear.

    You’ll find a complete listing of rhymes in the dictionary you mention. This is the Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation, published by Oxford University Press, with an accompanying audio file of all the entries (accessed through a personalized code that you get with the book).

  65. Colleen Malfara says: August 13, 201812:07 pm

    Hi David!

    First of all, just wanted to say that you for all of your work on Shakespeare in OP!!

    My friends and I just saw A Midsummer Night’s Dream last night and so I came back to read Paul Meier’s transcription for A Midsummer that was posted on your website and have a few questions about some sound choices:

    1. /i:/

    There are several examples of rhymes where modern English now has /aɪ/ and /i/ respectively, cf. nigh and immediately, which are both transcribed as /əɪ/.

    “No? then I well perceive you all not nigh
    Either death or you I’ll find immediately”

    I was wondering how you decided that both words would be mid-shift at this point, even though modern English ‘immediately’ appears to have reverted back to /i/? Is the hypothesis that all /i:/ words began the shift to /əɪ/ but then some reverted back to /i/ and others shifted all the way to /aɪ/?

    2. Perhaps a similar question with the spelling for /ɛ:/

    There are some examples where is transcribed as /ɛ:/:

    “And yours of Helena to me bequeath,
    Whom I do love and will do till my death”

    But others where it is transcribed as /e:/:

    I will lead them up and down: leːd
    I am fear’d in field and town: fɛːr’d

    In these cases, modern English has bequeath, lead and feared all becoming /i/, so I was wondering how the choice was made to transcribe them at different points in transition here? Further, do we assume as with death /ɛ/ that if it did not transition in modern English, that it never began the transition at all? Even to words with the same roots? cf the example, “with leaden legs” is just left as modern English /lɛd/ vs. will lead is /le:d/.

    Thank you so much! I apologize if you have answered these questions previously! You mentioned in some of these comments having an OP Dictionary? But I can’t seem to find it online? If my questions are answered there, I would be happy to look there instead.

    Thanks again!


  66. David Crystal says: August 8, 20187:18 pm

    There’s been a distinctive Scots accent since the early Middle Ages, judging by the various texts that are spelled in a recognizably Scottish way. and people commented on the Scots way of talking in the 16th and 17th centuries – though of course very politely, after 1603. But there were indeed some similarities, such as the pronunciation of /r/ after vowels in southern as well as Scots accents (though probably with different phonetic qualities, e.g. trilled in Scotland, as often today). Northern accents would certainly have been closer than southern, as they are today, but information is hard to come by, as writers of the time don’t often describe regional differences.

  67. John Toyne says: August 8, 20181:56 pm

    Hello again David,

    I’m halfway through Jasper Ridley’s biography of John Knox and was fascinated to learn that he was one of Edward VI’s favourite Court preachers in 1552. Would Knox’s Lowland Scottish accent have seemed weird to Londoners of that time ? Or was 1552 sufficiently long ago for the lowland Scots accents and the Northern English accents to be more similar-sounding than they are now ?

    Many Thanks.

    John Toyne

  68. David Crystal says: August 6, 20189:05 pm

    Thanks for your message. It was a time when ‘half’ rhymes were coming into fashion, so there would probably have been some degree of assonance between ‘knew’ and ‘below’, but what ‘sphere’ is doing there can’t be explained by any linguistic theory I know of! Similarly, ‘along’ and ‘sung’ echo each other but ‘taught’ is anomalous. It’s a curious bit of writing. Or is there a joke in ‘jarring sphere’ – a deliberate non-rhyme? Purcell would have approved of such a thing, I suspect.

  69. Tony Bittner says: August 6, 20182:45 pm

    Dear David,

    My early music ensemble The Broken Consort will perform John Blow’s Ode on the Death of Mr Henry Purcell from 1695 and I’ll help the countertenors with the pronunciation of the text; however, I’m doubtful about certain rhymes: the 3 last lines of the second stanza (knew, Sphere, below) and lines 3 and 4 of the third stanza (along, taught, Sung). Thank you very much.

    Mark how the Lark and Linnet Sing,
    With rival Notes
    They ſtrain their warbling Throats,
    To welcome in the Spring.
    But in the cloſe of Night,
    When Philomel begins her heav’nly lay, They ceaſe their mutual ſpite,
    Drink in her Muſick with delight,
    And list’ning and ſilent, and ſilent and list’ning, and list’ning and ſilent obey.

    So ceas’d the rival crew when Purcell came,
    They Sung no more, or only Sung his Fame.
    Struck dumb they all admir’d the God-like Man, the God-like Man,
    Alas, too ſoon retir’d, As He too late began.
    We beg not Hell our Orpheus to reſtore, Had He been there,
    Their Sovereign’s fear Had ſent Him back before.
    The pow’r of Harmony too well they knew,
    He long e’er this had Tun’d their jarring Sphere,
    And left no Hell below.

    The Heav’nly Quire, who heard his Notes from high,
    Let down the Scale of Muſick from the sky:
    They handed him along.
    And all the way he taught, and all the way they Sung.
    Ye Brethren of the Lyre, and tunefull Voice,
    Lament his lott, but at your own rejoyce.
    Now live ſecure and linger out your days,
    The Gods are pleas’d alone with Purcell’s Layes,
    Nor know to mend their Choice.


  70. Matt Hutchinson says: July 21, 20184:41 am

    Thank you very much David.

  71. David Crystal says: July 20, 20181:56 pm

    Yes, it’s possible. The Old English word had such spellings as spearua and spearewa, which developed into an e-vowel in Middle English. This was a short vowel, as shown by such spellings as sperrowe. The final syllable in colloquial speech would probably have been a schwa (‘sperra’ – compare fellow as fella, etc). The a-spelling develops in Middle English, and eventually became standard, but it would be perfectly usual for the older pronunciation to continue regionally. That would allow a homophone with the second syllable of Shakespeare, bearing in mind that this was also pronounced short, as suggested by such spellings as Shaksper.

  72. Matt Hutchinson says: July 20, 20181:42 pm

    Dear David,

    In the play “Guy, Earl of Warwick”, there is a character named Philip Sparrow who some scholars, such as Katharine Duncan Jones, believe might be a caricature of Shakespeare. I read on a forum that ‘Sparrow’ may have been pronounced ‘Spear-O’ In some parts of England at the time, is this likely to be true?


  73. David Crystal says: July 17, 201811:27 am

    VERDICT – Yes, this would have been an alternative form esp among older speakers.
    SATIRE – you mean the second vowel? also a good point
    FIERCE – I was very much influenced by the ee spellings here, but agree the other pron is possible
    SERVILE – agreed, the spellings certainly suggest this alt
    INVEIGLE – possible, I suppose, but I don’t see much evidence in the spelling lists
    PHLEGMATIC – as with VERDICT, the older form I suppose would still have had some currency
    RETINUE – Yes, this did have an alternative accent, but the only metrical instance (in KL) has stress on the first syllable. In a bigger work (a guide to EME pron), it would have to be there.
    SUCCESSOR – by the same argument, yes, this should have an initial stress recognized. I’ve made a note.

    Thank you for taking so much trouble with all this.

  74. David Crystal says: July 17, 201811:03 am

    Here too I was influenced by the rhymes, with old, sold, enscrolled, and so on. And I recall Walker regretting that the ‘oo’ form was in his time becoming frequent, replacing the older one. I wouldn’t put too much money on it!

  75. David Crystal says: July 17, 201810:55 am

    Also very interesting and plausible, apart from your apparent disregard of the rhymes in 116 – a short vowel to love and a long vowel to remove, and then later different values for proved and loved. That doesn’t make any sense to me, given the importance of rhymes in the sonnets. And I wonder just how much trust one can put in the distinction you make between, for example, your transcription of speak and disgrace. A lot depends on exactly where in the CV diagram you would locate æ:. There may be a philological point here, but I don’t think I could ever get a company of actors to reproduce it consistently.

  76. David Crystal says: July 17, 201810:40 am

    Interesting. Jonson seems to be hearing vowel quality rather than vowel length. I felt that the length contrast in the all set was important, and I carried this through. But I can see the argument that this might not be necessary for ART and the like, and indeed at one point I did try using the same vowel symbol for both, and also for EARTH, but this seemed to be losing too much phonetic distinctiveness. I suppose in the end these points turn on what ‘distinct’ means – phonemic or phonetic.

  77. David Crystal says: July 17, 201810:12 am

    Agreed. I just wish I could find some ee spellings to reinforce the point.

  78. A.Z. Foreman says: July 16, 20189:21 pm

    One more thing. Last one I promise:

    Have you considered the following?

    For VERDICT: a form without /k/ pronounced
    For SATIRE: a form with the vowel of NATURE
    For FIERCE: a form with the same vowel as in PIERCE
    For SERVILE: a form with a non-tense BIT vowel in the second syllable
    For INVEIGLE: a form with the SEA vowel
    For PHLEGMATIC: a form without the /g/ pronounced

    Also, the following accentuations: retínue, súccessor

  79. A.Z. Foreman says: July 16, 20187:05 am

    Tangential question (sorry to blow up your comment box like this)

    The pronunciation ‘goold’ for ‘gold’ is attested thru the 18th century. It is what you’d expect etymologically like Room for Rome. In keeping with the Early Middle English (or perhaps Late Old English) lengthening of originally short vowels before the combinations ‘ld’, ‘nd’, ‘ng’, ‘mb’, ‘rd’, ‘rl’, and ‘rn’ (when stressed and not followed by a third consonant or third syllable). Thus Anglian ald > aald, and then aa evolved like other long aa to ModEng OLD. Anglian gold should yield a long ME vowel producing the pronunciation goold.

    The MED lists Gold with a long high vowel of the kind that should yield GOOLD. And the spelling variants in the MidEng corpus are consistent with this.

    I had thought ModEng Gold with an O sound was a spelling pronunciation. But Shakespeare’s rhymes using Gold all imply the prototype of the Modern word going back to an open O in Middle English. (On the other hand, Wyatt rhymes Gold with things like WOULD and LOUD and ROOD.)

    (I currently have a bet going with a friend that the GOOLD form predates the GOLD form in post-1066 Eng.)

  80. A.Z. Foreman says: July 16, 20186:52 am

    Probably the best way to convey my perspective is with a transcription of my own. Since this comment section appears to be rather temperamental about IPA, here’s a PDF. It aims at a somewhat cultivated accent of the 1590s. Picture, if you will, a young Ben Jonson getting his hands on a manuscript copy and reading it aloud.


  81. A.Z. Foreman says: July 16, 20186:12 am

    Say you: that what you reconstruct as a long open back unrounded A

    “must have been a noticeable feature of OP as Jonson, among others, pays special attention to it, contrasting it with the normal use of a (‘pronounced less than the French à’): ‘when it comes before l, in the end of a syllabe, it obtaineth the full French sound, and is uttered with the mouth and tongue wide opened, the tongue bent back from the teeth’. He gives all, small, salt, calm among his examples.”

    But what Jonson actually says in full is

    “With us, in most words, is pronounced less than the French à : as in art, act, apple, ancient. But when it comes before L, in the end of a syllabe, it obtaineth the full French sound, and is uttered with the mouth and throat wide opened, the tongue bent back from the teeth, as in all, small, gall, fall, tall, call. So in all the syllabes where a consonant followeth the L, as in salt, malt, balm, calm. ”

    In other words, Jonson hears the words ART and APPLE as both containing the same kind of a-vowel. Furthermore, he finds this kind of a-vowel in ART and ACT is perceptually different from that of all, small etc. Yet you have the same open back unrounded vowel for both SMALL and ART, and then give a different vowel /a/ for words like ACT. It does not really seem to me like your OP is actually the English that Jonson is describing. (As I’m sure you know John Hart and others transcribe the SMALL vowel in a different and distinct fashion.)

    It seems more likely to me that ACT and ART did indeed have the same vowel at this point. The most straightforward inference would be that this vowel was simply /a/ or something fo the kind. And when the vowel of SERVE was allophonically lowered into the neighborhood of AE, it tended to near-merger with /a/ when and where the latter in its turn began to shift higher.

    While I’m on the subject, I’m not sure I follow the logic of putting OP through a completed NURSE merger. Over the 17th there seem to be competing Englishes merging DIRT/TURN but keeping EARTH distinct, and others merging DIRT/EARTH while leaving TURN distinct. The merger cannot have complete in normative London English until the 18th century or so. Shakespeare interrhymes all three of these, but not with the same frequency with which he rhymes these words inside their own lexical set. It does not follow from any of this that all three were merged in a single variety of speech at his time. At most it implies that there existed different varieties with different mergers.

  82. A.Z. Foreman says: July 16, 20185:55 am

    Reason/treason/season could be moved together in either direction as a set, I should think. All three of them alternate in ME spellings (but then what doesn’t). Etymologically “Treason” comes from an ME/AN diphthong which in your reconstruction is merged with the reflex ME long a. But “Season” is listed in the MED as having only an open long vowel of the kind that yields the SEA vowel. I think one would have to assume alternating possibilities for all three words. Even the word “Raising” itself, having ME /ai/, could rhyme with the normal EA vowel, or not, depending on whether or not the speaker had the Mopseyish merger reflected in the play/sea rhyme in Henry VIII III.i.4-5.

  83. David Crystal says: July 15, 20184:16 pm

    Thanks very much for this. It’s the kind of debate I was hoping would emerge, for in so many cases I am aware that I had to ‘take a view’. In the present case, I think one has to look beyond this particular pairing: not just reason and raisin, but also treason and season, and the further pun set involving raising (Kökeritz gives examples), which points towards a more open pronunciation. Yes, there was a close-vowel pronunciation, as you say, and I should have mentioned this. But the existence of two pronunciations is acknowledged by Walker, who cites Sheridan and others preferring the diphthong, and himself and others preferring the pure vowel (so the usage isn’t a recent one). Sheridan actually gives the diphthongal form [his a2] for raisin. The OED reflects all this too, in its third edition revision, the spellings for reason showing two distinct patterns going back to ME – one set, mostly with ei or ey, suggesting a diphthongal pronunciation; the other, mostly with ea, but with a couple of ee, suggesting a pure vowel, presumably quite close. So, I guess I should allow that the Shakespeare pun could have gone in either direction. I’ve made a note, in case I ever get a chance to do a new edition.

  84. A.Z. Foreman says: July 13, 201811:57 pm

    You say in the dictionary of OP that the open e of “tale”

    “….is also used in several words that would later become /i: /, such as reason and season…puns provide useful reinforcement here, as wordplay between reason and raisin, for example, would not have worked without some degree of homophony.”

    With “raisin” I am pretty sure you have it backwards. It is “raisin” that was pronounced as a homophone for “reason.” Both would be /re:zn/ (or /ri:zn/ with the see/sea merger.) The pronunciation /ri:zn/ for “raisin” is attested well into the modern period in 18th century pronunciation dictionaries by Walker, Flint, Sheridan and others. The pronunciation with the SAY vowel rather than the SEA/SEE vowel is the result of a modern spelling pronunciation.

  85. Mike says: July 13, 201810:08 pm

    Thank you so much David. This is extremely interesting!

  86. David Crystal says: July 5, 20188:43 am

    Fascinating. Thank you. No, I’ve never worked on OP from the Romantic period – other than the occasional foray into individual words (such as my piece on Blake’s ‘symmetry’ in Sounds Appealing. There were lots of differences, especially in stress – balcony with the stress on the second syllable, for instance. But these are all features to do with the phonology of the time, not the phonetics – by which I mean we can work out the sound system Wordsworth would have used (the same as Keats, given that they eventually did communicate), but exactly what phonetic realizations were interfering with intelligibility is very tricky to establish, in the absence of accent descriptions.

  87. David Crystal says: July 5, 20188:35 am

    A complex history, reflecting both regional variation and differences in formality. The /l/ is always recorded as being pronounced by 16th-c writers, and gradually disappears during the 17th-c. But this will have been the formal pronunciation, reflecting an awareness of spelling. This is shown by the history of could, which originally was never spelled with l. This spelling develops on analogy with would and should in the mid-/late-1400s. But already in the 15th-c for would and should we see spellings with no lOED has 1400 sud, 1449 schude, 1481 whowde, for instance, and such spellings are evidenced into the 17th-c (and of course are still around in representations of dialect today). So clearly there were two pronunciations, varying in locality and formality. I therefore didn’t make the /l/ pronounced in my Shakespearean OP – a decision that would have horrified Holofernes, of course.

  88. Mike says: July 4, 201810:35 pm

    Hello David!
    Around what time did the l in should, would, could stop being pronounced?
    Thank you!

  89. Michael Tencer says: July 2, 20184:57 pm

    Dear David Crystal,

    In Peter Bell’s short film “Basil Bunting: An Introduction to the work of a poet” from 1982, there is a brief discussion by Bunting of William Wordsworth’s dialect:

    “Standard English is a fairly recent invention. It wasn’t in use 150 years ago. There’s a description of Keats’s first meeting with Wordsworth at a dinner in London, and it was a long time before Keats could understand what Wordsworth was saying. And Hazlitt also describes a meeting with Wordsworth in Somersetshire, where, for half an afternoon, he could make neither head nor tail of what Wordsworth said. Wordsworth was speaking Cumbrian, Hazlitt was used to London accent. If you read Wordsworth in beautiful curt Kensington, you are not surprised that the critics say he had no music. But if you hear him in his own broad vowels, it is a beautiful and very sensitive kind of music that he uses all the time.”

    Likewise, in a 1970 lecture at the University of British Columbia called “The Use of Poetry,” Bunting remarks:

    “Again, now that we have all been driven to use some approxima­tion to standard English, a koiné, nobody’s native tongue, how much do we lose of those poets who wrote in their native speech before standard English was invented in the Public Schools in the middle of last century?

    We know Wordsworth spoke with such a persistent northerliness that Keats and Hazlitt found it very difficult to follow his conver­sation; and that he composed aloud, as most good poets do, in good Lake District accents, where water is watter, and rhymes with chatter, and the ‘oo’ sounds last forever, and a stone is a stwoen and a coal cwol. And Keats himself was a cockney, speaking not the cockney of today, which is largely an Essex dialect, but the cockney Sam Weller spoke, which is mainly Kentish. His v’s and w’s must have sounded much alike, and his vowels would have been the thin stuff you can still hear in Kensington. And how many of Hardy’s s’s ought to be read as z’s?”

    I was wondering: do you have any plans for Original Pronunciation readings of Wordsworth, or do you know of anyone who does? As a native New Yorker, I indeed have found it difficult to discern the “very sensitive kind of music” Bunting hears in Wordsworth’s poetry, but given the testimony of its historic, sensitive listeners I believe it must indeed be there and I’d certainly love to hear it myself. (For that matter, Bunting makes Keats’s and Hardy’s poetry sound ripe for OP treatment as well!) Any thoughts or pointers would be much appreciated.

    Many thanks for all the work you do — your contribution to literature, and particularly to the recovery of the music of poetry, has been invaluable.

    All the best,

  90. David Crystal says: June 14, 20188:15 am

    Well thank you. And all the best for your degree.

  91. Jack Paul Ryan says: June 14, 20181:27 am

    Thank you so much for the detailed reply, Mr. Crystal! It means so much to hear from someone whose work I admire so much. I hope one day to know even a hundredth as much about English as you do. I had so much fun reading The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, and your work on Shakespearean English pronunciation inspired me to work as a dialect coach for a 1790s era high-school play and attempt to make my Latin pronunciation as authentic as possible. I am going into my freshman year of college at McGill University this year for a degree in linguistics, and I want to thank you for inspiring me to get involved in that field.

  92. David Crystal says: June 13, 20189:35 pm

    Yes, the sea/see distinction is one of the trickiest aspects of EME OP. It was a clear distinction in Chaucer’s day, and the question is how long it remained. Some think it was on the wane during the 16th century, others that it lasted until the early 17th. My view is that the distinction was extremely unstable by Shakepeare’s time. Probably older conservative speakers would have retained it, but ‘new tuners of accent’ would not. The evidence is mixed. The spelling of ea for the more open variant vs ee for the closer is not a perfect guide, as the OED quotation notes. Rhymes sometimes point in different directions. The contrast is further obscured by the phonetic realisations, with the /i:/ phoneme having an articulation closer to cardinal 2 than (as in present-day RP) cardinal 1. Length isn’t the issue here. There are words where ea is long (as in seat) and those where it is short (as in feast).

    When I work with a company, I find it impossible to introduce an easy principle to ensure that the actors make the distinction consistently. (If anyone out there has one I’d love to know what it is!) So I simplify, and give both see and sea (etc) the same /i:/ phoneme, but articulating it more openly than in present-day RP. However, I think it’s important to be flexible, given the uncertainties, so that, for example, when we seen fear rhyming both with cheer and with wear, we allow the rhymes to motivate alternative pronunciations. This can upset some philological purists, but in an applied linguistic setting one often has to make pragmatic decisions of this kind.

    Hope this helps. But you don’t need to apologise for feeling confused. This is an area where everyone is, some of the time!

  93. Jack Paul Ryan says: June 13, 20186:45 pm

    Shakespeare in Original Pronunciation is my accent of all time. I have a CD with recordings of various scenes in Original Pronunciation and I love letting others listen to it. Thank you for your dedicated service to this important cause! I have been confused about the pronunciation of ⟨ea⟩ and ⟨ee⟩. How are they pronounced in both Shakespearean and in general Early Modern English?

    Paul Meier in The Original Pronunciation (OP) of Shakespeare’s English and other sources that are specifically about Shakespeare’s pronunciation say they were both either [e] or [e̝] (no lengthening mark). Wikipedia, when talking about Early Modern English in general, not just OP, says ⟨ea⟩ was [eː] or [ɛ̝ː] and ⟨ee⟩ was /iː/, but cites (among other things) David Crystal’s Sounding out Shakespeare: Sonnet Rhymes in Original Pronunciation. Do these sources imply that, for most Early Modern English texts, I should pronounce ⟨ea⟩ and ⟨ee⟩ as long [eː]/[ɛ̝ː] and long /iː/ respectively, but for Shakespeare I should use short [e]/[e̝] for both spellings?

    Also, there is the following passage from the Oxford English Dictionary in regards to Early Modern English spelling:

    “Double e (ee) or e..e was used for two different long front vowels: the ‘close’ vowel of meet and the formerly ‘mid’ vowel of meat, mete (the significance of this is now obscured since in most words the two sounds have become identical). The spelling e..e was gradually restricted to the latter while additionally ea was beginning to be introduced as an alternative spelling.
    By the the fruyte that procedeth of the tree menynge the boode or the floure and the leef.”

  94. David Crystal says: June 3, 20187:30 am

    This is where the principles of historical phonology become really important. One establishes a timeline of phonetic change over the centuries, and then estimates where the change would have reached at a particular period. Spelling is a major source of evidence, as are features like rhymes, and the comments of orthoepists and lexicographers. Having reviewed this evidence, I concluded in my Shakesperean OP that the vowel quality was back mid-close unrounded – an unrounded equivalent of /ʊ/, closer to schwa, but definitely not as far forard as /ʌ/, which was a much later development. I do say, though, in the introduction to my Oxford dictionary of Shakespearean OP, that a rounded variant was certainly in use at the time – the ancestor of the present-day northern rounded sound in words like ‘cup’. There are always alternative options when researching OP.

  95. David Crystal says: June 3, 20187:22 am

    Yes, go through a dictionary of surnames, and it’s evident from the spelling variations in the same surname how phonological factors must have been involved, in the days before spellig standardized.

  96. Kenneth Keown says: June 2, 201811:10 pm

    This is fascinating stuff. Allow me a question, please. It’s clear from S116 that Shakespeare thought of the words “prov’d” and “lov’d” rhyming. Do we have any way to know whether vowel sound he heard as he recited the lines was /ʌ/ or /ə/ or /ʊ/?

  97. Kenneth Keown says: June 2, 201810:36 pm

    Thank you for your reply. I never knew I had an accent until I went to college in Connecticut, and many classmates accused me of having a southern one. I retorted “Well at least it’s not Bostonian. There was some pejorative implication that one’s manner of speaking is somehow better or more correct than the other’s. Over the years, I did lose my “Southern accent,” but it creeps up every time I visit my home town–like it or not. What interests me in my present work is how the clerks in early New England towns might have mistaken the pronunciation of surnames when their informants hailed from a different part of England and articulated their vowel phonemes differently. Over the course of a generation of two all the different accents amalgamated into American English, so the problem was short-lived as American English evolved into regional patterns. Imagine of how John Adams, a native of Boston, would have thought about how the Virginian Thomas Jefferson spoke. You can almost feel the role of Benjamin Franklin–a native Bostonian who spent his adult life in Philadelphia–as an intermediary. “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men /r/ created equal.”

  98. David Crystal says: June 2, 20182:22 pm

    Important to distinguish between accent (pronunciation) and dialect (grammar and vocabulary). RP is an accent, not a dialect.

    It didn’t exist in the 16th century. RP develops in England in the last decades of the 18th century, and became the accent of the educated elite – but spoken by less than 5 per cent of the population of England. You could get to the top of the kingdom in S’s day with any regional accent – witness Raleigh and Drake’s Devonshire. And of course in 1603 the elite accent became Scots.

    Yes, S must have begun life with a West Mids accent, but this would have been modified as a result of life in London. Mixed accents would have been very common, just as they are today. But we know very little about the exact phonetic qualities of the vowels used in different parts of the country. Writers like Jonson give only very general clues – such as saying that the vowel in words like ‘prove’ is short. But that’s nonetheless invaluable info, as it helps us see why proved and loved (for example, in Sonnet 116) are exact rhymes.

    OP is a sound system, not an individual accent. Just as today we speak Modern English (i.e. use a modern English sound system) in a variety of accents, so people speaking Early Modern English would also have used a variety of accents. For example, everyone would have said invention as ‘in-ven-see-on’ rather than Modern ‘in-ven-shun’, but it would have come out differently when spoken by northerners, southerners, Irish, Scots, and so on. When we did the OP Romeo at the Globe in 2004 all the actors kept their original accents, superimposing them onto the OP. And that’s how it’s been ever since.

  99. Kenneth Keown says: June 2, 201812:45 am

    Dear Dr. Crystal: As a trained historian and amateur genealogist, I am interested in how English was spoken by the 17th century settlers in New England. Fortuitously, I found your website for which I offer congratulations. This led me to Ben Jonson’s Grammar, a fascinating book for someone who can read Latin. Jonson spent much ink trying to instruct his readers about how to pronounce English phonemes by referring to Latin. Of course he had absolutely no idea about how Latin was spoken by any native speaker of that language. At best he would have learned it from a teacher whose native language was 16th century English. Let’s get more to the point. Jonson attended schools in London before matriculating at Cambridge. He spoke a dialect of English that would be called Received Pronunciation today. I’m guessing his grammar was an attempt to encourage people from other parts of the country to speak as he did as if his dialect were somehow superior to other dialects. Without arguing about who was the better poet and dramatist, we do know that Shakespeare was from West Midlands and undoubtedly spoke in the dialect of that part of England. We know that Marlowe was from Kent and undoubtedly spoke in the dialect of that part of England. Today, RP is broadcast throughout England so it becomes something of a second language for the population. I’m sure that at the end of the 16th century there was no such universality in England. So, how likely were Shakespeare and Marlow to have used London English while ruminating about their works before actually writing them down?

  100. David Crystal says: May 12, 20187:52 am

    Not covered on this site, but a familiar question, indeed. What you have to appreciate is that the first syllable of Satan didn’t have a long vowel. It was short, as in the original Latin and Greek. John Walker in his pronouncing dicitonry of 1791 is one who refers to it. Satan is frequently pronounced like sattan, he says – and he doesn’t like it, so recommends a long vowel, as in Plato. This caught on, and became the norm – though the OED says that the short vowel was being used even as late as 1900. Seyton, on the other hand, always had a long vowel – though whether this was ‘see’ or ‘say’ is an open question. I give both in my Dictionary. Not much basis for homophony, therefore.

  101. Chris Pollard says: May 11, 20187:14 pm

    Dear David, I apologise if this has already been covered, but I would be very interested to know what evidence you have found that could shed light on the old question of the pronunciation of Macbeth’s attendant Seyton’s name. Would it have been a homophone with Satan? Or would the first syllable have sounded more like modern ‘see’?

  102. David Crystal says: March 14, 20185:38 pm

    Yes, that is a common reaction. As we are talking about the period leading up to 1611, I’ve used the same OP system for the KJB as I use for Shakespeare. There was a great deal of interest in the OP version during the anniversary year, and that was when I made a series of short recordings, which you can now find in the Shop section of this website.

  103. Cory Howell says: March 13, 20183:58 pm

    This Lent I’ve been reading the Bible from cover to cover. As I’ve done so, I have occasionally picked up the King James Bible, and read some of its magnificent passages out loud, in order to better experience the rhythms of its poetry and prose. Today, while reading in Isaiah, I decided to try my hand at reading several of the chapters out loud in as close an approximation of OP as I could manage. It really was a marvelous experience, even though I’m certain that I made abundant mistakes in my OP. The rhythm completely changes, and is a totally different experience from reading the Bible in Received Pronunciation, or in my native American accent. I would love it if someday you were to publish a guide to the King James Bible in OP, as you have for Shakespeare’s works!

  104. Maurine Miller says: February 11, 20187:11 pm

    Thank you so much for your events posting! By coincidence, I will be in the Baltimore, MD area during the first weekend of their OP production of Othello in April. I am now making arrangements to attend since I may never have another chance to experience an OP performance of a Shakespeare play.

  105. David Crystal says: February 9, 201812:59 pm

    In 1791, John Walker added a comment to the entry on ‘wind’ in his English Pronouncing Dictionary. He gives both pronunciations and says: ‘These two modes of pronunciation have been long contending for superiority, till at last the former [i.e. with the short i] seems to have gained a complete victory, except in the territories of rhyme. Here the poets claim a privilege, and readers seem willing to grant it them…’ So the older form, with the diphthong, was still around then, though out of use in everyday speech. Shakespeare has only rhymes with ‘find, mind’, etc. Pope overlaps Fielding’s dates, and he uses the diphthong (eg in Essay on Criticism), rhyming it with ‘find’. And Walker also reports that Jonathan Swift, an older contemporary of Fielding, would ‘jeer’ at those who pronounced ‘wind’ with a short vowel. So the modern pronunciation was clearly coming in during Fielding’s lifetime. Whether he used it in his everyday speech we don’t know, but in his poem I would say it would definitely be the diphthong.

  106. Rachel Smith says: February 9, 20184:33 am

    Hi David. Are you able to clarify the correct pronunciation of “winds” in the final line of this verse of Henry Fielding’s Hunting Song:
    The dusky night rides down the sky,
    And ushers in the morn;
    The hounds all join in glorious cry,
    The huntsman winds his horn:
    Should it be pronounced to rhyme with “minds”, or should the “i” be sort as in “win”? (This is a matter of some debate in a choir that intends to sing a musical setting of this poem.) Thanks.

  107. David Crystal says: February 7, 201810:04 pm

    I think a lot would have changed in his social milieu by that date. I doubt whether anyone would still be pronouncing initial ‘silent’ /k/ etc. I opted not to go for it in my Shakespeare OP, as I felt it would only have been used by the most conservative of speakers by around 1600. So by 1620 I doubt there would have been many left who would preserve it. And, as you suggest, they may well have accommodated to the new norms anyway.

  108. John Toyne says: January 22, 20187:05 am

    Hello David,

    I’m reading a biography of James I and began wondering about Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham and Queen Elizabeth’s cousin. He was born in 1536 and died in 1624 but was still active as late as 1620.

    Would his pronunciation in 1620 have been what it was decades earlier ? Or would he have unconsciously modified it as the sound system slowly shifted during his lifetime ? Is it likely that any person of his generation circa 1620 was still sounding the K in words like ‘knave’ , ‘knock’ etc, and the W in words like ‘sword’ ?

    Many thanks,

    John Toyne

  109. David Crystal says: November 24, 20179:02 am

    Yes, there are several transcriptions online, but I don’t need to use them as Ben and I are including my own transcription of the FF along with the relevant Quarto texts (of Pericles, TNK, Edward III, and the poems) in the new edition of Shakespeare’s Words, both as line-by-line equivalents to the modern edition and as a separate file. It’s a later goal to add an OP pronunciation dimension to the site, but that’s another expensive option. We’ll certainly implement it as soon as we can afford it! Recouping the suibstantial costs of preparing the new edition is the first step.

  110. Sean Gordon says: November 24, 20171:33 am

    Thank you for your very kind reply. Chicago has this version of Shakespeare online — https://www.lib.uchicago.edu/efts/OTA-SHK/restricted/search.form.html

    As a strategy, it would have weaknesses, but perhaps if this text were married with the original pronunciations, by rubbing these resources together, something might begin to warm up in publishing and on stage?

  111. David Crystal says: November 22, 20179:09 am

    Yes, I have. The main resource at the moment is my Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation, which comes with a code that gives you access to the audio file of the book. I also have available all the ‘flat’ audio recordings I made whenever I was involved in an OP production. But I appreciate that these are a long way from the effect of hearing OP in a real production. Theatres have been surprisingly inefficient in capitalising on the sales potential of their OP productions. The Globe showed no interest at all. The only commercially available one I know is the Dream produced at Kansas University: details at Paul Meier’s website. It would be great to record all the plays in OP using an experienced group, such as Ben’s Passion in Practice ensemble, and we did in fact cost this out a couple of years ago – a day a play in a good editing suite. Perfectly possible if there’s a spare £100K around! In th emeantime, Ben and I are planning some new podcasts to accompany the revamped Shakespeare’s Words website, which will be launched early in 2018.

  112. Sean Gordon says: November 21, 201711:43 pm

    Your excellent publications have just come to my attention, David! I found that your short youtube appearance on the topic of OP was persuasive and quite fun. Even if it costs a few quid, I wonder if youtube will be around in 400 years? And have you thought about audiobooks and/or recorded performances and/or annotated pronunciation editions?

  113. David Crystal says: September 12, 201710:10 pm

    Interesting points. Yes, I have listened to some of the accents along the east coast, such as Roanoke. They are certainly conservative and display several echoes of OP. But none of them, of course, display all the OP features – saying the -tion ending (invention, etc) as -see-on, for example.

  114. Catherine Bishir says: September 9, 20175:26 pm

    Wonderful things you are doing!!! I learned about your work through my good friend John N. Wall here in Raleigh NC; your brilliant son read the sermons for John’s creation of the preaching of Donne’s sermons. I have long been interested in language history and variations. I once knew an English teacher at the University of Kentucky who supposedly could pin a student accent to a county level.
    Anyway, two items possibly of interest. j
    I have read a lot of 18th and early 19th century building documents as part of my research as an architectural historians. Some odd spellings gained meaning only when I read them out loud. One of my favorites was “for building the peasor,” 10 shillings. I decided it meant Piazza, which is an interesting indication of 18th c. pronunciation iin northeastern North Carolina.

    I expect you have noticed the many similarities with the “Hoi Toide” accent on NC’s Outer Banks, which survives best among older folks. If you haven’t already done so, you might enjoy getting some of the old timers out there, at Ocracoke or elsewhere, to read some Shakespearean English in their traditional accent. Alton Ballance out there is a good connection. The rhyming of “room” and “come” struck me. Also, in Virginia, they famously say “abooot the hoose” for about the house and similar. Great work. I love it. My own accent I have discerned is a mix of midwestern and appalachian and southern…………I am from Kentucky. .

  115. David Crystal says: May 14, 20171:40 pm

    Can I make a general plea to users of this forum to check whether there is an answer to their question in my Dictionary first before writing separately. That’s why I compiled it, after all! In relation to the present question, if you look under room you will find that I give the word with two alternatives, one with a long vowel, as today, one with a short vowel (as still heard in some regional eaccents, in fact). Plus a reference to the Rome pun.

  116. Yahya says: May 12, 20177:45 pm

    Evening, Mr. Crystal.
    According to Sonnet 116, the word “doom” rhymes with “come”.
    In Sonnet 59, the word “room” supposedly rhymes with “doom”. That means the vowel isn’t long, /u:/, in room, correct?

    In Julius Caesar, Cassius makes a pun on the word Rome and room thus,

    “Now is it Rome indeed, and Rome enough,/ When there is in it but one only man”.

    If we were to consider the word “room” rhyming with “doom” and can have a pun with “Rome” then Rome is enunciated with a short round vowel, correct?

    But the note in my version says that Rome was pronounced as “Room” (modern pronunciation). Which means that “room” is as in op as in modern English. So the question is, is it Rome with a long or short vowel? Thank you for your courtesies.

  117. David Crystal says: May 9, 20179:31 am

    Yes, the interaction between actors and audience at the Globe is one of the best things about the place. And OP suits that informality very well, I agree.

    As for initial ‘silent’ consonants… these were going out of use during Shakespeare’s lifetime. Scholars disagree as to when exactly they disappeared. I give both alternatives in my Dictionary, therefore. But when I’m working with a company, I go for the more modern (at the time) alternative, and don’t have these consonants sounded.

  118. John says: May 8, 201711:07 pm

    Hello, again, Mr. Crystal!
    There’s a little observation that I’ve come to lately after delving more into OP and watching more productions from the Globe Theatre. We’ve seen in our British Literature Survey class that about the 1600s, the South Bank of the river Thames was the “locus of the devil”, as the Puritans had described it. Our professor told us that there was a lot of means of entertainment that the Renaissance Englishman and woman has the privilege to enjoy, like bear fighting and cock fighting, plays… etc. Additionally, Shakespeare’s “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” and his Sonnet 29, the part in which he kinda envied other people’s art and wealth, and the way your son Ben pointed to some of the audience: adding to that, the sexual jokes like that one As You Like it, “from hour to hour we ripe and ripe!”and so many others… Or the way the fool in Dr Faustus pissed on the audience… It’s just marvelous! All of this prove one thing: England at that time was the furthest thing from being courtly. The English back then were a very reckless people. Their lives were a mess, and they led such a wild life, and that is reflected on their theatre and lifestyle and most importantly, their language. OP shows all of that perfectly. It flows smoothly. It shows how simple their lives were and shows how wild it is by that /r/ sound which Ben Johnson described as the dog’s groaning… etc. I’m just very grateful for your discovery. And what elates me all the more is the fact that you’re very opened about it. You never hold back any information that could be of great use for us. Whether it is in the dictionary or not, you just HELP, and that, Mr. Crystal is what inspires me to become more knowledgeable​about Shakespeare, so thank you!
    Forgive my incoherence. I just can’t find the proper words to write my thoughts…
    Just a question though, was the /k/ pronounced in words like “know” or “knee”?

  119. David Crystal says: May 6, 20174:05 pm

    No, this was not an OP production. The company used their normal modern accents. Twelfth Night has been performed in OP – once by a Bangor student company, and once in the USA – but not by the Globe. I’m afraid the Globe theatre department has rather lost interest in such performances since Mark Rylance’s day. Without the education side of the organization taking an interest, there would have been no OP at the Globe at all in recent years.

  120. Ian says: May 6, 20172:04 pm

    Hello David. I am the English Literature to Form 6 students in Malaysia. We have just finished watching the Globe’s performance of Twelfth Night with Mark Rylance as Olivia. I understand that the production uses OP but it sounds almost like RP. What should I be looking for? Thanks.

  121. David Crystal says: May 6, 201710:25 am

    More or less. A few noticeable changes, such as the loss of the –sion pronunciation in words like salvation and musician, becoming –shion. But still quite close to the OP of Shakespeare’s time, in my view. Major features, such as postvocalic /r/, are still there. Certainly, the singers who have been working on Purcell in OP have been very happy with doing it that way.

  122. David Crystal says: May 6, 201710:15 am

    You need to look in my OP Dictionary, which will show you that doom had the vowel of come and one of the pronunciations of fiend had the vowel of end.

  123. John Toyne says: May 6, 20171:35 am

    Hello David,
    Have you any idea how Samuel Pepys would have sounded ?
    I’m reading some of his diary and am trying to imagine a Londoner of 1660. Was the OP of 1660 basically that of Shakespeare’s time ?


  124. Julio Gómez says: May 5, 20176:02 am

    Hello, Mr. Crystal. Firstly I wanted to congratulate you for the amazing job you have done regarding OP and Shakespeare. Secondly, I wanted to ask something about Sonnet 145 (which I have to recite in my University). There are a couple of rhymes which do not work out when using RP; however they do in OP. The first one is ‘come’ and ‘doom’ (dome). The second one, I think, is ‘end’ and ‘fiend’. Even though I know there must be a rhyme in there, I have not been able to find how to pronounce those words in OP.

    I would be very thankful if you could answer this little doubt to me.

    Regards from Colombia and keep up the good work Mr. Crystal.

  125. David Crystal says: May 4, 20176:02 pm

    Do you mean the Dictionary? If so, note that with each copy there is an individual code that gives you access to the audio file at Oxford University Press. So you can hear every word and variant in the book. That should help.

  126. patrice says: May 4, 20175:29 pm

    I would love to buy the book, but I am concerned that I won’t be able to learn OP via written explanation. Lol, my fault I know, but I think I learn differently. Is there anything like what you do in America?

    Thanks for reading my message 🙂

  127. Yahya says: May 3, 201711:49 am

    Thank you very much, Mr. Crystal. Your answer is satisfying. I shall, then, act.

  128. David Crystal says: May 3, 201710:06 am

    There was nothing like Received Pronunciation in Shakespeare’s time – that accent evolved in English around 1800. So there was no ‘posh accent’ as such. Upper-class people would speak in their regional accents (as did Drake and Raleigh, both Devonshire men), including that of London, and in 1603 most of the court spoke in a Scottish accent when James I arrived – people remarked about it (respectfully!). The only significant difference I can think of would be if you wanted to show you were educated, i.e. literate. That means you would know how to spell, and your pronunciation could be inflouenced by that – much as today people who pronounce the /t/ in often say ‘because it’s there in the spelling’. Holofernes in Love’s Labour’s Lost is the classic example of someone who wants to pronounce everything exactly as it is spelled. It’s a satirical portrait, of course, but there must have been a social reality to make it recognizable.

    Your second message reminds me of when we were doing Romeo at the Globe, and the actor playing the Prince asked Tim Carroll the director how it was possible for him to play a prince if he didn’t have a posh accent, but had to speak in the same way as the lower-class characters. Tim had a one-word answer: ‘Act’.

  129. Yahya says: May 2, 201710:46 pm

    Please, Mr. Crystal, let me clarify one point. I’m inquiring about this particular point because we are holding a performance of Act 1 Scene 1 and 2 from Julius Caesar in our college in original pronounciation, and we would like to know how high-class people, like Caesar and Brutus, might have spoken so as to give the closest acting as possible.

  130. Yahya Dridi says: May 2, 20171:33 pm

    Good day, Mr. Crystal! I wish that this little humble message of mine finds you well. First, I would like to thank you so much for your inspiring work. It did bring us closer to Shakespeare and for that I am eternally​grateful for you! So thank you so much!
    Unfortunately, I have not yet managed to get your book, but by listening to some different recordings online, and by studying that paper by Paul Meier, I managed to learn the basics! I just would like to ask you about the classes. Did they sound different in Shakespearean times? Did the high class (the nobility) spoke different from the lower classes? If so, what are the differences?

  131. David Crystal says: April 28, 201711:08 am

    You must have missed the references in the Dictionary. The CE line is referenced under both go and one.

    Kökeritz could be right, that this is the ‘on’ pronunciation, but that’s based on the assumption that there is a pun here, which is debatable – as indeed several of K’s puns are. Adriana’s following line could be read without any such assumption. So the long vowel versions for gone and one are perfectly possible.

  132. Daniel Kaczyński says: April 27, 201711:15 pm

    Dear David,

    When I spoke to you some time ago, you said that the word “one” had three different pronunciations in Shakespeare’s day:
    1) the one rhyming with words like “alone” –> [o:n]
    2) another rhyming with “on” [on]
    3) an unstressed ‘un’ (as in modern ‘good ‘un’)
    I am curious about the second pronunciation in the context of Comedy of Errors 4.2.52-53, where Dromio of Syracuse says “‘Tis time that I were gone./ It was two ere I left him, and now the clock strikes one”. Some commentators (e.g. Kokeritz) noted that the word “one” was pronounced as “on” in this passage, which explained that Dromio meant that ‘the clock struck on’ . Yet, you included this fragment neither in the entry “one”, nor “on” in your OP dictionary (Oxford, 2016). Why so? Do you disagree that “one” was pronounced like “on” in this passage? Thank you very much for your answer in advance.

  133. Kenneth Beesley says: April 13, 20176:02 am

    Thanks. I’m sure you’re right about the variation.

    On the subject of /h/, several phonotypic books by Ellis would indicate that he pronounced his /h/s much like modern RP speakers, except that in “humble” and “humbly” he clearly dropped the /h/.

    On the “long a”, Isaac Pitman’s own phonotypic spellings in early 1846 (I’m again looking at the Phonotypic Journal) use the a-as-in-trap vowel letter in examples, class, classed, last, master, cast, enchanted, can’t, command, passing, branches, grass, France, glass, chance, advantages, asked, and fast; but he used the a-as-in-father vowel letter in laugh, laughter, rather, and Bath. In May, a letter from correspondent “R.R.” is reproduced, showing the a-as-in-father vowel in task, classes, and lastly. By June, Alexander J. Ellis was increasingly involved in the orthographical reform, contributing essays, and the PJ starts showing many more “long a” spellings, which (as far as I can judge) correspond to modern RP patterns.

    Ellis himself (PJ, 1846, p. 308) indicates that he/they used to transcribe “loss” and “cross” with the open-o vowel letter (equivalent to /lɔs/ and /krɔs/, evidencing the LOT-CLOTH split), but that in 1846 they were writing the equivalent of /lɒs/ and /krɒs/. I see no evidence of the LOT-CLOTH split in Ellis’s “Essentials of Phonetics” (1848), but in some 1849 phonotypy books (edited by Ellis), and in the 1850 Bible, LOT-CLOTH spellings are back for off, often, lost, cross, and soft.

  134. David Crystal says: April 12, 20179:54 am

    It was under way at the turn of the century, so that by the 1840s texts were being written which acknowledge non-rhoticity as normal. I’ve never explored this point in detail, but looking at the books from the period that I have, I see, for example, a clear statement in R G Latham’s The English Langauge (Ch. 1 of Part 3 on pronunciation), who makes it clear that /r/ was on the way out in postvocalic position. After describing initial and medial /r/ as being universally pronounced distinctly, he says ‘At the end… this distinctiness and universality of the sound of r is by no means the case’, and he goes on to say that there is ‘a large percentage of educated speakers’ who make no difference between father and farther, who pronounce cargo without the r, and so on. And he concludes: ‘The rule then stands thus – that when a vowel is followed by r, the r is often dropped altogether, and the vowel made open’. Note the ‘often’. But he later talks of the r being ‘non-existent in the spoken language, being a mere matter of spelling’. I quote from the edition I have (5th, 1862), but the first edition was as early as 1841. I’ve always thought that it took RP a couple of generations to become institutionalized, with other phonemes, such as /h/ and long /a/, attracting more attention as markers of an educated accent (judging by the cartoons in Punch). Both Ellis and Pitman, born in 1813/14, would have grown up with a great deal of variation around them, so I don’t find it surprising that, as members of the first generation in which RP was being established, and perhaps remembering ‘Pronunciation Walker’ (who transcribes final /r/) they would have kept the /r/ themselves.

  135. Kenneth Beesley says: April 11, 201711:15 pm

    When did (proto-)RP become non-rhotic? In the Pitman-Ellis 1847 alphabet (and similar phonotypy alphabets of the mid-19th century), historical /r/s were always represented with the ‘r’ letter. In the Phonotypic Journal of 1846, p. 103, Isaac Pitman informed a correspondent that words including “harm,” “heart,” and “sort” were properly pronounced with an ‘r’, even “though the pronunciation of ‘r’ in these words is very feeble.” Non-rhotic pronunciations of these words he dismissed as a custom of “Londoners,” and added that such pronunciations “grate upon the ears.” Pitman probably spoke a West Country accent, but his then-partner Alexander J. Ellis was a product of Shrewsbury School, Eton, Brighton College, and Trinity College, Cambridge. With such a background, I’m assuming that Ellis would have spoken the (proto-)RP of the age, and in his “Essentials of Phonetics” (1848, and actually printed in the 1847 alphabet), pp. 51, 93-95, he identifies 3 English pronunciations of ‘r’ (which we would now term allophones) and two combinations of these allophones. Judging from his statements and examples, it would appear that Ellis’s speech too was fully rhotic. So when did R-dropping become acceptable and common among the elite?

  136. Mike Ferguson says: April 1, 20171:39 pm

    Hi David,
    Thanks for the prompt and helpful reply.

    I have heard people pronounce ‘Grave’ and ‘Have’ in a ways that sound to me almost like ‘Grev’ and ‘Hev’ or ‘Grairv’ and ‘Hairv’, but as I haven’t learned to follow the phonetic symbols, and am no great actor, I find it difficult to share what that really sounds like to me.
    So, once again – thank you for the work you have produced on this subject, including recordings and explanations.


  137. David Crystal says: April 1, 20176:35 am

    See the Dictionary under grave for the pron of this word and its derivatives: two prons are recognized, one wih a long mid-front vowel and one with a short open-front vowel, thus allowing the rhyme with have. Lots of examples of this. Also note the play on gravy and gravity in Henry IV.

  138. Mike Ferguson says: March 31, 201710:56 pm

    Hi David,

    Firstly, I like to thank you for, and congratulate you on your great work.

    I have been reading Richard ii, and can see many rhymes which sound best in OP (‘Tongue’/ Wrong; Boot/ Foot etc). I cannot, however, find a way of rhyming ‘Grave’ and ‘Have’. Can you help?



  139. David Crystal says: March 23, 201710:45 am

    Very nice pieces. For those interested in the points of difference with me, the main one is that I would make the vowel of decay, way, stay, day, brain the same as in pace etc – with a pure vowel not a diphthong. I’d also use a more open vowel for ‘all’ and a more open vowel for firm, curtained, etc – more like the one in ‘farm’.

  140. A.Z. Foreman says: March 22, 20172:30 am
  141. David Crystal says: March 14, 20179:26 am

    Yes, that would be good. There are the tutorials on Paul Meier’s site (www.paulmeier.com). And all the words in my OP Dictionary are recorded (you get a code inside a copy of the book that gives you access to the recording lodged at OUP), so you can check the words in your choice of text. Otherwise, just listen a lot to some of the recordings on this site.

  142. Hunter says: March 13, 20174:44 pm

    Is there a phonetic guide to OP available? I’m working on a project for school about English renaissance theatre, and part of the assignment requires a demonstration. I thought it would be cool to perform a monologue using OP but I have no where to start. Thank you!

  143. A.Z. Foreman says: March 12, 20177:35 am

    Granted that everybody was sensitive to issues surrounding spelling reform (and this was the period in which the some attempts at purely pronunciation-based spellings and “phonetic alphabets” were made, by none other than orthoepists themselves.) Yet it doesn’t seem to me to be a simple matter of spelling pronunciation. After all, there are a very few versions of English (and Scots) that preserve a bird/burn/verb distinction even today. That alone is reason to believe that such pronunciations existed in the 1500s. I suppose spelling may have given license to such pronunciations. And people certainly justified such pronunciations in terms of spelling. But evidence for the merger seems to proceed from north to south. When the distinction becomes a live issue for orthoepists in the south, I assume that this means that the merger has now become a variable, something that they feel duty-bound to recommend against. When it is a fait accompli and no longer a variable, they no longer have anything to gripe about.

    Even so, your way of dealing with the r-colorings is completely plausible in that there certainly would have been people who sounded like that in any case. But I would be interested in hearing what a version of this sounded like when staged.

  144. David Crystal says: March 8, 201710:17 am

    I think spelling pronunciations played an increasingly important role at that time, with everyone being very sensitive to the spelling reform issue. The character of Holofernes, probably satirising Richard Mulcaster, illustrates the way some people were thinking. And orthoepists of course are perecisely the sort of people who would want pronunciation to reflect the spelling. So I tend to take what they say with a very large pinch of salt, just as I do with present-day pronunciation prescriptivists!

  145. David Crystal says: March 8, 201710:14 am

    Good points. Re suprasgs… I have a chapter on these in Think on my Words. True, there are just intriguing fragments of comment. Personally I don’t think intonation has changed much. The musical representations in Steele’s detailed Melody and Measure of Speech, 1775, suggest little difference from today, so if there’s no big difference in the past 250 years maybe there wasn’t much in the previous 150.

  146. A.Z. Foreman says: March 8, 20177:04 am

    By the by

    The Great Vowel Shift always sounded so epic to me. Like a summer blockbuster for nerds. I imagine Don LaFontaine saying in his booming preview voice: “This summer, a few intrepid vowels will make their way across the feature grid. But can they survive in their new homes?”

  147. A.Z. Foreman says: March 7, 20174:33 pm

    One other thing that I thought might be done — which I didn’t do in my recording — is to be more conservative with the r-coloring. To have “bird”, “verb” and “burn” be, broadly transcribed, /bɪrd vɛrb bʊrn/. We find orthoepists recommending such pronunciations even toward the end of the 16th century, and it isn’t until the start of the 17th that the merger seems to be well-established in The City from what I know of the sources. (Though I’m hardly up to date.) I wonder if greater retroflexion of the /r/ played a part in this. But this would create even more problems for actors. And of course the more innovative pronunciation was at the very least present in some speech, particularly people my age.

  148. A.Z. Foreman says: March 7, 20174:11 pm

    I can certainly get that. I didn’t really consider that what actors could do, and what audiences ought to be made to hear, might depend on other considerations than the strictest (approximation of) accuracy possible. And after all, there is a whole range of things that presumably must have differed from Modern English(es) that I imagine will never be knowable or even surmisable. What can be known of suprasegmental features, for instance, apart from the fact that secondary stress must have been strong enough not to result in as much vowel reduction? (It’s only with the most painstaking of work that anything about Ancient Greek sentence prosody — beyond the contours of pitch accents — has become recently knowable with Stephens and Devine’s “Prosody of Greek Speech.”)

    With things like increasing and blessing, one thing that occurs to me is that the height for “short” vowels may be much less restricted or more centralized than that of long ones. Because /ɛ/ and /e/ do not contrast as /ɛ:/ and /e:/ do, perhaps the vowel of “blessing” may be something that would best be represented as [e̞] or [ɛ̝].

    “As for points of consistency, I would have made day/way less diphthongal – the same as in bravery”

    I take these vowels to have been /ɛ:ɪ/. My take on Elizabethan English in the City of London is that for some speakers there must have been a distinction between the vowel from Middle English /aɪ/ and that from Middle English /a:/. Thus “tale” /tɛ:l/ and “tail” /tɛ:ɪl/ at least for a while. Or maybe /tɛ:l/ and /tɛɪl/. The latter might be something like [tʰɛi̯ł] with a diphthong similar to that of Standard Dutch “ij”, which also has a monophthongal dialectal pronunciation. (Ditto for days/daze, bait/bate, hail/hale, raise/raze and waive/wave.) The purely monophthongal pronunciation of such words existed to be sure at least from the mid 16th c. onward. We also know other writers, including some in London, took exception to it. Alexander Gil criticizes the monophthongal pronunciation and associates it with upper class effeminacy and women’s speech. Given that almost anything one wishes to stigmatize may be (and has been) demeaned in such terms, this probably says little about who actually spoke this way. But other writers describe the monophthong for Middle English /aɪ/ as being the result of French influence and an affectation. Which does at least suggest that some sort of perception of regional snootiness was involved.

  149. David Crystal says: March 7, 20179:40 am

    A lovely reading, and very close to my own. One of the best I’ve heard, in fact. I quite like the effect of added lip-rounding, on love etc. I’ve done it that way too, on occasion, but in play performance felt that it pushed the accent too much towards Irish, and – as a general principle – I find directors don’t want characters to associate too strongly with any one modern accent. The beauty of OP, to my mind, is that it contains echoes of many modern accents but can be identified with none of them. BUt thank you for takign the trouble to respond to my suggestion: I think you are the first to have done so! As for points of consistency, I would have made day/way less diphthongal – the same as in bravery etc; and I value the effect of initial /w/ to make the vowel more open, so that wandering is more like all.

    Your other points are well taken. As for reading my work, Pronouncing Shakespeare represents my first and (looking back now) pretty primitive attempt to get to grips with OP. The current evolution of my thinking, after doing a dozen plays, is represented in the Dictionary, and that will surely evolve further, as I restricted that to the First Folio plus the poems, so there are further variations that will need to be added in due course, as the database expands to include other texts (and thus, rhymes etc). I was very cautious – some might say, too cautious – but I didn’t want to go beyond what the evidence allowed. For example, I give long and short vowel alternatives to increase, because there is a rhyme increasing and blessing. But there was no such rhyme for decrease, so I show only the long vowel there. Probably people did say decrease with a short vowel too, on occasion, but I avoid ‘probablys’ in the Dictionary.

    But thank you for your interest, and for providing this fresh perspective – and for the links to other reconstructions too. I had to do 16th-c French and Latin for Henry V, and your versions are hugely illuminating, and very plausible. I note you use a trilled /r/, which is really effective – I kept the retroflex one, as for English, on the grounds that people commented at the time about the ‘poor accent’ of English people when speaking Latin.

  150. A.Z. Foreman says: March 6, 201711:32 pm

    ” So, given your detailed awareness of the historical trends, it would be really interesting to see your own reconstruction, and to try it out in performance. I very much hope that such comparative phonological dramaturgy will develop, as time goes by.”

    Alright. Here are two sonnets read by me. The first because it is rich in varied near-front and mid vowels, and the other because I like it


    (I just got out my phone and recorded this sitting at my desk without prep. So the delivery is unpolished and the sound somewhat short of studio quality. And I think I may have screwed up the height of the vowel in one instance of the word “not”)

    “but to throw in the towel, and say that we’ll never know anything about OP, just because there are difficulties, is not in my mindset, as – judging by your capitalisation of ANYTHING – it seems to be in yours.”

    I can see why you’d think that. Nothing could be farther from the truth. On my own site, which is more about translation than reconstruction, I include links to my reading specimens of reconstructions in a few languages, including

    Late Middle French


    5th century Athenian Greek


    1st Century BC Latin


    12th century Old Occitan


    16th century Spanish


    Late Tang Court Chinese



    Mid Qing Court Chinese


    Alright this is becoming linkspam. But you take my meaning. I’m by no means opposed or pessimistic about the possibilities. Truly.

    And I did see the /e:/ and think you meant something it turns out you did not. I have not read all of your books. I’ve ordered a few that have yet to arrive in the mail. I was just reading “Pronouncing Shakespeare: The Globe Experiment” and saw your description of the vowels in words like “Eve” as being more like the vowel of contemporary “Way.” This combined with your grapheme choices in the pieces downloadable online, and some of the performances I’ve heard (most not by you, I hasten to add) led me to make unfounded assumptions as to your intent.

  151. David Crystal says: March 6, 201710:14 am

    Difficult to reply to so many messages separately, so I’ll extract the main points fromn them and deal with them all here. Many thanks for giving these aspects of my work such a detailed exploration.

    Sea/see not taken effect ‘fully’ – the devil lies in that word. Sure there are examples in Pope etc – the tea as tay one is well-known, and indeed it lasts, at least regionally, until well into the 18th century, or, for that matter, into the present-day. What is unclear is just how fast the merger went in regional accents and just how it spread across the lexicon. As we all know, sound changes don’t take place all at once. I did actually try maintaining this distinction with the first company I worked with at the Globe, but they simply couldn’t implement it consistently, so I dropped it. People don’t have good intuitions about the Middle English antecedents – and even historical phonologists get confused at times!

    Shakespeare had no /i:/ vowel? I think you’ve been misled by my pedagogical use of the /e/ symbol. When I first started teaching OP to actors, I wanted to draw their attention to the way this vowel wasn’t as close as present-day RP, so I transcribed it with an ‘e’ as a kind of reminder. It helped them, but it wasn’t a good long-term decision. I hoped the diagram in Pronouncing Shakespeare of the phonetic range of the vowel would make it clear that all I was saying was that EME /i:/ was more open than Modern /i:/, but it didn’t work out like that – so, after lots of discussion with other OP people, I changed back to the /i:/ symbol, as in my OP Dictionary, where it is used throughout. So I don’t think there’s much difference between what I do and your description of the vowel in your third message. Sorry it has misled you.

    The other thing that happened is that actors, in trying to make their /i:/ vowel more open, went too far, and made it overlap with the mid-open vowel, so that seek sounded like sake. Ben does this a lot, I’m afraid, and I keep trying to get him out of the habit! But hardly any actors have the kind of phonetic training that I would like to see routine.

    You make the point about ‘massive variation’ in relation to the rounded/unrounded contrast. I recognize the same point in my Dictionary (p. xliii), where I explain my reasons for making the unrounded vowel the default option. The mixed evidence pushes you in the other direction, evidently. That’s fine by me. It would be good to hear versions of OP in performance where the rounded forms are the default. My choice, though, allows me to use rounded variants for certain characters (eg Macmorris), and it would be interesting to hear how those character distinctions would be maintained in this other phonetic scenario.

    I simply don’t understand how you can say that my OP is ‘too neat’, and talk about free variation, when there is a huge amount of variation recognized in the transcriptions in the OP Dictionary. It’s one of the reasons it took me so long to make the audio recording of the book.

    And re your fourth message, I discuss all this in more or less the same way in the introduction to the Dictionary. Rhyme is only one of the factors, of course, and the evident inconsistencies provide the main challenge to anyone trying to reconstruct OP. There is a complete corpus of all the rhymes in the canon on the OUP website that accompanies the Dictionary, to help anyone do the kind of statistical analysis you mention. The book also has a discussion of how I handle ‘half-rhyme’, which introduces another raft of possibilities. It’s all very complex, indeed, but to throw in the towel, and say that we’ll never know anything about OP, just because there are difficulties, is not in my mindset, as – judging by your capitalisation of ANYTHING – it seems to be in yours.

    All I claim for my reconstruction is that it is plausible – never authentic – and I welcome alternative versions that reach different conclusions on the basis of the very mixed evidence we have. So, given your detailed awareness of the historical trends, it would be really interesting to see your own reconstruction, and to try it out in performance. I very much hope that such comparative phonological dramaturgy will develop, as time goes by.

  152. A.Z. Foreman says: March 6, 20175:03 am

    Apart fromt he fact that it makes no typological sense for sea/sea to be leveled into /e:/ (especially if /e:/ really is [e:]), it’s also worth noting that though these sets do rhyme, they do not do so consistently. These sets are both used quite extensively in the Sonnets, yet not routinely cross-rhymed there. It does happen of course. But also the “see” lexical set in the sonnets is far more likely than the “sea” to rhyme with the secondarily stressed /ǝɪ/ of “prosperity” and “legacy” whereas the the “sea” lexical set more readily rhymes with /ɛ/ and /ɛ:/. On the other hand there are cases where “see” words rhyme with /ɛ/ as well, as in “feed/shed” but it seems rarer (I don’t actually have a corpus analysis of the rhymes of the Sonnets to hand. They’re just the body of Shakespeare’s work I know best.) This all suggests to me that rhyming per se cannot be a sure guide to the vowel grid of any one version of English at play.

    But then, why would one expect it to be? This has been long known to scholars of the historical phonology of Chinese, where the writing system makes even getting on the ground floor of analysis far more difficult (and therefore makes rhyme practice, as well as medieval Chinese rhyme-dictionaries, all the more precious as evidence.)

    Creators may use rhymes that appear in other dialects than one’s own, and other dialects than the one used for spoken or sung delivery. Or they may avoid rhymes that exist in their dialect. A southern American poet writing a sonnet in, say, 1950, would probably not use men/thin as a rhyme however deeply the phonological pin had pricked their pen. An American writing 50 years earlier than that might have avoided rhyming “fatter” with “madder” for similar reasons. As with much else in poetic language, the features which come into play to decide what is an acceptable rhyme in a poetic or lyric tradition (even an oral one with illiterate practitioners) are not reducible to, or abstractable from, the facts of any one dialect. As like as not they depend on genre, on circumstance of delivery as much as anything else. Note 20th century American poets who observe fairly strict rhyme rules, may rhyme “again” with both “pain” and “pen”, or “been” with both “seen” and “sin.”

    The rhymes in modern pop music and rap are worth considering. Take “gonna” and “stunner.” For some Americans, when the word is stressed, “gonna” is actually /gɔnǝ/ or even /gɔwnǝ/. In “Dani California” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, these words are rhymed even though the pronunciations used on the recording (in keeping with the vaguely Memphis-flavored, optionally non-rhotic norm of modern American pop singing that has been with us since Elvis) are /stʌnǝ/ and /gɔwnǝ/. Or take the “Julius Caesar vs. Shaka Zulu Rap Battle” written by Nice Peter and EpicLLOYD. There “sh*t-talker” is rhymed with “boom shakalaka” /ʃɪttɒkɚ ~ bu:mʃakalakǝ/.

    I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, of course, Prof. Crystal. But it occurred to me now to wonder: to what degree can the occasional cross-rhyming of the “see” and “sea” lexical sets be used to ascertain ANYTHING about the pronunciations a performer might or might not use on the stage apart from the fact that the vowels probably had something vague in common? I don’t know if this is true of Elizabethan theater —of which I know little— but stage accents themselves, are often not identical with any one vernacular either. C.f. 19th century Buhnendeutsch in Germany, the vowels of the form of Chinese traditionally used for Peking Opera, traditional Yiddish theater pronunciation in late 19th and early 20th century Eastern Europe, and even Mid-Atlantic English in earlier generations.

  153. A.Z. Foreman says: March 5, 20178:52 pm

    Variation to be sure. But if anything I think the variation for “see” words must have stopped short of fullblown /e:/. This lexical set DOES develop differently from “sea” in later English as evidenced by Dryden and Pope’s rhymes. Assuming that the English underlying OP is to be seen as having lineal continuity with later london Englishes (which, I know, is not a sure assumption by any means, but work with me here) there is a question of how to account for this. One possible solution as I suggest above is that the /i:/ vowel was really more of an [ɪ:] a lot of the time for some if not most speakers, perhaps that [ɪ:] was a positional variant of /i:/ under certain conditions of “prominence” of some kind. Would make sense, given its recent ancestry in Middle English.

  154. A.Z. Foreman says: March 5, 20178:37 pm

    Blast it. I forgot to not insert angle brackets again.

    For “Pope and Dryden (for whom and could rhyme with but not with any of the words) ”

    Read “Pope and Dryden (for whom sea and tea could rhyme with obey but not with any of the -ee words)

    For “that words like and retained an /e:/ vowel ”

    Read “that words like thee and see retained an /e:/ vowel “

  155. A.Z. Foreman says: March 5, 20178:33 pm

    (Reposting the above with corrections. Somehow the site took my citation forms for html tags)

    Oh good. A place where I can ask a question of David Crystal himself.
    So the same thing has been bugging me.
    One problem I see is that there’s evidence that the see/sea merger not only had not taken effect fully, but that even later authors such as Pope and Dryden (for whom and could rhyme with but not with any of the words) maintain a distinction.
    But here’s the real issue I have, Prof. Crystal. If the transcriptions of OP that I’m looking at in your OP Sonnets are to be believed, Shakespeare’s English actually has no /i:/ vowel at all except before rhotics — i.e. before the consonant that has the strongest lowering effect. This is typologically implausible to say the least. This dialect of English already has a heavily crowded inventory of high mid vowels and rising diphthongs. The language already has /e:/ as in sea , /ɛ:(ɪ)/ as in say, /ɛ:/ as in sake and /ǝɪ/ as in line. Now, when I actually HEAR Ben Crystal recite passages in OP, he often raises the words from the lexical set to /i:/ (also merging /ɛ:/ with /e:/ at times, I hear him often use the same high vowel for brake as in speak. But I digress.)
    That the space of /i:/ on the feature grid should remain mostly unoccupied except before /r/ is unbelievable to me on typological grounds, especially not when a push chain shift was still in the process of reconfiguring the high vowels.
    What evidence if any is there that words like and retained an /e:/ vowel for (at least some) Southern English speakers in Shakespeare’s lifetime?
    While I’m at it, here’s another quibble.
    The suggestion is of an unrounded vowel for the -ove and -ull lexical sets on rhyme grounds. But there is a good deal of spelling-book evidence that the split of the vowel in bull, bush, full, put and cup, dull, cut, mud had not taken place in the south before about 1600 or so in southern English dialects. Certainly not in words that regularly bore stress (as opposed to words “some” like which might not). The earliest clear evidence for the split dates from the mid 17th century, and descriptions found in schoolbooks ca. 1600 put a rounded vowel in the mouths of at least some southerners at that time. A bit more plausible to me is that both had an /ʊ/ vowel for at least another fifty years or so. Even more plausible than that is that there was massive variation within London, and even within a single speaker. Much as the cot-caught merger may occur sporadically in a single speaker — such as myself. I find every reason to think that this lexical set had a good deal of variation of this kind. The common spellings such as “strook” for “struck” make this seem all the more likely.
    The OP as transcribed — and as performed by people who just read Crystal’s guidelines and run with them — really seems a bit too pat, too neat. I find it much more believable that the same person pronounced “unless” now as ʌnlɛs, now as ʊnlɛs in free variation. Heck, it would be believable to me that the lexical “see” set actually varied between something like /ɪ:/ and /i:/ (making it just a bit more rhymable with the more open vowels) on its way to fullblown merger into what became the “fleece” set, much as “water” in my own speech (I am an American from the Northern half of the East Coast) has either /ɑ/ or /ɒ/ in more or less free variation.

  156. David Crystal says: February 27, 20179:40 am

    I don’t know of any OP production of Tempest, and I’ve never recorded the whole play – just the odd speech here and there. You can hear one example on the British Library OP CD, where Hilton McRae does a bit of Prospero. Only about 15 plays have been done in OP so far. Still a long way to go!

  157. Jim Syler says: February 25, 20178:50 pm

    I’m currently studying The Tempest, and I was wondering if there were any audio recordings of that play in OP. I haven’t been able to find any online. Thanks!

  158. David Crystal says: February 21, 201712:07 pm

    Very interesting. Thank you.

  159. Kenneth Beesley says: February 18, 20175:09 pm

    Many thanks for the reply. Schwa endings for words like window and sparrow are common enough, even today, but the final /s/ of “belus”, for an English plural ending after a vowel (“a pair of bellows”) is still a bit surprising. And it was apparently /s/; both the 1847 alphabet and the Deseret Alphabet were “surfacy” in transcribing English-plural endings, e.g., “beds” spelled as “bedz” but “bets” spelled as “bets”, and “toes” spelled as “toz”. So I would have been less surprised by a “beluz” spelling/pronunciation.

    I’m aware of Walker’s Pronouncing Dictionary, which the young Isaac Pitman reportedly devoured, but I don’t have a copy to hand. I do have some old Webster’s Dictionaries, which I should have checked. For indicating pronunciation, the 1859 edition confines itself to marking up the standard-orthography word as BELL’OWS, with a macron above the O, indicating the “long O sound”. This would—if I’m interpreting the notation correctly—appear to reflect my own modern pronunciation of the word. (Readers were expected to apply some standard orthographical rules, such as the “silent e” rule, and apparently the voicing of the final plural “s” after voiced phonemes, to interpret the markup.) But in the significantly revised 1864 edition of Webster’s, “bellows” is actually respelled for pronunciation as “bel’lus”, with a breve accent above the “e”, and (if I’m interpreting the notation correctly) that’s the only pronunciation indicated. In the same edition, “Scissors” is respelled for pronunciation as siz’zurz, with a final “z”, so the “bel’lus” respelling did indicate a final /s/, as reflected in both the 1847-alphabet and Deseret Alphabet spellings. Fascinating. Thanks again. Now I’ll go away and let you get back to the 17th century.

  160. David Crystal says: February 18, 201710:19 am

    Yes, angle brackets are a pain! The pronunciation was perfectly normal then, and had been for some time. John Walker in his Pronuncing Dictionary gives a transcription of bellows as bellus, nand that was 50 years before. Dickens has window as winder. I use the same schwa ending for all -ow words in Shakespeare.

  161. Kenneth Beesley says: February 18, 20176:01 am

    I see that in my previous message, anything that I typed inside angle brackets got deleted. Let me try again: The word “bellows” was spelled, in the 1847 alphabet text of Ellis’s “Essentials of Phonetics”, “belus”, where “e” represented the e-as-in-bet and “u” represented the u-as-in-but. The same word “bellows” appears twice in the Deseret Alphabet Book of Mormon, printed 1869, both times with a completely equivalent spelling. Have you seen such a spelling/pronunciation before?

  162. David Crystal says: February 16, 20178:16 am

    Certainly comments about regaining ownership are made everywhere an OP production is mounted, especially in the US, where there has been a long-standing notion that unless Shakespeare is done in RP it isn’t ‘right’. But I hear them in the UK too, where, after all, the vast majority of the people who go to see a play don’t speak RP. And I regularly get similar messages froom English speakers with non-RP accents from around the globe. So it seems to be a pretty general reaction. I don’t know whether there’s a class issue of the kind you mention. I rather doubt it. The reluctance of somne theatre companies to experiment with OP I suspect is more to do with their in-house traditional practices than anything else. And probably some inter-theatre rivalry. I’ve heard the comment, ‘the Globe has done it, so we don’t need to’, more than once from directors – which misses the point, rather, seeing as the Globe’s directors after Mark Rylance showed no interest in mounting further productions in the main house. Fortunately, its education wing was more enlightened!

  163. Jack Mcconville says: February 15, 20173:23 pm

    Hello David

    Fascinating and enlightening work. I’m curious to what extent class distinctions have impacted on the uptake of OP, (you speak of people sensing a greater identification and ownership of the works) and whether there is a reluctance to ‘hand over’ Shakespeare to the masses in this manner. (Is there perhaps a link with attempts to prove ‘shakespeare’ was of noble birth?).

    Many thanks


  164. David Crystal says: January 30, 20171:02 pm

    Thak you. And if you find yourself using OP in your work, do let this site know.

  165. Brandee Griffiths says: January 30, 201712:54 am

    Hello David,

    I stumbled upon one of your videos with your son and have been listening to them and researching since. Thank you so much. I am working on my thesis and within my last term in a Graduate Level Shakespeare class in which we are looking at the original works, and also at an international version in which Shakespeare influenced greatly. Presently it is between “MacBeth” and Kurosawa’s “Throne of Blood.”

    I also want to comment and say that I am so glad you are doing this work and spreading the information about OP. There are some schools now that are deleting Shakespeare from the classroom setting and not teaching him at all–it’s so sad. I am hoping that your work will show them the relevance that Shakespeare exudes still as well as the importance of new findings within the Shakespearean spectrum.

    Thanks! Brandee

    P.S. My thesis is on Merlin, however Shakespeare is present as well. 🙂

  166. David Crystal says: January 27, 20176:03 pm

    Actually, they did. Raleigh and Drake are known to have spoken ‘broad Devonshire’, and in 1603 the entire court resounded to Scottish accents. The only difference was that the upper-classes on the whole would have been able to read, and spelling would have influenced their pronunciation (as Holofernes in Love’s Labour’s Lost illustrates). Doubtless there would have been a ‘superior’ tone of voice, humn nature being the way it is, but there’s no information available about that.

  167. Davies says: January 27, 20175:56 pm

    Thank you, David.
    And what about the upper classes and nobility?
    Any idea how they spoke?
    Surely they didn’t speak like ordinary people?

  168. David Crystal says: January 27, 20175:34 pm

    I’m not surprised. There are certainly some features of OP that correspond to the way English developed in the Caribbean. But it’s a general reaction: virtually everyone who hears OP for the first time says ‘We speak like that where I come from’! They’re hearing features of that ‘ancestor accent’ that have stayed in their home setting. But no modern accent is identical to OP.

  169. davies says: January 26, 20177:57 pm

    Hello, David.

    Concerning OP , I have a friend who was brought up in Trinidad and says OP reminds
    her a little of the Trinidad accent.
    Do you think the ” white” Trinidad accent may be a remnant of OP ?

    Also, how were the nobles and upper classes of Shakespeare’s time speaking ?

    Thanking you for your fascinating work.

  170. David Crystal says: January 24, 201710:12 pm

    Well, just try to get the vowel values right, as the assonances are, to my mind, the critical auditory feature of this poem – eg all/war, find/wind. Check my Dictionary for individual words. Although that’s for Shakespeare, I think all the words in this poem are in there.

  171. Joey Balke says: January 24, 20176:53 pm

    I’m preforming in a poetry competition for my school and I thought doing it in OP would push me over the edge. I am considering doing “I Find No Peace” by Sir Thomas Wyatt, any tips on preforming in OP?

  172. Mark Wright says: January 23, 20176:08 am

    Thank you for clarifying that k in knight wouldn’t have changed the syllable count. It’s hard for me as a modern speaker not to lengthen the word into two syllables. But the example of “quite” clarifies things for me. Thank you.

  173. David Crystal says: January 22, 20173:09 pm

    Yes, I’m hoping that more OP work will be done on other authors fromt he time, as – apart from anything else – it will help clarify some of the pronunciations that remain uncertain because of limited evidence in Shakespeare.

    The ‘silent’ /k/, /g/ were indeed dying out by Shakespeare’s time, but they would still have been heard, among conservative and older speakers, and they were certainly still around when he was growing up. But the iambic argument isn’t relevant, as a consonant cluster wouldn’t have affected the syllable count. There’s no difference between kn-, kw-, kr-, and so on. It would of course have been possible, as it is still today, to make these clusters bisyllabic (and say kuh-wite for quite, etc), but this wouldn’t have been the everyday pronunciation.

  174. Mark Wright says: January 19, 20171:22 pm

    I’ve been poring over Spenser’s The Faerie Queene from the perspective of OP. Two almost immediate observations: The first: love, remove, and move all rhyme, just as in Shakespeare. And the second is that the k in knight was certainly silent by this time, contrary to what some books on the history of the language contend. The reason is that the iambic pentameter is thrown off if knight is pronounced as two syllables. I know neither of these observations is new to you. But it is enjoyable to read another Elizabethan work and see the clear evidence of OP.

  175. David Crystal says: January 19, 20179:46 am

    No, this was a one-off, the motivation coming from the British Library to coincide with their publication of the beautiful Tyndale facsimile. I don’t know of any other recordings. I don’t think the BL will do anything further, but it’s always possible some other publisher might want to do something along these lines, now that OP is more widely known and appreciated.

  176. David Crystal says: January 19, 20179:43 am

    Absolutely! This is one of the main findings of modern sociolinguistics, that change takes place variously in relation to social class, gender, age… And Shakespeare knew this too. Remember Mercutio’s comment about Tybalt, ‘these new tuners of accent…’

  177. Doug Merritt says: January 18, 20177:29 pm

    Dear David. Thank you for your Tyndale Matthew recording. Do you have any plans to record more Tyndale Bible? I have only recently for the first time begun reading through this version, which I find refreshing in many ways, and your recording is helping me get through it. I have not found any other recordings in OP of the Tyndale, so I would like to hear more. Thanks again for Your Matthew Tyndale.

  178. Mike says: January 18, 20175:15 pm

    Ah. I suppose that the shift was probably especially ambiguous because it affected every community differently and at a different pace depending on their interactions with other people, and wouldn’t it also vary depending on the age of the speaker? Such as younger people starting to pronounce a vowel more fronted than older person… Or even shifting specific words within the same spelling but not others? In other words, not all at the same time?

  179. David Crystal says: January 18, 201712:38 pm

    This is probably the most debatable of all the issues in relation to OP of the time. I spent ages wondering what to do! The distinction between see and sea (etc) was clear in Middle English, the latter with a more open vowel, and the question is just how long this distinction was maintained. I did try to make it work for Shakespearean OP, but encountered two problems, one philological, one applied. First, the spellings aren’t a clear guide. Lots of words that are now spelled are spelled in the FF, such as neere. Several words that used to have the more open vowel are also spelled , or rhyme with words that clearly have the closer vowel, such as sea and thee (RJ), teach and speech (R2), hear/cheer, leave/conceive, near/deer, and so on. Yes, there are lots of cases that point to a more open articulation too, such as heath/Macbeth, and the peace/bless (not dress, surely?) rhyme in MND. So I concluded from this that there were alternative pronunciations around in Shakespeare’s day.

    Now, faced with alternatives, the applied question arises: what to recommend to directors and actors wanting to do an OP play? I did try to maintain a distinction, in early rehearsal with the original Globe company, but there were so many exceptions and arbitrary decisions that the actors found it impossible, so I dropped it, to everyone’s relief. It’s certainly possible to try to introduce it, if somebody wanted, and I’d love to hear from anyone who has done so (is there anyone yet?). As I say in my Dictionary, there isn’t ‘one’ OP, but several possible – just as today there isn’t ‘one’ Modern English, and it would be interesting to hear what a see vs sea version would sound like on stage.

  180. Mike S says: January 17, 20177:33 pm

    What is the evidence that words such as meet, see, thee, cheek, she, be, sleep, were pronounced with the same vowel as meat, sea, peace, break, etc.? I am only finding these word sets as separate rhymes-and even seeing an example in Midsummer night’s dream where peace rhymes with dress. Thank you!

  181. David Crystal says: January 8, 20178:51 am

    All -tion, -cian, -tian etc endings had alternative pronunciations, depending on the metre. So words like ‘Christian’ would, as your examples show, sometimes have two and sometimes three syllables. I give both alternatives in the relevant entries in my Dictionary. In prose, I would expect the two-syllable form to be the default, as today.

  182. JB says: January 7, 20176:45 pm

    How many syllables are there in “Christian”? I seem to recall learning that there are three big, fat round syllables (“Chris-Tee-An”) – apologies for getting all technical!
    Looking through some of the plays, it know seems less rigid – that is, it seems like the actor could stretch the word out (see Merchant example below) or ellide. The sonnets, alas, don’t contain the word. I tried with “condition,” but that might not be the best replacement or test-word. (I am Canadian, so in my parlance, there are only two syllables.)

    Many a time hath banish’d Norfolk fought
    For Jesu Christ in glorious Christian field,

    [Aside] How like a fawning publican he looks!
    I hate him for he is a Christian,

    I had rather be a country servant-maid
    Than a great queen, with this condition,

  183. David Crystal says: January 6, 201711:34 am

    No. It rhymes with the last syllable of eternally, which had a diphthong – the same as in ‘die’, but unstressed, of course.

  184. Vincent Doyle says: January 5, 20179:42 pm

    I like your books. Does the word “die” in John Donne’s Holy Sonnet “Death Be Not Proud” rhyme with “thee”? Thanks.

  185. David Crystal says: January 3, 201712:57 pm

    Yes, /l/ is often dropped before an alveolar, as also in fault, soldier, etc. And the /f/ was droppable in after, just as it often is today – ‘good arternoon’.

  186. David Crystal says: January 3, 201712:54 pm

    True enough. Depending on regional accent more, I suspect. There are plenty of 15th-century spellings of have with an ai or ay, especially from the north of England. The /ei/ sound turns up in some US accents too.

  187. Mark Wright says: January 2, 20175:13 am

    In King Lear Act 1 Scene 4 313-317, the lines end with “caught her,” “daughter,” “slaughter,” “halter,” and “after”. So did halter get pronounced without an “l” sound? Did after rhyme with those other words as if it was “aughter”? Thank you!

  188. Andrew Legge says: January 1, 201711:19 pm

    With regard to the pronunciation of “have”, it has a different pronunciation in behave as in have.

    In the East Midland today, have is often pronounced “hae” (usually with a silent h) and Warwickshire is not that far away so it could be that in the 16th century have had the vowel of both gave and mad dependant on the speaker’s whim.

  189. David Crystal says: December 30, 20164:33 pm

    I don’t think one can read in much from interjections, which often depart from phonological norms. It’s possible that ah and oh had a strong aspiration, as they can have today, but it’s not possible to use that as evidence of a post-vocalic /h/ anywhere else. As for , there are several places where it isn’t clear whether Jonson is talking about sounds or letters (a common confusion of the time). Certainly, as far as Shakespeare is concerned, there is clear evidence of the /f/ pronunciation: enough rhymes with off in Two Gents, and in other places cough is spelt coffe, and coughing as coffing.

  190. Mike Schufman says: December 27, 20165:47 am

    Hello David. Big fan of yours. I was reading Ben Johnson’s The English Grammar. on page 51, when talking about the letter h, he notes that h after a vowel “sounds; as in ah, and oh.” Do you think this means that it was actually aspirated like /a:h/ and /o:h/? This raises my second question about gh. He also says that in words with gh, such as trough, cough, might, night, “…the G sounds just nothing.” He doesn’t say “the Gh” is not pronounced, and doesn’t liken it to f. Do you interpret that to mean that the word cough may possibly have been pronounced /kɔ:h/ or /kəuh/ and might and night as /məɪht/ and /nəɪht/?

  191. David Crystal says: December 22, 20166:16 pm

    All I can say is that, judging by the spellings, and occasional rhymes, shoe had two pronunciations, one like today and an older one with /o:/ (cf. shoon and one) that would have made it homophonous with show.

  192. John P. says: December 22, 201612:37 pm

    David, I recently read an interpretation of Hamlet III.ii.130-135 that contends that “show” is a sexual pun for “shoe” a slang term from Shakespeare’s time. Would “show” here have to be pronounced closer to “shoo” for this pun to work? How would one pronounce “show” in OP?

    Thank you!

  193. David Crystal says: December 12, 201612:39 pm

    I don’t see anything OP-motivated their either.

  194. Bernadette Carter says: December 11, 20168:53 pm

    Actually, I apologise, I meant to write Act 3 scene 1.

  195. Bernadette Carter says: December 11, 20168:30 pm

    Thank you

  196. David Crystal says: December 11, 20165:28 pm

    They’re two different words, with different etymologies and pronunciations. Rascal always had its /s/ and a short vowel. Rakehell derives from rake, not the other way round.

    I can’t see any OP-motivated puns in TN 3.3, unless you force one into Sebastian’s leavetaking of Antonio – ‘I’ll… leave you for /An hour’ /o:r/.

  197. Bernadette Carter says: December 11, 20161:37 pm

    I am studying the first part of Act 3 Scene 3 in Twelfth Night, and looking for puns, and have just come across all the work you have done with OP, which I find very exciting.

    Would the word ‘rascal’ have sounded like ‘rakehell’ (1547  Earl of Surrey Poems (1964) 24   The rakhell life that longes to loves disporte’ ) (OED), a word which apparently got shortened later to ‘rake’?

  198. David Crystal says: November 30, 20167:19 pm

    Same point as below, really. The spellings suggest the short /a/ pronunciation for crave, and this goes back to Old English crafian. In Middle English there are many instances of crave rhyming with have. By Shakespeare’s time, the evidence is that it still had a short vowel: Mulcaster lists crauin along with bauin and rauin – the last two have always had a short vowel. On the other hand, Middle English Scottish spellings in ai and ay suggest that it had become a closer and longer vowel (like that in modern air in some regions, and the analogy of other words ending in –ave that had the long vowel (save, wave etc) evidently pulled it in their direction, leaving have as the only exception. I give both a mid-open and an open vowel as variants in the Dictionary. So one option would be to rhyme crave with have. But note that spelling alternations of a and e suggest that the short /a/ could be sounded quite high, so that there would be very little auditory difference between /krɛːv/ and /hæv/.

  199. Anne-Laure RAMOLET says: November 29, 201610:44 pm

    Dear Professor,
    I have fairly the same question/observation about ‘have’ in the lyrics of Greensleeves, in (supposedly) verse 5:
    “I have been ready at your hand,
    To grant whatever you would crave,
    I have both wagered life and land,
    Your love and good-will for to have.”

    Absolutely all verses throughout the song have an ABAB rhyme structure, except this one, in modern English, where the B rhyme crave/have does not fit.
    Would you have any other evidence of the word crave being pronounced “cra:v”?

  200. David Crystal says: November 5, 201610:45 pm

    Not exactly. I’ve not found any evidence for ‘anon’ having the same vowel as ‘done/won’. However, the two vowels were very close, both in the mid-back region of the vowel area, so it’s possible that they would have been heard as rhymes, despite the phonetic difference. See the section in the introduction to my Dictionary of OSP on distinctive features for this view.

  201. Daniel W says: November 5, 20167:31 pm

    Dr. Crystal,

    In my thesis on Macbeth, I am examining the meter and rhyme of the first scene, and I was wondering if you could clarify something for me. Would it have been possible for “Anon” to rhyme with “done” and “won”? Thanks for any assistance you can provide!

    Daniel W.

  202. David Crystal says: October 4, 20169:08 am

    There are eleven rhymes of grave with have (see the Dictionary under grave for a listing); but there are also ten rhymes with words like gave and slave. So I give two pronunciations for grave, and would recommend ‘grav’ in the Cymbeline example. There’s no evidence that have was ever pronounced ‘heiv’. Grave definitely had a short vowel in Old English, and that pronunciation stayed in some regional accents, such as Scottish (where the spelling graff can be seen) until at least the 18th century. Another short ‘a’ vowel occurs in gravy – cf. the pun with gravity in Henry IV.

    One can never rule out the possibility that vowels near to each other in articulation were heard by the Elizabethans as rhyming, and I imagine that in the context of a song this would be more likely. So I suppose all pronunciation options are available!

  203. David Crystal says: October 4, 20168:55 am

    Yes… when I was in Frisia I felt I was listening to Old English. The term Anglo-Saxon was introduced to distinguish the ‘English Saxons’ from the continental ones. The term ‘Saxon’ simply meant ‘seax-wielding warrior’. Old English dialects were on the whole mutually intelligible, judging by the surviving manuscripts – there are relatively few differences – though one can never be sure how far Old English OP would have differed from place to place.

  204. Peter Von Berg says: October 3, 20169:25 pm

    Dear Professor Crystal,
    The final couplet of “Fear no more the heat o’ the sun ” from Cymbeline is:
    Quiet consummation have:
    And renowned be thy grave!
    Was ” have” then pronounced as “heiv”, or grave as “gra:v”?

  205. Gott says: October 3, 20166:03 pm

    Many of the phases of Shakespeare seem be much closer ontoward German
    My German teacher can as well read old English due to his dialect was much closely related than the standard German ,
    I have question why the English people have adopted the moniker Anglo-Saxon even though many of dialects for old English weren’t mutual intelligibility to each others , I would say the old English language have disappeared to lack of proper education since many of the poor people did not know how to read nor write themselves

  206. David Crystal says: October 3, 20162:08 pm

    I’ll post news about forthcoming productions as I hear about it. The next one I think is going to be at the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory next year – Antony and Cleopatra. No details yet.

    As for the understandability of OP… I used to go around the audiences during the intervals of productions and ask them. Nobody had any difficulty, and by the end of the first scene or two many said they were responding to the play as they would if it were presented in any other accent. People who have learned English as a second language tell me they find OP more intelligible than RP – the pronunciation of /r/ after vowels, for example, makes the accent clearer than in RP, where /r/ is not pronounced.

  207. Conor says: October 1, 201610:33 am

    A fascinating topic. I am a student of literature, with a particular interest in Shakespeare, and I think the OP production of Romeo and Juliet at the Globe a few years ago must have been very special. Certainly the closest we can get to recreating the Elizabethan playgoing experience. I am also interested in how accessible and understandable the OP is. Brings a far more visceral edge to the language, and I think it is important to understand the plays in the way in which they were written to be spoken. I have not been fortunate enough to see an OP production, but I would absolutely love to, so please do keep me posted on any upcoming productions.

  208. Jacek Tlaga says: September 27, 20169:00 pm

    Many thanks again! So it seems to me that Wither’s poetry has just a relatively high half-rhyme frequency. However, as for the Dowland’s ‘Come again’ lyrics, I think I’ll go for a closer pronunciation of ‘alas’ – as it is suggested by the rhymes used by Sir Thomas Wyatt and Edmund Bolton (eg alas / embrace), both Cambridge-educated and apparently unrelated to Scotland.

    Besides that, I would like to thank you for your dictionary, it must have been a tremendous amount of work to produce such an invaluable resource!

    With best regards,
    Jacek Tlaga

  209. David Crystal says: September 22, 20168:48 pm

    Very interesting examples. The Scots spellings of alas do seem to suggest a closer pronunciation, in which case the rhyme with grace would be good, or nearly so. But the other pairs you’ve found are trickier to explain. I’ve come across some of them in Shakespeare: ass and place rhyme in The Comedy of Errors, shade and sad in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, gate and chat in Venus and Adonis. There’s nothing in Wither’s background suggesting a regional explanation. The fact that the vowels in such pairs are articulatorily near each other makes me think that we are here dealing with the ‘one distinctive feature’ difference I mentioned before: that is, words with this minimal degree of auditory separation were perceived to rhyme. I don’t know of any evidence to suggest that such words as had, was, and that were pronounced with the mid-open front vowel (though I suppose anything is possible regionally).

  210. Jacek Tlaga says: September 21, 201610:13 am

    While trying to transcribe ‘Come again, sweet love doth now invite’ to OP, I discovered yet another example: alas / grace. Having checked alternative spellings in the online OED, I found out that several authors with Scottish background (such as king James I or Alexander Craige) used this rhyme and spelled ‘alace’ or ‘allace’ – so I guess it could be pronounced /əˈlɛːs/.

    However, by the way I found many more instances suggesting /ɛː/ in place of /a/. Especially George Wither in his Hymns and Songs of the Church used plenty of such rhymes, most notably ‘was’ frequently rhymed with words like ‘grace’ and ‘place’. Other examples are: had / shade, glad / made, that / gate, thereat / relate. Is it plausible that words such as ‘was’, ‘had’, ‘that’ were also pronounced /wɛːs/, /hɛːd/, /ðɛːt/? I couldn’t find any spellings that would back it up.

  211. David Crystal says: September 21, 20169:50 am

    Double ‘ee’ spellings of sphere clearly suggest the /i:/ pronunciation, but a more open pronunciation, spelled with ‘ae’, seems to have also developed in the 16th century, though it didn’t last (except in some regional accents). Probably by Donne’s time, in a conservative accent (as one often finds with poetry), the exact option would have been available, so both could have sounded roughly like air.

    The situation with alas, pass, and was is easier: all had a short ‘a’ vowel, as heard today in many northern England accents.

  212. Tim Dearmer says: September 20, 20166:22 pm

    In John Donne’s “The Sun Rising” the final couplet rhymes everywhere/sphere. Would this have been a full rhyme and, if so, would it rhyme with ear or air or somewhere in between? I have a similar puzzle over the final 3 lines of “The Relic” which “rhyme” alas/pass/was? I’d be relly grateful for some help with this!
    Tim Dearmer

  213. David Crystal says: September 20, 20168:49 am

    I assume mid-18th century for this carol, by which time the spelling system had largely standardized and eye-rhymes had come into fashion. So there would have been no rhyming identity. John Walker, in his pronouncing dictionary and rhyming dictionary, makes a clear distinction between ‘come’ (which he marks as having the same vowel as in ‘tub’) and ‘womb’ (rhyming the latter with ‘boom’). In short: the distinction would have been the same as it is today.

  214. Alicia Huntley says: September 20, 20167:49 am

    From a slightly different era…the Christmas carol Hark the Herald Angels Sing.
    “Late in time we see Him come
    Offspring of the Virgen’s womb”
    Would I be correct to think that both come and womb rhymed with an elongated ooo sound? sorry, I’m not a linguist so I don’t know the proper name for that phoneme

  215. David Crystal says: September 18, 20167:33 am

    The 2004 Romeo was a unique event – the only time a production was performed both in modern English and OP by the same cast. I can’t imagine it happening again. I don’t recall the exact show-lengths, I’m afraid, but it would be possible to find out. Both versions were video-recorded by the Globe (as they do for all productions) and are presumably still available to view by getting in touch with the archivist at the Globe and making an appointment to see them. This is how I found out myself about the time difference. They may also have a script of director Tim Carroll’s cut – around 600 lines, as I recall.

  216. Daniel Kaczyński says: September 17, 20169:01 pm

    Dear Professor David Crystal,

    Thank you very much for your reply to my one-king question I asked you last year. In your book “Pronouncing Shakespeare” (2005), you wrote that “The end result was that the OP performances, coming in at around two and a quarter hours, were about 10 minutes shorter than those using modern pronounciation” (p. 65). Of course, the OP performances was staged faster than Modern Pronounciation ones, but exactly how short were they? Do you have information on the exact time allotted for the OP Romeo and Juliet performances in 2004? I am interested both in the amount of lines of the play text as well as how long those performances exactly lasted. Do you know what was the average speed of delivering lines in those performances? Do you have such information on other OP performances from around the world? Thank you very much for your reply in advance.


  217. Jacek Tlaga says: September 14, 20163:01 pm

    Thank you so much for your answer, it’s really enlightening!

  218. David Crystal says: September 13, 20166:46 pm

    Many thanks for these very interesting examples.
    forlorn: This is the clearest case: the many rhymes show it was clearly a back vowel in the mid-close or mid-open region. I recommend mid-open in the dictionary.

    mourn: I went for the close vowel /u:/ because of the preponderance of spellings (eg in the OED), but there were also some ow spellings at the time (though not in the FF), which could easily be taken to show a mid-close variant – in which case there would be an overlap with a mid-close version of forlorn.

    return: occasional spellings can be found in o and ou, and a mid-open/close variant is still heard today in some regional accents (eg in Ireland)

    So, in a text where the writer is clearly intending the three words to rhyme, I would say the common factor would be a pronunciation somewhere between /o:/ and /ɔ:/. If singing, I imagine the more open variant would be likely.

    weak – there was a variant in /ɛ:/, especially in Scotland and the north, so I suppose it might have been heard elsewhere. No reason to recommend this on the basis of the FF, but no grounds for disallowing it in other contexts.

    deceiving/bereaving – you say ‘high’, and phonologically it was; but I argue that phonetically the quality was nearer cardinal 2 rather than the very high quality heard in RP today.

    virginity: there are examples like this in the FF (eg she / extremity) which suggests that a monophthongal pronunciation was around.

    Your examples show the need for a more comprehensive account of the phonology of the period, in which a much wider range of texts is taken into account. This is already being undertaken for other areas of language, and I hope phonology will get the same treatment in due course.

    The distinctive feature argument is always available as a fall-back, but I try not to use it unless I run out of other ideas!

  219. Jacek Tlaga says: September 13, 201612:58 pm

    Dear David,
    I’ve been analysing the lyrics of John Dowland’s songs using your dictionary. Most of the rhymes that don’t work today turned out to be exact. However, I came across a few rhymes that didn’t quite match. I guess some can be half-rhymes, especially those that differ slightly by just one distinctive feature (man/swan, bud/good, desert/heart), others may be the cases of pronunciation variants not included in the dictionary. Here are some most striking examples:
    mourn/return (uː – ɐː) – Now, O now, I needs must part
    mourn/forlorn (uː – ɔː) – Flow my tears
    forlorn/return (ɔː – ɐː) – What if I never speed
    I must say that those three are most puzzling.
    weak/break (iː – ɛː) – Dear, if you change
    deceiving/bereaving (iː – ɛː) – Think’st thou then by thy feigning
    Are those other pronunciation variants? (“weak” with mid-low /ɛː/, “bereave” with high /i:/)
    she – virginity (ɪ – ɘɪ) – When Phoebus first did Daphne love
    Is it a half-rhyme? Or maybe the central onset of /ɘɪ/ diphthong can be omitted?
    I hope you can shed some light on those issues.
    With best wishes,
    Jacek Tlaga

  220. Ivan Hazelton says: August 30, 20166:43 pm

    Seeing an OP production at the Globe would just be icing on the cake!

  221. David Crystal says: August 30, 20166:25 pm

    As far as I can tell, it was the same as today, but with the /r/ sounded, of course. There was an informal variant with an initial /j/ – Yedward.

  222. David Crystal says: August 30, 20166:23 pm

    I haven’t heard of any at the moment. As soon as I do I’ll post the information on this site. It’s possible that the Globe will want another OP event, using Bsn’s company, as we’ve done over the past three years; and that’s usually around May. But such things aren’t usually organized until a few months beforehand. Keep an eye on this site, anyway.

  223. Ivan says: August 30, 201612:51 am

    I’ll be travelling from my home in Alaska to London, Edinburgh, Glasgow and vicinity in April/May 2017 and would love to include an OP performance, but I can’t seem to find any info on upcoming events on this site. Is there a better resource that I can find? I’ll bee looking into “Ben’s company, Passion in Practice” mentioned in another message.

  224. Sándor Szabó says: August 28, 20168:15 pm

    Dear David,

    we changed in the past some emails on Shakespeare and pronunciation. Now I would like to know if you have a grounded view how they at the Elizabethan age pronounced the name Edward.

    Thank you very much in advance.
    Best regards,
    Sándor Szabó

  225. David Crystal says: July 25, 20168:17 am

    Ben’s company, Passion in Practice, does travel, from time to time – most recently for the OP Pericles in Savannah – but any such venture is very expensive to mount, so everything would depend on the availability of sponsorship. One certainly can’t beat a live performance for engaging with OP. In the meantime, Ben is giving talks on OP and related issues at the Stratford Festival in August.

  226. Kalem says: July 23, 20167:31 am

    Is there any chance you might come to the NAC in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada?
    I’d, love to see an OP production performed live, but I can’t really afford to travel.

    Thank you for your time,

  227. David Crystal says: June 15, 20169:04 am

    I see from a later message that you found the information – but in case others are interested in this point, yes the lines rhyme, with the diphthong of ‘qualities’ being the same as the one in ‘eyes’. The ‘Flower of this purple die’ sequence shows the same diphthong throughout, producing a striking ‘magical’ effect that’s lost when the vowels switch in Modern English (dye, archery, etc).

  228. Émélie says: June 14, 201611:09 pm

    Hi David,

    For starter, sorry for my English; I’m a French speaker and I’m not that good in writting.

    I’ve discover your work by doing some research on iambic pentameter for an audition. I work the Helena’s monologue in act 1, scene 1 of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and a rhyme (or no-rhyme) bugging me alot.

    ”And as he errs doting on Hermia’s eyes
    So I, admiring of his qualities”

    By listening a video of you, my boyfriend (englishspeaker) notice that one of the IES word pronounced have a different sound in OP… actually, it sound pretty close from French ”Qualité”! But still ”eyes” and ”qualités” still not rhyme.

    Can you inlighted me? Do ”eyes” also had a different prononciation in OP?

    Thank you for you wonderful work!

  229. David Crystal says: June 14, 20166:21 pm

    You mean vowels? I don’t think so. If you look at the phoneme-by-phoneme account in the introduction to my Dictionary, there’s very little difference, in terms of length, between the two sound systems. And in the two cases where pure vowels have become diphthongs (as in say and so), one might argue (depending on how you view a diphthong) that the length has increased. The contrast between OP and RP I would say is chiefly in quality, not quantity.

  230. Donovan Bacquie says: June 14, 20165:12 pm

    Dear David; Thank you for your extremely insightful work. Would I be right in saying that, in general, OP sounds ( in the early 17th century) were longer than old RP? Thank you again.

  231. David Crystal says: June 12, 20166:09 pm

    They do rhyme, with short vowels. There are dozens of examples of love rhyming with move, prove, and so on in the Sonnets, for example. You can see all the rhymes in the entry on love in my Dictionary. Several writers of the time state clearly that the vowel is short, but – as today (think Elvis) – there would have been some regional accents where it was long. Either way, the rhyme was normal at the time. (There are also some modern English accents where the vowel in move is short, such as in parts of Scotland.)

  232. Bill Lattanzi says: June 12, 20165:46 pm

    Hi David – I’ve always wondered about Hamlet’s letter to Ophelia, read by Polonius.
    “Doubt thou the stars are fire;
    Doubt that the sun doth move;
    Doubt truth to be a liar;
    But never doubt I love.”

    Do move and love rhyme in O.P.? I’m kind of hoping not, because a)in the next line Hamet admits to being a bad poet, b)elsewhere, Polonius judges lines as good or bad, and if it doesn’t rhyme, it can create a nice comic moment as Polonius is forced to read out the non-rhyme… maybe altering love to “loove” to get it to rhyme and making a face… or maybe it was a class difference that the royals might say “muv” and the lower levels – that I count Polonius among – might say “moove.” But this is all idle speculation… what have you discovered about this? Thank you!

  233. David Crystal says: June 10, 20169:48 pm

    Yes, I pronounced them all in the Tyndale, but they’d gone by Shakespeare’s day – though I expect some older or more conservative speakers would still have used them, and they would still have been heard in some regions, especially in Scotland.

  234. Mark Wright says: June 10, 20168:36 pm


    Had the velar fricative disappeared from words like night or daughter by Shakespeare’s time? I seem to recall you pronounced it in your recording of Tyndale’s Bible: Saint Matthew’s Gospel, thought, Tyndale obviously was writing in the early 1500s.

    Thank you.

  235. David Crystal says: June 6, 20168:24 am

    Yes, I noticed this the other day when I transferred the forthcoming events (which have now forthcome) to the archive. The first half of this year was very busy, OP-wise. I’m totally dependent for this site on people telling me what’s going on, and I haven’t heard of any new productions right now. I expect there’ll be something at the Globe this time next year, but it’s too early to say. Both Hamlet and Macbeth have been done in OP (see Archive) and I do have the flat audio recordings of both that I did for the companies involved, which are available via me (davidcrystal1@icloud.com) in support of Ben’s Passion in Practice company.

  236. Kalem says: June 6, 20167:34 am

    Hello David,

    In the “Forthcoming Events” section, there is not a thing. Are there not going to be any more OP productions? Or if there are, where and when might they be?
    I’d love to see Hamlet or Macbeth in some OP.

    Thank you for your time,

  237. David Crystal says: June 1, 20163:47 pm

    The OED has a useful etymology section on daughter which discusses the variants in its early pronunciation – including several refs to a medial /f/ (compare laughter, enough, etc). An important hint about the OP pron is Lear 1.4.315, where the rhymes include halter and after.

  238. Andrew.Legge says: June 1, 20169:26 am

    At that time a would be I guess ɛ:
    Er and ir is in spelling so would be ɛr and ir.

    I also note my local pronunciation of daughter is dowter which must be from doughter as ought and aught are kept separate in my dialect. I have found dofter though in 17th century a Warwickshire register. I note that OP has da:tər as the pronunciation.

  239. David Crystal says: May 31, 201610:02 pm

    Difficult to say. I’ve never collated all the instances of regional variants in the period – a nice job waiting to be done – so there may well be indications of this kind in local texts around the country. There are no variant spellings in the First Folio: bury is always with a u, for example, sirrah always with an i, and so on. Important to use IPA as the basis for the discussion, though. I’m not clear what vowel quality is being suggested by the ‘ay’ spelling, or what is meant by such forms as ‘er’ and ‘ir’.

  240. David Crystal says: May 31, 20169:47 pm

    You can hear these words spoken in OP in the audio file that accompanies the Dictionary referred to in another post below. It’s a diphthong, with a central (schwa) first element and a lax /i/ as the second element. A very common feature in the plays: a longer sequence is Oberon’s ‘Flower of this purple dye’ incantation in Dream 3.2.

  241. Anonymous says: May 31, 20162:50 pm

    In Romeo and Juliet Friar Lawrence delivers a monologue in which lies and qualities are supposed to rhyme. How would the last vowels of these words be pronounced in order for them to rhyme? would both use the vowel as in the name of the letter I or as in the letter E or in another manner?

  242. Andrew Legge says: May 31, 20168:37 am

    When I was a lad, the older men in our area ( N.E Derbyshire) would greet each other with “Ayup serry, aa’s tha gooin in”. Serry is clearly a descendent of Sirrah which suggests an OP pronunciation of serray. The final a of words was spelt in the local parish registers with a variety of letters, Sarei, Barbaray etc which all suggest a long final vowel , as in the old folksong pronunciation of America as Americay, which I would presume to be more like the modern RP vowel on pair than in pay 400 years ago. I guess that when er moved to ar in words such as starve and clerk, ir moved after to er in words such as bury (birie in East Midland Middle English) , merry and sirrah. Are these kinds of pronunciations indicated in Elizabethan texts?

  243. David Crystal says: May 29, 201610:14 am

    You should always use the online OED to answer questions about sense development: this would show you that the modern sense of rabble was already well established in the 15th century. The pronunciations of /a/ and /e/ were fairly close in Shakespeare’s day, judging by the many spelling alternations, such as terras and tarrace (for other exx, see the final section of the introduction in my Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation. Whether there is a piece of wordplay here is not for me as a linguist to say: that’s a literary question.

  244. David Crystal says: May 29, 201610:04 am

    The ‘Skoon’ pronunciation is modern. ‘Gone’ had two pronunciations, one like today, and the other rhyming with ‘bone’, ‘throne’, etc (many exx in the canon). (For a similar alternation between long and short vowels in a verb, compare ‘says’ with ‘ay’ and with ‘e’ (sez).)

  245. JMR says: May 28, 201611:54 pm

    In the lines “Worthy to be a rebel, for to that
    The multiplying villanies of nature
    Do swarm upon him–from the western isles
    Of kerns and gallowglasses is supplied;”
    is Shakespeare playing with the words ‘rebel’ and ‘rabble’? Can you comment on the pronunciation at the time and what ‘rabble’ meant then? I understand c. 1300 it meant “a pack of animals” or the like, but if the internet is to be believed, by Shakespeare’s day it already had its present meaning.

  246. Ian says: May 28, 201610:07 pm

    Thank you so much for your speedy reply.
    One more quick thing, was Scone then normally pronounced as to rhyme with gone? I merely ask because my Arden edition says it is pronounced ‘Skoon’ but I wasn’t sure whether that would be a purely contemporary pronunciation.

    Thank you

  247. David Crystal says: May 28, 20167:49 am

    ‘One’ was shifting in pronunciation at the time, but the pron with a long pure vowel, rhyming with alone, throne, etc in the First Folio, was definitely an option, so yes, that final couplet can be a perfect rhyme, and that ls the way I say it in the recording I made for Ben’s production of Macbeth at the Globe in 2014. You’ll find further details of the variants in my Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation, and audio on the associated website.

  248. Ian says: May 28, 20162:31 am

    Dr Crystal,

    I am writing my dissertation on Macbeth and the interplay of order and caos in the play. I’ve read that many critics consider the last scene a dissatisfying conclusion, and that this is in itself indicative of the precarious re-institution of providential order. I was wondering if this is reflected on a phonetical level as well? The play ends with the couple:

    ‘So, thanks to all at once and to each one,
    Whom we invite to see us crowned at Scone.’

    In Modern English my thesis remains true as you would have to really bend over backwards to make one rhyme with Scone. I was wondering if this holds true in OP, or whether the rhyme actually works? Could you perhaps shed some light on this issue?

    Ian I.

  249. David Crystal says: May 25, 20168:04 am

    Passion in Practice has my flat (ie nondramatic) recordings of the plays done in OP so far, which include Macbeth. I can send details of purchasing procedure if contacted (davidcrystal1@icloud.com). PiP’s OP Pericles was filmed, and will be available in due course. Meanwhile there is Paul Meier’s Dream, available both as video and audio: see his website . And re your PS: I’ve seen only extracts, so haven’t formed a view.

  250. JMR says: May 24, 201611:04 pm

    Dr. Crystal,

    Apologies if you’ve answered this question already, but I wondered if you could point me to some recorded full-length performances in OP (video or even audio only) that I might enjoy. I especially have been looking for a proper rendition of Macbeth–one in which they bother to pronounce “heath” so that the lines actually make sense to the ear.

    PS What did you think of the accents in the 2015 film version?

  251. David Crystal says: May 11, 20168:38 am

    Yes it would rhyme. This was the normal pronunciation of ‘wind’ at the time.

  252. Tim Forder says: May 11, 20168:33 am

    In the Shakespeare song, “Blow blow thou winter wind, should the word wind rhyme with the next line ending with unkind, or should it be pronounced as we would use it today?

  253. Olga Valbuena says: May 4, 20163:43 am

    Thank you again, David. I was able to find your book by looking through the Amazon.uk offerings until I found an American seller than offered it as a “used” book. I can’t wait to see it. And thank you again for your help with this word and its satellites.

  254. David Crystal says: May 3, 201610:17 pm

    There’s usually a couple of months delay before a US edn of a British book appears. I think it;s June 1, though doubtless it’ll be in some stores earlier.

    There was some spelling overlap between ‘suit’ and ‘sweet’ in the 15th and 16th century – see the range shown in the online OED. So there might be a case for a visual pun, but I don’t think it’s a strong one. I can’t see any pronunciation overlap at all.

  255. Olga Valbuena says: May 3, 20168:19 pm

    Dear David,
    This is brilliant! Thank you. I purchased your son’s British Library Audio book on Shakespeare’s OP through Audible. Is your OUP Dictionary already available in the US? Amazon appears to offer it as a pre-order item.

    So suit could be pronounced like “shoot,” “sh” sound and all. Could there be an aural or visual pun on “sweet” (assuming a spelling or pronunciation like suite)? Many thanks again. I look forward to purchasing your Dictionary.

  256. David Crystal says: May 3, 20165:37 pm

    I give two pronunciations in my Dictionary: one like ‘shoot’ and the other like ‘syoot’. The vowel (common to both) is clearly suggested by the rhymes with ‘mute’ (in All’s Well), and also by ‘suitor’ and ‘tutor’ in Love’s Labour’s Lost. The ‘sy-‘ form is shown in Middle English spellings, such as ‘sywte’ and ‘sewte’. The ‘sh-‘ form also has spelling support in such 15th-century spellings as ‘shutte’ and ‘shute’. (The word had a huge number of spelling variants.) Shakespeare makes use of the punning possibilities in ‘suitor’, which in LLL is punned with ‘shooter’.

  257. David Crystal says: May 3, 20165:31 pm

    The original pronunciation of the first syllable of this word, when it arrived in English, was ‘loo’ or ‘lyoo’, as shown clearly by such Middle English spellings as ‘lu-‘, ‘lyue-‘, and ‘lew-‘. A second pronunciation developed later, as shown by such spellings as ‘leef-‘ and ‘lyff-‘. The reason for the emergence of an /f/ is unclear, but it’s probably a popular adaptation of the /u/-glide used in the earlier pronunciation. The rounded lip position for /u/ is close to the labio-dental /f/. A similar change happened with Old English ‘enow’ which became Modern English ‘enough’. The earlier spelling went to the USA; the later one stayed in Britain. Both were still being used in the 18th century (according to John Walker in his Pronouncing Dictionary), so the alternatives would have been available to Shakespeare – but presumably with an /i/-type vowel, rather than the /e/ of today.

  258. Olga Valbuena says: May 2, 201611:18 pm

    Dear David, could you please help me with the word suit? Would it sound like modern soot, sweet, sue-it, or sweet? Are any of these correct?

  259. Artem says: May 2, 201610:41 pm

    Dear Dr. Crystal,

    I’m a university student on the doorstep of graduating. Ever since I saw your video on the Globe and Original Pronunciation, I found that I had to examine it in greater detail. I took a class on Shakespeare this semester and tried to speak some of my ideas in light of OP (much to the chagrin of my professor!). I found your book “Pronouncing Shakespeare” to be very helpful for getting a feel for OP and reading the plays with an OP accent in my head, but I stumbled across several words that I had trouble envisioning the sounds for. For instance, in “The Tempest”, I came across the word “lieutenant” and was baffled at how that would be pronounced in OP. I would normally pronounce it [luˈtɛnənt] (American English). Would the OP be closer to RP, American, or something entirely different?

    Thank you very much!

  260. David Crystal says: April 26, 20166:31 pm

    Rhymes and spellings suggest that there were two pronunciations, one with (slightly more open than in today’s RP) and the other with /e/. Rhymes in the Sonnets are with decease (13) and excess. The verb to lease has OED spellings with leese and lesse, and also note modern English lessor, which has 16th-c spellings of lessour and leaser. There’s a similar alternation in least, spelled both least and lest.

  261. iRA says: April 26, 20165:51 pm

    Dear David, first I want to thank you for your very well researched scholarship in OP, and the marvelous youtube with you and your son, Ben, giving examples.
    My work is with Shakespeare’s Sonnets [SHAKESPEARE’S SONNETS AND THE BIBLE, with a foreword by HRH The Prince of Wales.] in which I long contemplated some of the rhyming scheme and the OP. With regard to your reply of April 16 to Henk, on pronunciation of “ea,” please clarify for me if, in Sonnet 146, the word “lease” would in OP sound like “less” in modern E, to rhyme with “excess.,” presumably pronounced as it is today. Or whether the OP of “lease” and “excess” would have been heard differently than “less” and “excess” in modern English?
    Ira Zinman

  262. David Crystal says: April 22, 20168:33 am

    If you mean, compared with Received Pronunciation, this is certainly true. But regional British accents show a similar range of contrasts as American accents. The interesting point is the way OP contains echoes of many modern accents, as well as features that no modern accent has.

  263. Olga Rogalyova says: April 21, 20164:58 pm

    Dear Professor Crystal,
    I have come across a hypothesis that Shakespeare’s accent probably sounded more like modern American pronunciation rather than British. Is there any truth in this?

  264. David Crystal says: April 19, 201610:02 am

    Yes, the spelling evidence (frooth, froath) suggests that froth would have had a long vowel, as did moth (rhyming with oath in Merchant) – and note also clothes vs cloths these days (earlier both long and spelled cloaths).

  265. Dorothy Lowey says: April 18, 20161:07 pm

    In The Church Porch by Herbert, would ‘both’ and Froth’ have rhymed please?

  266. David Crystal says: April 6, 20163:45 pm

    Many thanks for thoughtful comments. I think it’s important to appreciate that my dictionary aims to be a guide to actors, not a comprehensive account of all possible pronunciation possibilities (which would confuse), so I list only the variants that I think are the most important ones. I’m very open to suggestions that my variants listing could be extended, and I hope the dictionary will be a stimulus in that respect. Where there are alternatives suggested by the rhymes and puns, and bearing in mind the likelihood of what you call ‘harmonic’ rhyming (what I discuss in my Introduction in terms of distinctive feature closeness), I use the balance of spellings to influence the pronunciation(s) I recommend. I call this ‘taking a view’, in my introduction, and very much look forward to hearing other views, as people start using the dictionary. I shall keep a record of all suggestions. It’s essential, though, that we use a common metalanguage for the discussion (IPA, in this case), as spelling representations are ambiguous. For example, I’m not entirely sure what sounds are being referred to in such representations as a-e and /ea/.

  267. David Crystal says: April 6, 20162:58 pm

    Could well be. There’s quite a bit of evidence to show that the a and o were phonetically closer than is usual today. Consider such spellings as todpole for tadpole, strond for strand, loffe for laugh, aspray for osprey and rhymes like cough / laugh, bob / crab.

  268. Henk Courtz says: April 6, 201610:09 am

    Dear David. Weymouth (1874) writes that most words spelled with ea differ in pronunciation from words spelled with e, ee or a-e, and that this difference was lost only after the middle of the seventeenth century, so that now words spelled with ea either sound like e (death, breast), ee (hear, beard, meat, etc.) or like a-e (great, break, steak, etc.). Your dictionary of Shakespearean pronunciation lists many instances of words spelled with ea as having three pronunciations: like e (feast), like ee (dear) or like a-e (bear). What do you think of the possibility that Shakespearean ea is a separate phoneme with its own pronunciation that was accepted for rhyming purposes to be ‘harmonic’ with e (feast – best), or ee (dear – beer), or a-e (deal – male). Your dictionary may list two pronunciations occurring for a single word spelled with ea: beat (rhymes with both meet and mate), appear (rhymes with both beer and bare), or it lists one pronunciation although it rhymes in two ways: dear (which is listed as only having the pronunciation of deer, although it also rhymes with bear and wear), near (which is listed as only having the pronunciation of neer, although it also rhymes with there and elsewhere). What is your defence against the claim that you have overlooked the phonemic diphthong /ea/ as having its own unique pronunciation?

  269. Tom A. Roberts says: April 6, 20163:55 am

    My grandmother (1914-1200) spoke an older form of Appalachian dialect. One of the phonological rules of this dialect is that unstressed “ow” in words like “fellow,” “hollow” and “window,” instead of becoming a schwa as in general American, become “er” – thus, “feller,” “holler” and “winder.” An exception is when “ow” is preceded by an “r,” in which case it disappears completely. So “sparrow” becomes “spar” (rhymes with “star”), and “barrow” (castrated pig) becomes “bar.”

    I’ve always postulated that there must have been an earlier form “sparrow” which rhymes with “borrow” since the “a” vowel is the lower back “ah” sound. Am I right?

  270. David Crystal says: April 6, 20163:16 am

    Indeed they would have rhymed. Some nice examples: wound and confound in MND; wound and sound in RJ.

  271. leandrotcb says: April 5, 20167:10 pm

    Hi, I’m working on a translation. Can you tell me if ‘wound’ and ‘underground’ used to be a rhyme by the time of the ‘Spanish Tragedy’. It would be of great help. Thanks

  272. David Crystal says: April 1, 201610:15 pm

    Yes, exactly. All -tion, -cian (musician) etc endings have this pronunciation. Later, these became -she-on, and eventually -shun, as today. You can hear all First Folio examples in the audio file accompanying the OUP Dictionary.

    Ben tells me that he is planning a Dallas visit later this year. Keep an eye on the Passion in Practice website for details.

    Yes, I’m sad that the Globe lost interest under Dromgoole. Maybe the new director will build on its pioneering initiative. In the meantime, thanks to Globe Education, we do get the chance to keep the OP flag flying – this year, as you say, with Faustus, and also with an imaginative presentation of Henslowe’s Diary, both in May.

  273. Mark Wright says: April 1, 20163:15 pm

    I understand that in OP words such as salvation have all of the syllables sounded out. How about from Hamlet’s what a piece of work is man speech? “In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god!” Act-see-on? App-re-hen-see-on?

    Thank you for all of your great work. I am a huge fan of OP Shakespeare. I wish I could see an OP performance in Dallas, Texas, but no one seems to be doing it here as of yet. Also, I’m a bit disappointed The Globe isn’t continuing to stage OP performances (the exception being OP Faustus at the Wanamaker), as I have tentative summer plans to visit London.

  274. David Crystal says: March 31, 20165:16 pm

    The exact phonetic quality of this phoneme is one of the most contentious, with variants suggested from central (schwa) to a quality further back between mid-open and mid-close (as Kokeritz opts for), or higher up – an unrounded equivalent of the rounded vowel of ‘put’ etc (which is the one I go for). I try to get actors not to substitute schwa, which is the lazy way out! Yes, there were rounded variants too, as today, and I allow for those in my Dictionary; but I had to ‘take a view’, in productions, and decided on the unrounded version. Certainly, if one rounds this vowel (which is very frequent), it gives a very ‘northern’ resonance to the OP. Some actors use this as a character option, e.g. Will Sutton rounded these vowels for his Simonides in our OP Pericles production last year.

  275. Tom A. Roberts says: March 30, 20167:57 pm

    Wouldn’t ‘prove’ and ‘love’ both have had the vowel sound as in the modern English ‘put’, instead of the mid-central ‘uh’ as in ‘but’? It seems to me easier for the vowel to shift toward the center or become raised than for it to move back or up.

  276. David Crystal says: March 28, 20168:43 am

    They wouldn’t have been identical, but the ‘dee’ sound of the letter was more open in those days (closer to the quality of the vowel in French ‘bébé’). As the vowel of ‘day’ was also more open, I guess the auditory distance between the two words wouldn’t have been much different from what it is today.

  277. David Crystal says: March 28, 20168:38 am

    A mid-front open pure vowel – difficult to describe in print, but you can hear it now on the audio site that OUP have built to go with the Dictionary – click on ‘day’.

  278. David Crystal says: March 28, 20168:31 am

    You’re right. OP gives people who find RP distancing a fresh sense of owneership of the plays, as it is closer to the way they themselves speak. This I think is why there have been so many productions in the US over the past five years (see Forthcoming Events for this year’s). The Globe, unfortunately, lost interest when Dominic Dromgoole took over from Mark Rylance, and instead of building on its own initiative it (foolishly in my view) let other places get all the good publicity as the OP movement gathered momentum. Fortuntely, Patrick Spottiswoode of Globe Education continued to believe in the value of the initiative, and Ben’s company Passion in Practice has performed OP twice in the last couple of years – Macbeth in 2014 and Henry V in 2015, both in the Wanamaker in the Read not Dead series. Whether Emma Rice, the new director, will do something different, I can’t say. It would be good to have a main house OP production in the UK again, and to see the Globe regaining some of the kudos it received a decade ago.

  279. Bruce Leyland says: March 28, 20164:25 am

    As a supplementary, was the phonetic similarity of “day” and the letter “D” greater or lesser than it is today. If greater, were “day” and “D” pronounced similarly? Thanks again – Bruce

  280. Bruce Leyland says: March 28, 20164:21 am

    Dear David – Could you advise me as to the pronunciation of “days” as in the couplets of Sonnets 38 and 59. Much appreciated – Bruce

  281. Senor Lambers says: March 27, 201611:32 pm

    Dear Professor Crystal,

    Is the Globe still doing OP performances of Shakespeare? I see one of Marlowe, here, which is wonderful, but it would do a great deal for the perception of Shakespeare worldwide if the Globe adopted OP full-time, forever. The Globe is committed to historical authenticity, why not always do OP? I’m an American, and I have many American friends who are sadly turned off of Shakespeare because of the RP accent which has become so associated with his work. OP opened up a whole new way of perceiving Shakespeare to me. Perhaps sadly, I find myself less and less drawn to RP Shakespeare performances because of the class associations that the RP accent communicates.

  282. David Crystal says: March 24, 20169:29 am

    It would be (roughly) ahrjeer, with the stress on the second syllable. Sorry I can’t do IPA easily here, but you can see that transcription in the OP Dictionary (published today!). I suppose it would always be possible for a diphthong to be articulated as a sequence of two separate vowels, as often in modern English, but I’d want a reason for that to happen (such as a metrical constraint, which isn’t relevant in this instance). A musical setting might motivate it. All I can say is that, in everyday speech, it was probably two syllables.

  283. John Furse says: March 24, 20168:56 am

    The Tempest (lines 396 & 401) has “Argier”, for the modern ‘Algiers’.

    Professor Crystal: is this with two or three syllables, please ? And what would this be phonetically, please ?

    (I am making a musical setting; hence the questions.)

  284. David Crystal says: March 16, 20169:02 pm

    I don’t. I’ve never explored this. It would be much closer to modern English, of course, but Handel’s dates do overlap with Purcell so some of those features would still be around, at least with conservative accents.

  285. Viola Zucchi says: March 15, 20167:19 am

    Dear David, do you have by chance some materials about OP of English language at Handel’s time?
    My choir is going to perform the Messiah and we would like to do it in OP.

    We already did it with Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas in 2014, following your indications.

    Thanks a lot.

    Viola (Italia)

  286. David Crystal says: March 14, 20168:26 pm

    No. Eye-rhymes (or ‘half-rhymes’) were coming into fashion during the 18th century, as spelling had standardized sufficiently to make poets and hymn-writers feel able to use them with confidence. There are lots of them in the hymns of the periods you mention.

  287. Bob Schier says: March 14, 20166:31 pm

    In the hymn, Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me (1776) do these words rhyme — blood:flowed and dress:grace? Same question in the hymn, There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy (1862) — good:blood and word: lord?

  288. David Crystal says: March 2, 20169:11 am

    Indeed. And HM Queen also. You can hear the changes in present-day RP, as the vowel has centralised in most speakers. I rarely hear that Cardinal 4-like vowel these days.

  289. David Crystal says: March 2, 20169:10 am

    Again, the short vowel is more open than in RP, and closer to the American version. That’s been a problem when I work with US actors: they assume that all they have to do is use their American vowel, so ‘not’ comes out like ‘nat’ – which is too far. I don’t think there would have been much rounding, but that’s a guess. The writers of the time don’t give that kind of phonetic detail, so I guess it’s always possible that there was some degree of rounding. And probably regionally there would’ve been all sorts of variations, just as today..

  290. Kenneth Beesley says: March 2, 201612:53 am

    Thanks. I’m an American, but I lived (over 30 years go) in Scotland for five years, where I’d often listen to the BBC news. My best memory of a conservative RP forward pronunciation of a word where I would use /ʌ/ was Angela Rippon pronouncing “government” with the first vowel seeming (to my ears) something around cardinal 4.

  291. Kenneth Beesley says: March 2, 201612:27 am

    I’ll look forward to your Oxford Dictionary of OP. Yes, the all/pause vowels seemed unrounded to me, and so, to my GA ears, surprisingly American. What about the rounding for the not/shock/bodkin vowel? Again, I couldn’t hear RP-like rounding.

  292. David Crystal says: March 1, 201610:31 am

    ‘Not’ etc – same as today (short vowels have changed very little in the past 400 years), but with the vowel quality a bit more open than in RP, and closer to the GA quality. ‘Rub’ etc – see my previous reply; they are all like ‘suffer’. ‘Pause’ like today, but again, with the vowel more like GA than RP. The ‘l’ of ‘all’ keeps the vowel open and unrounded, so that it sounds like ‘ahl’ – likewise ‘call’, ‘small’, and many more. The rounding started to appear during the 17th century, and some ‘new tuners of accent’ probably used it in S’s day (as the occasional rhyme, e.g. with ‘brawl’, suggests), but I go for the more conservative form in my transcription. All these values are illustrated in transcription and audio in my Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation, out on 24 March.

  293. David Crystal says: March 1, 201610:23 am

    Sources vary on this one. It certainly wasn’t as far forward as the quality it has in GA, or, for that matter, in RP, where (in a conservative pronunciation) it can sound almost like ‘cap’. I decided to locate it in the mid-close back area of the cardinal vowel diagram, as an unrounded equivalent of the northern British vowel. Some people think it would have been rounded, and that would indeed have been a regional variant then, as today. I kept away from that, in my transcription, and opted for the unrounded version, following Gimson, Kökeritz, and others. This has the incidental advantage of making OP sound less modern, which is something I find directors appreciate.

  294. Kenneth Beesley says: March 1, 20168:03 am

    I’ve been listening to Ben Crystal’s OP recording of the “To be or not to be” soliloquy, and I don’t have the best ears. What are the intended OP pronunciations of the following words?

    not, shock, bodkin
    rub, come, love, but, puzzle
    pause, all

  295. Kenneth Beesley says: March 1, 20167:32 am

    What was the OP pronunciation of the first vowel of “suffer”? Perhaps /ʌ/ (as in modern General American), or /ʊ/ (as in Yorkshire, etc.)?

  296. David Crystal says: February 21, 20166:37 pm

    All the ‘flat’ recordings of whole plays that I make for companies mounting an OP production are available, at nominal cost, to support the Passion in Practice theatre company work on original practices. The Romeo and Juliet one is based on the Arden text. These transactions are currently handled though the Shakespeare’s Words website (ww.shakespeareswords.com) via Paypal. I can send a catalogue list of what’s available so far if you contact me by email: davidcrystal1@icloud.com. The video the Globe made of the actual 2004 RJ production is in the archive at Shakespeare’s Globe, but can only be accessed by a visit there (arranged through the librarian). It captures the atmosphere very well, but the sound quality is patchy.

  297. Heber Costa says: February 20, 20167:39 pm

    Dear Prof. Crystal, congratulations on this project. I’m an old admirer of your work (since that Penguin Dictionary on Language). On this note, I’d like to ask for your help. Let me explain: I’m a translator and I’m (along with a group of actors) at the pre-production stages of a project that aims to translate ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to Brazilian Portuguese working primarily on phonetic grounds and concentrating on how the actors should pronounce its lines to achieve the semantic and dramatic results intended by Shakespeare. Would have any recommendations on how we should go about this? The first obstacle seems to be how to access the original text OP. Is there a phonetic transcription or an audio version of the OP? Thank you advance for any reply.

  298. David Crystal says: February 10, 20165:05 pm

    OP is the sound system of Early Modern English, not an individual accent – just as today, we all speak Modern English in different accents. So, I understand a Cockney speaker because we both share the same basic system, even though there are all sorts of phonetic differences between the way I speak and the way a Cockney speaks. It would have been the same in 1600. Everyone used the same sound system, or phonology, but regionally it would have varied in all sorts of subtle ways. Unfortunately, those who wrote on pronunciation at the time say little about local variations, so all we can do is guess. When we did Romeo in OP at the Globe,we had a Scottish tinged Juliet, a Northern Ireland tinged Peter – and a Cockney tinged Nurse. We simply allowed them to speak in their own accent on top of the OP, and it worked fine. The same would work for Dee, if the evidence you’ve gathered suggests that he was a Cockney.

  299. Joshua Browne says: February 10, 20161:14 am

    Dear David,

    What’s the relationship between Cockney and OP? I’m with a Canadian theatre company and we’re developing a new piece on John Dee (Advisor to QEI, of The Queen’s Conjurer fame) He was an educated man, but his father was of the merchant class, and we’ve found some reference to him as “cockney”. I can’t seem to find a lot of info on the origin of the Cockney accent, and whether what was referred to then as “cockney” is anywhere near what it sounded like in 19th and 20th centuries. Was OP only spoken by a certain class of people? Was Cockney contemporary with OP? Which would Dee have spoken? Or neither?

    With love,
    A confused and ignorant Colonial.

  300. David Crystal says: February 5, 20169:36 am

    ‘poll’ would have had a long /o:/, rhyming with ‘soul’ in Hamlet. ‘Paul’ would have been like it is today. So there’s a distinctive feature of difference between them (long mid-close back vs long mid-open back). The two words would be slightly more alike than today, therefore, as there was no diphthong in ‘poll’; but there was still a difference. There are many rhymes in OP separated by a single d.f. (I’ll be listing these on the website that accompanies the forthcoming – in March – Oxford Dictionary of OP) which suggests that the Elizabethan ear was more tolerant of nearly-alike rhymes than we are today. But, in the final analysis, whether it’s justified to view two words as a pun depends on literary not linguistic reasoning.

  301. James Wallace says: February 5, 20161:09 am

    Dear David,
    I’m looking at a John Donne poem which has the word “poll” (as in cutting the branches of trees), and I think it is a play on the word ‘Paul’ (referring to St Paul’s Cathedral) – am I right in thinking that the two words would have sounded even more alike in OP than they do now?

  302. David Crystal says: December 30, 20154:22 pm

    These words are shown as not rhyming in John Walker’s English Pronouncing Dictionary, very popular in the years around 1800, and also in his Rhyming Dictionary. By this time, English spelling had standardised to such an extent that it was possible for poets to exploit such notions as visual rhyme and half rhyme in a way that was not possible in Shakespeare’s day, which is what Shelley must be doing here. I can’t see anything in his biography that would suggest regional variants in use.

  303. Gilles Dierickx says: December 29, 201510:03 am

    Dear David

    I am a Belgian student of English literature and linguistics and for an assignment, I’m analysing P.B. Shelly’s “Lift not the painted veil which those who live”.

    Can you perhaps tell me if ‘love’ rhymed with ‘approve’, and ‘strove’ with ‘move’, in the days of Shelley? It is quite important for my analysis and I did not find anything useful about pronunciation around 1800 so far.

    Thank you very much!

  304. David Crystal says: December 27, 20159:39 am

    ‘…at what point OP might not have been prevalent’? There is always an OP. All OP means is the original pronunciation of a particular period – so there is an OP of 400 years ago, or 40 years ago, and so on. It’s perfectly possible to reconstruct the OP that would have been used during the later decades of the 17th century, as there’s plenty of information available, but I’ve never done this, as my focus has been at the other end of the century, where there’s more than a lifetime’s work to do. Whenever people have asked me about Purcell – one of the commonest queries, in fact – I’ve therefore used Shakespearean OP as a starting point and taken further the trends in pronunciation that were happening at the time, such as ‘musisian’ becoming ‘musishian’, and taking account of the evidence provided by the rhymes and contemporary writers. I’ve looked at the rhymes in Purcell, and these suggest that the system hadn’t shifted that much, but I’ve not done this for the other writers you mention, or for anyone else in the decades around 1700. It would certainly have moved perceptibly more in the direction of modern English. Information about general trends in pronunciation throughout the period can be found in the standard texts, such as Dobson and Barber.

  305. Stephen Doiron says: December 26, 20155:38 pm

    First, let me join the chorus singing praises to your work. Thank you. In your reply to Tim Keenan on October 18th, 2015 you suggest that “the basic shape of this accent can be applied until the mid-17th century” adding that “I’ve used it for Purcell, but no later.” Well, Purcell was active until very near the end of the century, and as I’m in the midst of preparing for a semester’s study of late 17th century plays, I’m wondering at what point OP might not have been prevalent. Here I offer as an example timeline: Aphra Behn’s “Abdelazer” (1676); Thomas Otway’s “The Orphan” (1680); Behn’s “Like Father, Like Son” (1682) or her later “The Emperor of the Moon” (1687); and, finely, Thomas Southerne ‘s “The Fatal Marriage” (1694).

  306. Courtney says: December 14, 201512:37 am

    Thank you! Very helpful. I look forward to using your dictionary!

  307. David Crystal says: December 13, 20157:51 pm

    They wouldn’t have rhymed, in the sense of having exactly the same vowels, nor would they a century before. Flow in the First Folio rhymes with go, know, woe; two with woo, you. There’s no overlap. This seems to fit the near-rhyme pattern of other couplets in the Behm poem – god/blood, is/miss, and probably prove/love. Of course, the /o:/ of flow nd the /u:/ of two are not phonologically very far from each other – just one distinctive feature (mid-close vs close) – and it’s possible to see the same level of auditory distinction in the other examples – is and miss are distinguished just by voicing, and god and blood by a similarly small height difference. Prove had long and short variants still, in the mid 16th century, and if you assume the long form here then you would have to deal with it as an eye-rhyme. My view, which I go into in more detail in the introduction to my forthcoming Dictionary, is that there was a greater tolerance of rhyme variation in the 16th century, compared to today, with people more ready to accept a single distinctive feature difference as not disturbing the perception of a rhyme.

  308. Courtney says: December 13, 20156:10 pm

    Hi, David! I so appreciate the work you and your son, Ben, do! Your expertise has been helpful as I teach 12th grade English (British Literature) in Upstate New York.
    My question for you is: In the first two lines of Aphra Behn’s “On Her Loving Two Equally,” the words “flow” and “two” are supposed to rhyme. Did they in fact rhyme in the late 1600s, and if so, how were they pronounced? Thanks!!

  309. Tim Keenan says: December 8, 20158:02 pm

    Many thanks for your reply and apologies for the tardiness of mine. I’ll follow up your Passion in Practice suggestion. Tim

  310. David Crystal says: November 22, 20151:46 pm

    It’s possible, I suppose, but there’s nothing in the First Folio spellings to indicate such features (Gertrude is always spelled in that way). I don’t recall any instance in the FF (I haven’t looked beyond) of a word normally pronounced with an /r/ being spelled without the . And I suspect the /iw/ pronunciation is a tad too phonetic to have attracted the attention of the orthoepists. Any references would be welcome. Proper names, of course, often do break the usual phonological rules.

  311. Andrew Legge says: November 21, 20159:41 pm

    I notice Gertrude as pronounced Gartrood. I look at many parish records and these reveal sound chances quite often as the spelling is so unorthodox. One regularity especially in place names is that as early as the first registers VrC and possibly CrV followed by a syllable containing r loses the first r though analogy can later add it back. This turns Chelmersford into Chelmsford, Barlborough into Balbrough, governor to govnor, etc and possibly Crambridge into Cambridge but would also change Gartrude into Gatrude. My ancestors called the girls “Gatty” as a nickname for Gertrude. I also note the u in such words as Gertrude and true is still pronounced iw in the East Midlands so that through and threw are not homophones and would therefore assume an EME pronunciation as Gatriwd. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

  312. David Crystal says: November 21, 201510:37 am

    ‘two’, with the /t/ pronounced and the /o:/ rhyming with ‘know’ was a pronunciation once upon a time, as Old English ‘twa’ gradually changed to Modern /tu:/ during the Middle Ages. The changes had taken place by Shakespeare’s time, but the older forms remained in several dialects, such as the Scots you mention. So, depending on the age of the folksong, a rhyme was perfectly normal. And, of course, it’s always possible for a folk singer to deliberately adopt an earlier pronunciation.

  313. Graeme Tearle says: November 21, 20154:30 am

    Dear David.
    The English folk song “Three Maidens A Milking Did Go/Drink Down The Moon” rhymes “know” with “two” . Twin, twice, twain etc still pronounce the /w/, and Robbie Burns pronounces the word as “twa”, so should I pronounce it as written, and make the rhyme? Maddie Prior didn’t.

  314. David Crystal says: November 19, 20156:48 pm

    ‘r’ clearly had several phonetic values at the time, much as it does today, and retroflex and trilled variants would have been among them. Ben Jonson says the sound ‘hirreth’ (trembling). I use the retroflex variant in my OP recordings, unless there is a regional motivation for the other. So, in Ben’s Henry V at the Globe last July, both the Scotsman and the Welshman were given trills. I suspect that trilling was much more widespread in those days, but the evidence is lacking. So, either would be a plausible reading, it seems to me. I suggest try both and see which comes across best.

  315. David Crystal says: November 19, 20156:41 pm

    Ah, right. If this is Jonson, at the time ‘sharp’ in relation to accent meant ‘shrill’ or ‘high-pitched’ (see OED), with ‘flat’ the opposite. So presumably the higher and fronter the vowel, the sharper it would be.

  316. Kayleen Sanchez says: November 13, 20159:53 pm

    Dear David,

    My voice and lute duo, BEDLAM, is beginning a tour of 16th century Scottish and English lute songs this month. We released an album earlier this year of mostly 16th century Scottish songs, and took a stab at the Scottish English OP. We are using OP for our upcoming program as well (mostly songs of Thomas Campion), and I am wondering if you might have any thoughts on singing OP. Would the letter r still be hard, or would it be flipped or rolled?

    We have very much enjoyed reading this website. Thank you for the wonderful work that you do!

    All the best,

  317. Nat Whilk says: November 12, 20153:58 am

    Many thanks.

    As I should have said, I borrowed ‘sharp’ from Ben Jonson’s English Grammar. I am not sure how he distinguishes Time and Tune.

    ‘All our vowels are sounded doubtfully. In quantitie, (which is Time) long or short. Or, in accent (which is Tune) sharp, or, flat.

    ‘Long in these words, and their like: Debating, congeling, expiring, opposing, enduring.

    ‘Short in these: Stomaching, severing, vanquishing, ransoming, picturing.

    ‘Sharp in these: Hate, mete, bite, note, pule.

    ‘Flat in these: hat, met, bit, not, pull.’

    Of E, he says:

    ‘When it is the last letter, and soundeth, the sound is sharp, as in the French i. Example in me, se, agre, ye, she, in all, saving the Article, the.’

    Of I:

    ‘As a Vowell in the former, or single Syllabes, it hath sometimes the sharpe accent, as in binding, minding, pining, whining, wiving, thriving, mine, thine.’

    Apologies for the ellipsis.

  318. David Crystal says: November 7, 201510:02 am

    No evidence in the FF for rhymes, apart from H (with ache). Sixteen named letters turn up (no J, K, N, Q, R, S, V, W, X, Y). In the absence of any explicit comment from contemporary writers that I know of, I’ve assumed the same pron as today, as filtered through EME phonology. So, ‘B’, for example, as ‘bee’ but with the vowel more open than today. ‘I’ with the same centralised diphthong as in ‘my’. ‘O’ a pure vowel. A rhotacised ‘R’. And so on. Don’t know what you mean by ‘sharp’.

  319. Nat Whilk says: November 2, 20159:43 pm

    How were the letters of the alphabet (as from a hornbook) pronounced? “A per se, a; t, h, e, the; o per se o…” “I” is “I,” but were the other vowels “sharp”? What did “B,” “D,” and “T” rhyme with? Was the dog’s letter called “ur” or “ruh”?

    Many thanks. I have long admired and enjoyed your work.

  320. David Crystal says: October 30, 201510:08 am

    ‘one’ had three pronunciations: rhyming with ‘alone, throne’ etc, rhyming with ‘on’ (as in modern English), and an unstressed ‘un’ (as in modern ‘good ‘un’). ‘king’ was pronounced as in modern English – the reduction of ng to n applies only to verb forms. I assume in asking about ‘knock’ you’re interested in the initial k-. Pronouncing k- in such words would have been a very conservative pronunciation by Shakespeare’s time, and I don’t include it in my version of OP. The director of the OP Julius Caesar in Houston last year did however use it, so there are differences of opinion here.

  321. Daniel Kaczyński says: October 28, 20157:35 pm

    I have two questions: how did Shakespeare pronounce the word “one”? Was it like “on”? How did he pronounce such words as “king” (like “kin”?) and “knock”? Thanks in advance.

  322. Sarah Lambie says: October 28, 20153:19 pm

    That’s exactly what I hoped you’d say, David, thank you so much! Best, Sarah

  323. David Crystal says: October 18, 20158:55 pm

    The vowel of ‘sullied’ would have been much further back and mid-close, and thus very close to the pronunciation of ‘solid’. Some people think it may even have been rounded, in which case the similarity would have been even greater. Probably it was the similarity in sound that led to the divergent lexical readings. I think I remember advising Ben, when he was playing Hamlet, simply to pronounce it as it was, and leave it to the audience to decide which interpretation to go for! ‘Sallied’ would have sounded very different, with an open unrounded vowel (like northern British English /a/.)

  324. David Crystal says: October 18, 20158:48 pm

    /r/ would certainly have been pronounced, though just how strong it would be in singing is anybody’s guess. Both trilled and retroflex forms were around in speech, so I suppose that option would be there in singing too.

    The Dropbox file I have relates to Purcell, though much of it would apply to Dowland.

  325. David Crystal says: October 18, 20158:40 pm

    I think the basic shape of this accent can be applied until the mid-17th century, allowing for certain developments (such as the musi-see-an type of word becoming musi-she-an). I’ve used it for Purcell, but no later. I think by the 18th century, the accent was very close to Modern English. Walker’s Dictionary in the 1770s shows only isolated words very different from today. Probably the RP that developed during his lifetime would seem very conservative by present-day standards.

    I don’t do courses as such, but am happy to provide occasional Skype tutorials to those who want to check their private study is going on the right lines. Passion in Practice might put one on in due course. I’ll suggest it.

  326. Sarah Lambie says: October 15, 20155:16 pm

    Dear David,

    Have you a view on ‘solid’/’sullied’ (or indeed ‘sallied’) in Hamlet (I.ii.129) from pronunciation specifically? I am wondering whether, given the view that Q1 was likely to have been gathered from the memory of an actor and Q2 in part (Act 1 at least) seemingly referred to Q1, OP may throw up a hypothesis on the original word. Which did Ben choose for his OP Hamlet, or was the decision made on a sense rather than a sound basis? (I’ve had a look but can’t find that particular speech recorded online.)

    With thanks and very best wishes,

  327. Tim Braithwaite says: October 15, 20153:49 pm

    Dear Sir,
    I am a young countertenor studying early music at Conservatoire. I am currently singing some Dowland songs with a lutenist and was wondering if it would be possible to be included in this dropbox as well? I hope I am not being too presumptuous, however it seems that every link about this topic sends me straight to your website! I am looking specifically at the /r/ in the word ‘more’. The song is Dowland’s Weep you no more sad fountains and any advice you had would be extremely appreciated!
    Thank you for your time,
    Tim Braithwaite

  328. Tim Keenan says: October 11, 20159:40 am

    Dear David, thrilled to find this forum. I have two of your books on Shakespeare and have watched various YouTube videos featuring you and Ben. I introduced OP to drama students in Brisbane last year and they were fascinated. Actually they were supposed to watch one of your video demonstrations in a lecture, but the link wouldn’t work, so they had to do with my approximation. Having never tried it to an audience before I was surprised at how invigorating it was to perform, how right it sounded, as if the language itself was directing me. It’s an experience I would like to develop and now I’m back teaching in England (Liverpool Hope) I’m wondering are there any short courses I could attend?

    I really meant to research that properly, but as I was going to ask my main question anyway I thought you wouldn’t mind if I added it. My main question is this. When was the next significant shift in pronunciations? My research area is theatrical performance and production in the Restoration and I’m wondering whether we can still apply OP to the 1660s and beyond? Best wishes, Tim Keenan.

  329. David Crystal says: October 7, 20159:18 pm

    Tutorial help for individual sounds is available on Paul Meier’s Shakespeare site. My own resource, the Oxford Dictionary of Shakespearean Pronunciation (OUP) isn’t out until March. That’ll have an audio file which will help for a fair number of the words in other writers of the period. For the moment, all you can do is listen as much as possible to the recorded texts already available, either on this site or (for example) the British Library CD. If there’s a specific word or two that you can’t solve, use this forum.

  330. David Crystal says: October 7, 20159:13 pm

    Rhymes with cheek, break, and deck show that speak had a variety of pronunciations at the time, so yes, in this song I would go for the mid-open front vowel for both forms.

  331. Nyhal says: October 7, 20158:59 am

    Good day to you, I recently watched your video on YouTube about the pronunciation of Op and I am really intrigued by your knowledge so I wonder if you could please help me? I am auditioning for L.A.M.D.A this year and I will need to perform a piece from Jacobean/Elizabethen times and told we can not use any of Shakespeare’s work. I have chosen “The Honest Whore” by Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton. I chose the part of Hipolito when he is chastising Bellafront for being a lady of the night. I really want to perform this part to the best of my ability and want to pronounce every word as it should sound! Could you please offer any advise?
    Truly Gratefully
    Nyhal Adams

  332. Alex de Valera says: October 5, 20155:32 pm

    Dear David,
    I am lute player and I am confronted with the rhymes of a song by John Dowland in which they just don’t work in modern pronunciation. While rehearsing last week the singer asked me about the pronunciation and the only thing I could say was that English pronunciation differs wildly around the globe and was certainly different in Elizabethan times. This is the beginning song below
    Come away, come sweet love,
    the golden morning breaks
    All the Earth, all the ayre
    of love and pleasure speakes
    And my question is, should speaks rhyme with the modern pronunciation of breaks ?
    I just downloaded a 12 page article you wrote on the subject, and I saw you and your son at the Globe talking on the rhymes and puns of Romeo and Juliet. Fascinating!

  333. David Crystal says: October 5, 20153:56 pm

    This is too big a question to answer in a blog post. Can you be more specific? My Oxford Dictionary of Shakespearean Pronunciation will be a help for contemporary composers, containing about 20,000 words, but it’s not out until next March. In the meantime, listening to the OP Sonnets, for example, will tune your ear in, and there are some tutorial materials online (such as at Paul Meier’s website).

  334. marisa marino says: September 21, 20159:39 pm

    Hello I live in Argentina ,I´m a student of music and singer ,I need information about english word pronunciation during elizabeth´s period because i´m performing John Dowland´s Songs .thank you a lot!

  335. David Crystal says: September 15, 20159:12 pm

    Oh yes, along with several other early enthusiasts, such as Daniel Jones. I’ve a complete review in a paper on my website”‘Early interest in Shakespearean Original Pronunciation’.

  336. David Crystal says: September 15, 20159:09 pm

    Rhymes with words like pain and men show a double pronunciation – just as in modern English.

  337. David Crystal says: September 15, 20159:08 pm

    Rhymes with words like seen and with sin suggest those two – much as in modern English.

  338. Kenneth R. Beesley says: August 25, 20154:06 pm

    In the 19th century, Alexander J. Ellis tackled the challenge of resurrecting Shakespeare’s pronunciation, producing “On Early English Pronunciation, with special Reference to Shakespeare and Chaucer.” Has his work proved useful in the current Original Pronunciation movement?

  339. Kenneth R. Beesley says: August 24, 20154:25 pm

    What was the OP pronunciation of “again”?

  340. Kenneth R. Beesley says: August 24, 20153:58 pm

    Fascinating work. In OP, was “been” pronounced to rhyme with modern “bin,” “ben,” or “seen”?

  341. David Crystal says: August 18, 201510:16 am

    Fixed now. Thanks for pointing it out.

  342. David Crystal says: August 14, 20159:27 am

    What people are saying about OP (August 2015)

    on Open Culture

    on ActuaLitté

  343. Melinda Hall says: July 11, 20156:25 pm

    Hi David,
    I’ve been sharing your work with some of my clients and they love your “THINK ON MY WORDS”. I noticed the link pages to the Transcriptions tab are inactive links (the dreaded Room 404 error!)
    Are they available anywhere else?

  344. David Crystal says: July 8, 20159:18 pm

    I wouldn’t expect there to be much difference from Shakespearean OP. Heat must have had a more open vowel – it rhymes with get and sweat in Venus and Adonis, for example. Tear [from the eye] had two pronunciations, as shown by many rhymes – one like today (with the /r/ pronounced) and the other like ‘tare’. The vowel in approve was described as short by contemporary writers, though some do recognize a longer variant regionally.

  345. Yaroslav Levchenko says: July 2, 20154:08 am

    Yesterday I stumbled upon your and Ben’s programmes on the OP in Youtube. I myself am an admirer of Robert Herrick, who, though a little bit more modern, must share many OP peculiarities with Shakespeare. His rhymes ‘approve’–’love’, beget’–’heat’, ‘tear’–’anywhere’ have always made me wonder how those vowels were actually pronounced. My guess was that ‘love’ was articulated as ‘loov’, ‘heat’ as ‘het’, and ‘tear’ as ‘tare’.

  346. Jennifer Geizhals says: June 21, 20154:06 pm

    Jennifer Geizhals writes: Here are the details regarding our small OP event, which will take place in New York City in late July. Our project is part of the NYU Grad Acting Alumni Summer Festival for works in development. We will be presenting an hour-long presentation of a selection of scenes from “As You Like It,” all to be performed in the OP. We will begin the evening with a quick introduction to the OP movement and its history, and each scene will be prefaced with a few OP tidbits (e.g. words to listen for, old puns and rhymes that arise). I will be narrating the event as well as playing Rosalind. The rest of the cast is be composed of NYU alumni and faculty. Louis Scheeder, , Associate Dean of Faculty at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and Daniel Spector, Associate Director at Tisch Classical Studio, will be co-directing this project. Shane Ann Younts, Associate Arts Professor at NYU Tisch Grad Acting, will be our vocal consultant. We will be performing on Wed, 7/29, and Thurs, 7/30, at 7PM in the Circus Room on the 5th Floor at 721 Broadway.

    If you know of anyone that might be interested in attending this event, please have them email me at jen2kam@gmail.com so that I can include them on our guest list.

  347. David Crystal says: June 3, 201510:07 pm

    Yes, they were – hence the pun in the Romeo prologue. Evidence lies in spellings such as biles, byle, byles for boils (n) and rhymes such as groin / swine. Why the later developments? Spelling pronunciation probably pushed loins towards its modern form. But I wouldn’t rule out some sort of dialect influence either. It would make an interesting study to take a set of ‘oi’ words and follow them through. It;s not something I’ve ever done myself.

  348. Corvin says: June 3, 20156:14 pm

    I have a question. Were “loins” and “lines” indistinguishable in pronunciation in OP? If so, by what processes did they later re-differentiate in late modern English pronunciation? Surely, subsequent sound shifts would have applied equally to them in the absence of other conditioning factors. Was there a process of renorming based on historical pronunciation as reflected in orthography, or was subsequent differentiation the result of countervailing dialect influence?

  349. David Crystal says: May 30, 20158:33 am

    Congratulations, Tom. Delighted to hear it was such a success.

  350. David Crystal says: May 30, 20158:32 am

    Yes, indeed. I have an article exploring these first explorations. The one you mention was one o several. You can find it on my website, http://www.davidcrystal.com: go to Books and Articles, and filter on Shakespeare. It’s called ‘Early interest in Shakespearean original pronunciation’. The British Library has some early recordings in its sound archive.

  351. Tom Delise says: May 29, 201512:46 pm

    Hi David,

    Just wanted to report on the tremendous success of the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory’s production of The Merchant of Venice last month. Thanks so much for the help and guidance you gave us, and we are so appreciative that we were able to have come and work with our actors on perfecting the accent.

    People in the Baltimore area were extremely interested in hearing the accent. We broke all our attendance records, and we had many people travel from beyond the Baltimore area to see the show. The actors in the production also loved speaking the OP and could not keep it out of their regular conversations, and it unlocked new meanings for our actors in all the ways you describe on your website.

    In addition, we gathered a great deal of feedback from our audiences. We distributed comment cards to all audience members to fill out and we held talkbacks with the actors after each show. The feedback from the audiences was overwhelmingly positive. We heard over and over that the accent actually helped them understand the play. It is very clear that audiences want more OP!
    As a result of this production, we have decided to do an OP production of The Winter’s Tale next spring.

    For all the artistic directors out there, I cannot recommend doing an OP production highly enough.

    Thanks David and Ben for helping us with this exciting experience.

  352. Kevin Flynn says: May 29, 20158:49 am

    David, I was wondering if you had ever heard reference to the programme broadcast in the BBC National Programme at 10 pm on 6 December 1937 and billed as follows in the Radio Times:

    A Scene from ‘ Twelfth Night ‘ in modem and in Elizabethan speech
    Shakespearean pronunciation by F. G. Blandford
    Act 1, Scene 5
    When London Calling A.D. 1600, broadcast in April, 1936, was discussed between the producer, M. H. Allen , and the author, Herbert Farjeon , the latter happened to mention that he had seen F. G. Blandford ‘s production of Twelfth Night, Act I, Scene 5, in Elizabethan English at the Festival Theatre, Cambridge. It was decided to ask Mr. Blandford to do a scene for this broadcast, and he came up from Cambridge and took the rehearsals. It was one of the most effective things in London Calling, which conjectured what listeners might have heard had broadcasting been invented in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
    Now Miss [M.H.] Allen and Miss [Barbara] Burnham are going to produce part of Act 1, Scene 5, first in modem English pronunciation and then in Elizabethan pronunciation, the scene which Mr. Blandford gave at Cambridge. The producers believe that, spoken in this way, Shakespeare has a music and rhythm which Edith Evans, almost alone among actresses, gives it today. In the Elizabethan version the girls’ parts will be played by boys as they were played in Shakespeare’s day.

    I’d never realized that an interest in producing Shakespeare using the OP went back so far. It would be fascinating to know what the “1936-7 version” sounded like!

  353. David Crystal says: May 21, 20157:53 pm

    Don’t forget you can see the OP Dream on DVD now. Contact details in the Archive. And I’m hoping more filmed material will become available over the next year or so. Ben’s OP Pericles in Stockholm was filmed, but it needs some funding to get it into a publishable form.

  354. Rebecca Winters says: May 21, 20155:13 pm

    Thank you so much, this is great information!

  355. Matt says: May 21, 20153:38 pm

    David, you are truly amazing! I love soaking up all of your information about OP and other linguistic topics. I hope that I can have the privilege of one day seeing an OP production. As a high school English teacher, this stuff makes me tingle with joy in hopes of being able to share it with my students and make Shakespeare come to life.

  356. David Crystal says: May 21, 20157:04 am

    Voice/vice: yes, these were homophones, like loins/lines in R&J prologue, etc. Lots of punning possibilities, therefore – as long as the context motivates the pun, of course. Guiled: this would have been ‘guy-lid, with the first element of the diphthong a central vowel (the quality of ‘the’), so to modern ears auditorily quite distant from the /i/ of ‘gilt’ or ‘gilded’. But to Elizabethan ears? The difference was solely in that central opening to the diphthong, which (in phonological terms) could be analysed as a single distinctive feature of difference, and there are lots of examples in Shakespeare of words rhyming even though they are one distinctive feature apart (eg ‘go’ and ‘do’). So I guess the answer is ‘maybe’.

  357. Rebecca Winters says: May 21, 20153:33 am

    Dear David,

    I am a graduate student doing a close reading of a passage from The Merchant Of Venice, and I was wondering if you could clear up a couple of OP questions for me. First of all, would the words “voice” and “vice” be pronounced the same? As far as I can tell (from looking at your transcriptions) they would be, but I wanted to make sure. Secondly, would the word “guiled” from Bassanio’s speech in which he chooses the lead casket have been pronounced anything like “gilt” or “gilded”?

    Thanks so much!

  358. David Crystal says: April 28, 20154:02 pm

    Occasional spelling variations suggest that mid consonants (such as h, v, t) have been dropped in English since the Middle Ages, and these are often shown by an apostrophe in Early Modern English. Orthoepists (such as Puttenham) do sometimes mention that some consonants are elided. That /t/ was sometimes lost is shown by such spellings as cursie (curtsy), instantly (instantly), and the dropping of the /t/ at the end of the -est ending, as in woulds thou. So I think glottalization of /t/ in words like mutton and cotton would be perfectly plausible. I don’t know of anyone saying it was a socially undesirable feature until the end of the 18th century. But note that the replacement by a glottal stop does’t alter syllable structure, so that a transcription like mon/man would be misleading.

  359. Sara Tombolis says: April 28, 201510:44 am

    Dear David,
    Sorry to bother you when I know you must be very busy. I just wanted to ask a quick question about a specific feature of EME pronunciation. Do you think it would have been possible for ‘mutton’ in Touchstone’s line ‘And is not the grease of a mutton as wholesome as the sweat of a man?'(AYLI 3,2,line53) to have been pronounced ‘mon/man’, ie with the double t in the middle of the word suppressed (a bit like in Cockney English today)? Do you think this would be a plausible assumption, particularly given the speed generated by witty repartee in performance? Thank you in advance for all your help with this- I’d be very interested to have your opinion as I’ve used your work extensively for my current project and have found it both fascinating and of incalculable value. So once again, thank you.

  360. Emanuel E. Garcia says: March 4, 20156:05 pm

    Dear David,

    I’ve been a student of Old and Middle English and fascinated with Shakespeare and the work on OP.

    I decided when mounting a production of Hamlet for the Butterfly Creek Theatre Troupe here in Eastbourne, New Zealand (Wellington region), that I would play Polonius using OP, for several reasons — the colour of OP would lend this character, often done a misjustice by simplification, greater resonance, and to set him a bit apart as well. He is, after all, qutie a powerful figure at the court of Denmark, a man capable of perfidy, snooping — and also paternal and national love. In short, a complex Shakespearean personage.

    Having read your work, listened to the Shakespeare OP CD, and having sent you a recording of my attempts at OP and received your feedback, I feel I am reasonably approximating it. The reaction of my cast has been very positive, and now that we have opened, the response from the audience excellent. They have no greater problem understanding Polonius and possibly the best reaction has been from an audience member who said she simply didn’t think it anything exceptional she was so caught up in the drama of the play, of Polonius’ character, etc.

    As you note there is a great deal of variety within OP, and I have attempted to take advantage of this.

    My very personal feeling is that it takes me into the soul of Polonius as neither the Received Pronunciation of modern Britain or what would be my natural American pronunciation would achieve, and I am most grateful for your help.

    A member of the crew filming our production for youtube is an OP enthusiast, coincidentally, and an audience member expressed the desire to hear the entirety of Hamlet and other Shakespearean works in OP after last night’s show.


  361. David Crystal says: February 26, 20158:24 am

    It would be gee-zyoo, with the stress on the first syllable. All instances in the First Folio are spelled Iesu – apart from Fluellen, who has a regional pronunciation reflected in the spellings Cheshu and Ieshu.

  362. Julie Rush says: February 23, 201512:33 am

    Dear David, our son is studying a short set of lines to perform in class (high school) from “Romeo and Juliet”. He is doing the 15-line speech from Friar Laurence that begins with “Holy Saint Francis!” How would the name “Jesu” have been pronounced in OP? Thank you so much!

  363. David Crystal says: February 15, 20153:28 pm

    I don’t know of anything, I’m afraid. It would be an interesting project.

  364. David Crystal says: February 15, 20153:25 pm

    The -y ending would have rhymed with the ending of ‘die’. This is a very common feature of OP – heard to great effect in Oberon’s speech ‘Flower of this purple dye’ in Dream – and it lasted as a conservative pronunciation well into the 18th century. I have a blog post on Blake’s use of it in Tyger Tyger… <http://david-crystal.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/on-burning-poetic-question.html>.

  365. Robert W M Greaves says: February 11, 20155:28 am

    Dear David, I’m reading ‘The Faerie Queene’ and am just wondering whether there are any OP recordings of parts of it.

  366. Keith Brander says: January 14, 20158:27 am

    We (a madrigal group) are performing Thomas Ravenscroft – Song of Simeon which rhymes “earnestly” and “die”. We are uncertain about how to pronounce the latter. Any advice?
    Many thanks

  367. Name says: November 30, 201411:58 am


    Dear David – I have transcribed Marc Anthony text with phoetic symbols – mainly to assist my intended OP delivery. Pity that my technicalities have resulted it poorly. However I am grateful for all I have managed to pick up so far from you as well as from Ben. Alas, the still slim care for OP here in Hungary diverts modern translators onto a Hungarian language lacking richness and variety, but serving only contrievd actualizations. Not a soltary tendency I presume.

  368. David Crystal says: November 1, 20149:35 am

    Interesting question. Can’t think of anything in the linguistic literature of the time that would help answer it. I imagine one would read in principles from singing generally, where vowels tend to be more open than in everyday speech. So a value approaching [a] for the first element may well have been the singing norm anyway. Maybe someone who knows about the history of singing practices could add something here.

  369. Kathy Fey says: October 31, 20141:09 pm

    I’ve been working on a number of Elizabethan songs and I am wondering how other singers handle the long-“i” diphthong when it’s sustained, as with the word “die” held for many beats. It seems the convention in modern English is to sustain the first half of the diphthong — singing “daaaaaaah-ee”… But the schwa needed for Early Modern English feels fairly unglamorous when sustained (as in, “duuuuuuuh-ee”). I feel like the way to go is “duh-eeeeeee” or some other blend in the timing of the diphthong… I’m curious what other OP singers recommend. Thank you!

  370. David Crystal says: October 22, 20145:33 pm

    ‘Wind’ rhymed exactly like ‘mind’ and ‘find’ in those days – indeed, as a poetic pronunciation, it stayed for centuries, and may even be encountered today. The first part of the diphthong had a more central vowel quality, like the vowel in ‘the’, not the more modern open vowel. An interesting point of assonance is that by Shakespeare’s time the diphthongs in ‘find’ etc were the same as those in ‘joy’, so there’s a chiming throughout almost the whole of this verse.

  371. Hendrik Ahrend says: October 22, 20145:15 pm

    Dear David,

    preparing to sing some Christmas carols with a little choir here in Germany, I stumbled across a little problem in the beautiful old carol “Ged rest ye merry gentlemen”, from the 15th cent. In all verses the second, forth and sixth line seem to rime, not so in the fifth verse. I expect “wind” to sound pretty much like wi:nd. What about “mind” and “find”? I’d appreciate any suggestions.

    BTW, here are the lyrics:

    The shepherds at those tidings
    Rejoiced much in mind,
    And left their flocks a-feeding
    In tempest, storm and wind:
    And went to Bethlehem straightway
    The Son of God to find.
    O tidings of comfort and joy,
    Comfort and joy
    O tidings of comfort and joy

    Thanks a lot, kind regards,
    Hendrik Ahrend

  372. David Crystal says: September 23, 20148:03 pm

    Yes, ‘yet’ would have sounded more like ‘bit’. There are lots of spelling alternations between ‘e’ and ‘i’ which point in that direction. ‘Word’ has the vowel of ‘sword’, with the ‘r’ pronounced, of course. Silent consonants of the ‘sword’, ‘know’ type were on their way out by the end of the 16th century, and I don’t use them in my transcriptions; but some commentators still mention them at the beginning of the 17th century, presumably in older, conservative speakers, so you have a choice here. (Holofernes would certainly have pronounced them.) And anything with the modern diphthong of ‘side’ (which turns up in all the words you list) would have begun with a schwa. You’ll hear examples in the various recordings available on this site and also at http://www.pronouncingshakespeare.com.

  373. Ed Durbrow says: September 23, 20142:25 pm

    I am an American lute player working with a Lithuanian singer. We have a few English songs we want to do next, among them Now O Now, Move Now With Measured Sound and Sweet kate. I don’t want to take up too much space, so but I’ll limit myself to some questions about sweet Kate. Yet and fitte must rhyme. I was thinking short i like bit, but then the spelling of fit makes me wonder. Words and swords I assume word is like ward rhyming to sword. Deller pronounces the w in sword in his recording. Is this correct? There is an i sound in many words: abide, cride, die, I, denying, trying. Are they all similar? Is it a diphthong like in the word coin or side?

  374. Steffen Schaub says: September 22, 201411:08 am

    In September 2014, the university of Marburg hosted the 2nd congress of the German Association for Applied Linguistics. We were fortunate to have David Crystal as one of our invited plenary speakers. In his talk entitled “Tales of the linguistically unexpected: applying historical phonology – or, Shakespeare as you’ve never heard him before”, he reported to a mixed audience of (applied) linguists, students and school children about his exciting work on Shakespeare productions in OP.

    Visitors to this website will surely be interested to know that we recorded the full talk, which you are invited to watch on YouTube here:
    (Please excuse the less-than-ideal sound quality)

    We hope that you enjoy the talk as much as we did, and welcome your comments and feedback.

  375. David Crystal says: September 15, 20147:46 am

    Yes, the OP approach can be applied to any historical period. The earlier 16th century (for the Book of Common Prayer and related literature) would have a system closer to William Tyndale. I mention him because there is a recorded example available, in the form of the British Library CD of Matthew’s Gospel, which I made for them a couple of years ago (and which is available via their online shop – ISBN 9780712351270). There are several notable differences from the OP of Shakespeare’s time, such as the pronunciation of initial ‘silent’ consonants in such words as ‘know’. ‘Gnashing of teeth’ sounds very different with the ‘g’ sounded!

  376. Caleb Rogers says: September 15, 20143:49 am

    I am an Episcopalian living in high Tennessee and I wonder if the OP might be applied on the oldest, Anglican Liturgy to similar effect, whyle both shakespeare and the Church of England are products of the Elizabethan Era, if I am not mistaken.

  377. David Crystal says: September 4, 201410:00 pm

    A plezer. Interesting point about greater ease of memorability. I remember some of the Globe company saying the same thing. I’m not sure why OP should have this effect, unless it’s something to do with the point about flow.

  378. Kate Crombie says: September 4, 20149:49 pm

    Dear Mr Crystal,
    I was so incredibly grateful when you recorded the dialogue from my monologue as Ariel in ‘The Tempest’ for me. The difference in my performance since using OP is astounding. Firstly, my lines became much easier to memorise and they seem to flow more naturally. I first attempted a common British accent at first, however as an Australian this accent seemed very light and superficial. Since I started using OP my performance has much more depth and meaning. I’m mere weeks away from my exam, and I feel comfortable and prepared because of your kindness in recording in OP for me and your wonderful research! Many thanks and congratulations on all you have done.

  379. David Crystal says: August 3, 201412:40 pm

    Thank you. I’ve been interested to note the number of L2 speakers who have expressed similar sentiments about intelligibility.

  380. Letizia says: August 3, 20149:19 am

    Just a quick note to say congratulations. Your work is fascinating and exciting. I am not a native English speaker and I find original pronunciation easier to understand, more natural and more enjoyable.
    With respect and admiration.

  381. David Crystal says: July 28, 20146:35 pm

    The principles are the same as in the case of Shakespeare. One looks for rhymes, wordplay, metrical patterns and so on. But the further back one in time goes, the poorer the evidence is (no dictionaries or commentators), and so one has to fall back on first principles. We begin by establishing the way the first missionaries wrote English down, using the Latin alphabet, and postulate a system of sounds reflected in the spellings they used. Useful evidence comes from noting the way dialect variations were reflected in those spellings. From there we follow the evolution of spellings, making deductions about the kinds of sound they must have represented, and using our knowledge of phonetics and phonology to evaluate plausibility. Historical linguists – and earlier, comparative philologists – have a great deal of experience in this kind of deduction. One knows the sort of thing that happens in everyday language change, and this knowledge can be put to work for periods like early Middle English, where there is very little textual material to go on. If all our deductions are right, we will end up with a chain of sound changes that will predict the way people spoke in later periods, where there is more evidence, and ultimately how we speak today. And as we know how we sound now, that provides a sort of retrospective nod that our reasoning worked.

  382. Ali Neill says: July 28, 201412:00 pm

    Dear David,
    I was at a party yesterday and I started telling some people about certain linguistic mutations in the English language, and some of the quirky origins of English words (a lot of which I read in your books). I was telling them about how the English alphabet has evolved a lot since the middle ages and that the Normand scribes didn’t recognize the spirant “th” sound, so they replaced it with a “y” However, the words were never pronounced “y” (like “ye old English”) and one girl asked me ” how do we know how words were pronounced back then?”. I have no idea, and I was hoping you could tell me.
    Ali Neill

  383. David Crystal says: July 23, 20148:17 am

    So far the OP ‘movement’ – I think we can call it that now – has focused on the 16th and 17th centuries, from Tyndale to Purcell. This wasn’t planned in any way: it has simply reflected people’s interests. At some point it needs to link up with those who have been performing earlier periods (Chaucer, Beowulf, and so on) in OP, and indeed, we need to explore the ‘applied historical linguistics’ of later centuries too. I haven’t done this myself, but when we think of examples of pronunciation change over the past couple of hundred years (‘balcony’ with the stress on the second syllable, ‘lord’ with a much more open vowel…) there are some very interesting choices waiting to be explored.

    The actors loved every moment of it. I don’t see the acquisition of an OP perspective as being any more difficult than accent work in general. After all, generations of actors were taught they had to lose their regional accent and work only in RP, which they did very successfully. OP is the same situation in reverse. It takes only a few hours, working with a company, to achieve a very high level of competence. Ben’s ensemble produced the best OP I’ve yet heard – and that included three actresses who didn’t have English as a mother-tongue. I’m delighted that you enjoyed Macbeth. I’ll be posting about the series shortly on my blog.

  384. Judith Roads says: July 23, 20146:30 am

    Dear David – I have just been blown away by your OP event of Macbeth at the Wanamaker Theatre. I’m a historical linguist (doctoral candidate in early Quaker language) and a former pro oboe player (I also have a baroque oboe). Is the OP world going down the historically informed world of music in offering OP for 19th century (Late Modern) etc performances? And how versatile will actors have to be in the way that players in music have had to become? The can of worms is delightfully open. As with the “authentic music” topic, there will be letters of complaint from some audiences!

  385. Igor Ruschel says: June 1, 20144:29 am

    Dear Professor,
    Thank you very much for your help! I personally opted for a more mildly retroflexed ‘r’ in most of the cases, rather than the trilled or flapped /r/ (in my opinion, these more forceful /r/ articulations go well with more dramatic parts or sometimes they help to make words clearer for the audience). It’s also important for me to give some freedom to the singers, especially if they think (incorrectly) that certain pronunciation or articulation is an imposed and strict rule. The main thing, I think, is always to have in mind that all the /r/ were pronounced back then, and that’s difficult, because the singers here are used to hear RP and to sing using RP. Nevertheless, it’s being a pleasing work! I just want to add that one of the most incredible and fascinating things is that some parts/songs of the opera became easier to sing with OP; it really works so well, in so many aspects! Thanks again and I wish you all the best! You really make the difference, also to us, musicians.
    Igor Ruschel

  386. David Crystal says: May 30, 20149:09 pm

    I don’t know the early singing literature, I’m afraid. But as far as general accounts of pronunciation are concerned, there is certainly evidence that a trilled /r/ was in use in the early 16th century. It would have been reinforced by the Scots accents that arrived in court in 1603. Ben Jonson, in his description of /r/ in his English Grammar, talks about the way the sound ‘hirreth’ – vibrates, in other words. I spent quite a while pondering whether to go for a trill or a retroflex /r/ in my transcriptions, and opted for the latter in the end. In song, then as now, I would expect there to have been some more forceful articulations, and a trilled /r/ would certainly have been one of the options.

  387. Igor Ruschel says: May 21, 201410:47 pm

    Dear Professor!
    I come once more to ask you for advising. About the “r”, the only remaining question for me is that I’m used to hear singers (including British historically informed performers) pronounce the ‘r’ like an alveolar trill or an alveolar trap/flap in words such as “trouble”, “great”, “remember” (first ‘r’), “press’d”, etc.. I know that it has something to do with aesthetics and also, to me, brings a feeling of exaggeration, but is there any evidence suggesting that singers pronounced the ‘r’ that way (trill or flap) in certain words? Sometimes the singing pronunciation has some differences, so I don’t know. The first specific treatise about singing in English that I have found dates from 1771 (author: Anselm Bayly), and describes the ‘r’ as follows: “By turning the tip of the tongue quick along the roof of the mouth towards the throat, at the same time giving a jarring, tremulous sound; as in ore, roar” (pg.5). It seems like the same ‘r’ from Purcell’s time and before…
    Thank you very much for your assistance!
    Igor Ruschel

  388. Igor Ruschel says: May 19, 20144:51 pm

    Thank you very much, it was very enlightening! I’ve already accepted the invitation and I am studying the inestimable material you’ve made.
    With best regards,
    Igor Ruschel

  389. David Crystal says: May 19, 20149:17 am

    I totally agree about the need to make the rhymes work, as the clash when they don’t is often very noticeable. There was a good example of this on BBC Radio 3 the other day, when a new version of Shakespeare’s The Phoenix and the Turtle was performed, and the choir presented us with a prominent ‘neither’ that failed to rhyme with an equally prominent ‘together’ (‘neither’ would have had a short ‘e’ vowel). Anyway, to your point:
    – ‘woe’ normally had its diphthongal quality, to rhyme with ‘go’, and this is how it’s normally heard in Shakespeare (where there are lots of rhymes), but there was an older alternative pronunciation, shows by such spellings as ‘woo’, where there would have been a rhyme with ‘you’. I doubt if this would shave been heard in everyday speech by Purcell’s time, but it would have been in poetic auditory memory – much as today we accept the occasional archaic rhyme in a nursery rhyme or Christmas carol (such as ‘wind’ rhyming with ‘find’).
    – ‘ear-words’ are more complex, as the rhymes show they had a range of possibilities (in Shakespeare ‘fear’ rhymes with words like ‘cheer’ and ‘deer’, on the one hand, and ‘there’ and ‘swear’ on the other). This kind of variation isn’t unusual. In modern English, we have ‘again’ rhyming with both ‘rain’ and ‘men’, for instance. So you have two options. You can either have the more open (‘there’) pronunciation for the rhymes and use the other pronunciation elsewhere. Or you can use the ‘there’-vowel throughout. Personally I go for consistency, unless there is a good reason for not doing so.
    – ‘wound’ was usually pronounced to rhyme with ‘sound’, ‘ground’, ‘hound’, and so on (these are all in Shakespeare), and this pronunciation stayed until the end of the 18th century. John Walker has it as one of two pronunciations in his Pronouncing Dictionary, and it was still there in early 19th century editions.
    – /r/ was still being pronounced after vowels – the ‘r’-less accent (Received Pronunciation) didn’t evolve until the end of the 18th century.

    Yes, anyone can hear the Purcell material, via Dropbox. What I have is a couple of audio files in which I talk about and illustrate the various vowel values, and several semi-transcriptions – that is, texts in which only the points of difference are noted. I’ll send an invitation.

  390. Igor Ruschel says: May 18, 20149:09 pm

    Dear Mr. Crystal,
    I am a musician/conductor from Porto Alegre, Brazil. Our University here is also preparing the Purcell’s Opera Dido & Aeneas, and since I research for quite some time about OP (and naturally have found your name and this site, among other materials made available by you – and I thank you very much for that!), I suggested that we could do the Opera using OP. The libretto, as you know, is all written in rhymes, therefore OP is essential to make them work properly. Gladly they accepted my suggestion! However, I have some questions yet, and if it would be possible, I would want you to answer them.
    • “A Tale so strong and full of woe
    Might melt the rocks as well as you”
    In this, woe was/is pronounced in order to rhyme with you; therefore, the “Oe” is pronounced
    as “ou” like in “wound”, right?
    • I have noticed that most of the words that contains “EAR” (appear, fear, spear…) are pronounced (to rhyme, again) the same way as “Bear” (/bɛə(ɹ)/). However, that happens always at the end of the verses. When it happens at the beginning, e.g. “Fear no Danger to ensue…” is the pronunciation of “Fear” also like “Bear”?
    • In “Pursued by his own hounds
    And after mortal wounds”,
    I have deduced the “hounds” would be pronounced, regarding the “ou”, as the same as “wounds”, and not otherwise, remaining close to the German word “Hund”, of almost same meaning. Is that deduction right/probable?
    • I have also doubts about the /r/ pronunciation, and I saw in your latest answer that you made some recording and transcription that are available via dropbox. How could I access them?
    In advance, I greatly thank you for your help, and I apologize for so many questions!
    Igor Ruschel

  391. David Crystal says: May 14, 20147:52 pm

    I’m delighted to hear that you’re thinking of an OP approach. It can make such a difference, especially when lines noticeably don’t rhyme. All the evidence suggests that the postvocalic /r/ was still being sounded in Purcell’s time. It didn’t disappear from the south-eastern accent until late in the 18th century, when Received Pronunciation evolved. It’s phonetic quality is debatable, and probably there were as many variants around then as there are now. I would go for a mildly retroflexed /r/ – similar to the West Country accent in the UK or to much General American. If you want to hear this, along with the other features of the reconstructed accent of Purcell’s time, I have two informally recorded (ie on my home computer using QuickTime) audio files of the vowel qualities that I prepared for someone who was presenting some Purcell songs in OP a little while ago, along with a transcription and some recordings of the pieces, and these are available via Dropbox.

  392. Viola Zucchi says: May 14, 201411:57 am

    Dear David,
    I am a singer in an Italian choir; we often sing Early and Baroque music, so as the text is usually in Latin or Italian we rarely have doubts about pronounciation. Anyway, we recently came to London to perform in St. John’s Smiths Square International A Cappella Competition, and some of the mandatory pieces were English motets by Sixteenth Century composers. So, as I graduated in Foreign Languages many years ago, I was asked to take care of the choir pronounciation, so began to wonder about OP. We didn’t have much time to study, so in the end I chose British Received Pronounciation for timing reasons.
    We are now going to sing Purcell’s Dido an Aeneas in a very important Early Music Festival in Germany and I would like to do a better with the choir pronunciation.
    So here’s my question, to which I really cannot find a quick answer anywhere:
    How did performers at Purcell’s time pronounce the “R”?
    Was it trilled or flipped or burred? In which syllables was it trilled or rolled? How was it pronounced at the end of words? What about the r-colored vowels?
    It would be a great help for us to get your advice about such a sensitive subject.
    Thank you, Viola from Costanzo Porta Choir.

  393. Ula Müller says: April 30, 201410:37 am

    Thank you so much 🙂

  394. David Crystal says: April 23, 201410:20 am

    Rhyming evidence suggests that both ‘relieved’ and ‘deprived’ had alternative pronunciations with a short front vowel. In Pericles (5.Chorus 24) ‘relieve me’ rhymes with ‘give me’. And in Lucrece 1752 ‘deprived’ rhymes with ‘unlived’. OED also has a spelling of ‘deprive’ as ‘depriff’. So I’d suggest it would have been ‘re-live’ed’ and ‘de-priv-ed’, with both of the central syllables with the vowel as in ‘give’.

  395. Ula Müller says: April 19, 20142:08 pm

    Dear David, when I was trying to find out more about the original pronunciation of the lyrics of John Dowlands “flow my tears”, I came across your fascinating work about Shakespeare and OP. Singing this air in a choir, we would love to come up with the origin idea behind the words and use the original pronunciation. At one point this is very difficult:

    Never may my woes be relieved,
    Since pity is fled;
    And tears and sighs and groans my weary days, my weary days
    Of all joys have deprived.

    Listening to your words and to my own feelings, I would pronounce the word “deprived” in this context like the word “believed” or “relieved”. But every native speaker I find on youtube would pronounce the i in deprived like the i in “live” or “like”. Now hopefully you have an idea how this word would have been pronounced in times when this tune was composed.Thank you very much,

  396. David Crystal says: April 16, 201410:05 am

    They would have used the accents of the parts of the country the pilgrims came from. And this of course explains why there are differences between, say, New England and other places, as features such as final -r can be traced back to those British dialects. We don’t know what Shakespeare’s personal accent was, unfortunately – doubtless a mix of his native Warwickshire and his adopted London.

  397. David Crystal says: April 16, 201410:02 am

    All the ‘-ind’ words were pronounced in the same way – that is, rhyming with ‘find’. It’s definitely the second of your alternatives.

    And ‘slave’ was pronounced with a more open vowel – more like the vowel of ‘air’ (but without the r), which would have brought it very close to ‘have’, as the ‘a’ vowel was closer (almost like ‘hev’). So a slightly longer pronunciation of the ‘a’ in ‘have’ and a slightly clipped version of ‘slave’ would have made them almost identical.

  398. David Crystal says: April 16, 20149:54 am

    This is Ben doing the US workshops. They’re listed on his Passion in Practice website (http://www.passioninpractice.com/workshops/), but for final details send him a message at bencrystal@mac.com.

  399. Fiona Shea says: April 14, 20149:14 pm

    Hello! I’m currently playing Rosalind in a production of As You Like It (with the Homeschool Drama Troupe — we’re based in central New Hampshire) and just came across your marvelous book! I realized, first of all, just how much I had been missing (puns, jokes) in this play — and second, had a couple questions. I was think of playing with OP in our production — mostly in the pronunciation of Rosalind’s name. In the text (the way I would speak it in modern English) Orlando rhymes her name with both “ind” and “wind” and then with “lined” and “mind.” So I was just wondering which pronunciation of Rosalind’s name is correct in OP (rhyming either “mind” or “wind”) — and which is actually the incorrect (or joke) on her name. Or are they all pronounced the same way in OP and the lines would only be a joke in modern English? My other question is similar — would “have” rhyme with “slave,” or would “slave” rhyme with “have?”
    Thank you so much!

  400. Sally Mann says: April 13, 20147:30 pm

    I just heard you and your son on radio Studio 360. He mentioned that you will be doing a class or workshop in New York City. I am very Interested for the sake of my 2 sons, both actors, and for my
    husband and self, all Bard fans. My 18 year old is in a Shakespeare performance class and will be performing in May. Could you send me information on your class in NYC? Thank you so much!
    Best to you,
    Sally Mann in Brooklyn

  401. Thomas Pryde says: April 1, 20143:20 am

    Mr. Crystal, how do you suppose the Mayflower pilgrims spoke? Would it have been similar to Shakespeare’s accent?

  402. David Crystal says: March 24, 20148:30 pm

    It would be a bit of a stretch to get to ‘whore’ from ‘horror’ in OP. ‘Whore’ puns with ‘hour’ – both pronounced a bit like modern English ‘oar’ (with r sounded) – hence the famous wordplay by Touchstone in As You Like It that makes Jaques laugh so much. ‘Whore’ has a long vowel; ‘horror’ has a short vowel. And while there may well have been articulations that reduced this disyllable to a monosyllable (as in some modern US accents) I think most speakers would shave respected the two beats in the word. Note that both words would have had the option of dropping the ‘h’, by the way.

  403. Emma says: February 28, 201410:34 pm

    My English teacher told me that when Macduff in Act II Scene III says “oh horror horror horror”, it is pronounced as “oh whore whore whore” in OP, which makes it alike to a pun as Macbeth replies with “twas a rough night’. However, my English teacher likes strong stories.
    Is this true?

  404. David Crystal says: February 9, 20142:58 pm

    I transcribe these with a central vowel (schwa) onset. It’s the only way I can see to explain the homophony, and it ties in well with opinions in historical phonology about how the diphthongs were changing during this period.

  405. Simon Cauchi says: January 29, 201410:59 pm

    Some extra examples of rhymes: from Richard Crashaw, “spoil” rhyming with “toil” and “smile”; from Sir Richard Fanshawe: “combine” rhyming with “joyne” and “coine” rhyming with “Wine”.

  406. Simon Cauchi says: January 29, 20147:58 pm

    Re the Shakespearean or rather the Early Modern homophones vice/voice (and countless similar examples of the same vowel sounds combined with different consonants, e.g. bile/boil). Which of these in its modern pronunciation represents what was actually said? Presumably it was either /aj/ or /oj/ or might it have been something else?

  407. David Crystal says: January 5, 201410:43 pm

    I’ve never explored the work of other dramatists from the period, I’m afraid, though the same principles would apply. If there IS anyone out there who has worked on Marlowe or others, from an OP point of view, it would be good to hear of it.

  408. Mariacristina Moroni says: January 3, 20145:46 am

    Dear David,
    I’m going to graduate at Bologna’s University next March with a work about Dunster’s “Doctor Faustus” production at Globe in 2011.
    Could you please give me your opinion about “original pronunciation” in this production?
    Thanks a lot for your contribute!
    Mariacristina Moroni

  409. Mike Schufman says: January 2, 20148:48 pm

    Interesting to hear your thoughts on this! And yes, I did mean alveolar rather than dental. Thanks for your response! And of course you knew what I meant, though I didn’t have an example as good as ‘writer’ and ‘rider.’ 🙂

    Much appreciated.

  410. David Crystal says: December 27, 20132:21 pm

    There were two pronunciations. The usual one, supported by several metrical instances (eg MND 5.1.374) was two syllables, stress on the first syllable, with optional /h/. But 1H6 3.2.64 shows that the trisyllabic pronunciation was also in use, harking back to the original Greek.

  411. David Crystal says: December 27, 20132:14 pm

    I don’t know of any evidence for a flapped t. Contemporary writers don’t give much phonetic detail about sounds, and what they do say is often difficult to interpret. Nor do I recall any spellings that could represent the kind of d/t overlap that brings such pairs as ‘writer’ and ‘rider’ together. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I’ve always assumed a normal alveolar (NB not dental) articulation, as today. Having said that,remember that OP is a phonology, not a phonetics. In other words, it is perfectly possible to render the EME sound system with ‘superimposed’ accent variations. In the 2004 Globe production of Romeo, for example, actors kept their distinctively Scottish, Irish, London, etc accents ‘on top’ of the OP, so that their ‘t’ articulations were in fact quite varied. Such accent variation would have been normal in EME too.

  412. Frost says: December 21, 201311:34 pm

    Hi, I’m trying to work out what the OP of Hecate would be from Macbeth, any help would be appreciated.

  413. Sylvia Reuter says: December 17, 201312:15 pm

    Following up my 2010 event, “Sumer Is Icumen In – Again” was the title of both the project and the subsequent concert on 12 July 2013 (Leipzig, Germany). As last time, we first studied English lyrics in vocal music from the early 13th century till the 18th century closely, and then finally performed the songs in their original pronunciation. Soloists and choir, partly accompanied by instruments, sang, among others, the Middle English songs Worldes Bliss ne Last no Throwe, Deo Gracias Anglia, followed by pieces by Th. Tallis, W. Byrd, Th. Ravenscroft, Dowland, H. Purcell and G. F. Handel. To make the journey through English language sound history complete, we enjoyed the first performance of significant lines from the Old English epic Beowulf, which had been set to music for the purpose of my project (composer Manuel Durão).

  414. Mike Schufman says: December 16, 20134:31 am

    I am a “linguistics buff” and am fascinated to have recently discovered this idea of OP which is something I have wondered about for many years. The more I read, the more fascinated I get, and when I practice this pronunciation, it’s as if it comes naturally-almost like we instinctively “hear a late 1500s accent” when it is pronounced.
    My question is:
    Concering EME, what is your take on alveolar flaps representing the letter T as in today’s American English as opposed to aspirated dental consonants as they are used in Modern British pronunciation, such as in “it is” (before a vowel) or any final t like “admit,” “do it,” or after a vowel such as “I will go TO the store (with a flap on the t in to). Is there any evidence that flaps were ever used for “T” as opposed to today’s British tendency to favor the aspirated dental?

  415. David Crystal says: December 11, 20139:47 am

    Some names are difficult to establish in OP, but most are straightforward, as they would follow the general system. FOr Gertrude, the ‘er’ would come out as ‘ar’ (just as ‘mercy’ is pronounced ‘marcy’). And the long /u:/ vowel at the end would be shorter (as it is in an unstressed syllable), and might even have reduced to /u/ as in ‘put’ (much as in present-day Scots).

  416. Doriano says: December 1, 201310:08 pm

    How would Shakespeare have pronounced the names that he used in his plays? For example, how would he have pronounced ‘Gertrude’?

  417. David Crystal says: October 2, 20134:28 pm

    Midsummer comes out well in OP (as Paul Meier found with his Kansas production) because of all the rhymes, a significant number of which don’t work in modern English. But there is the occasional pun that requires OP to work: for example ‘No die but an ace for him; for he is but one’ – you have to pronounce ‘ace’ as ‘ass’ to get the point. Or – as you mention the Romeo example – there is a similar pun when Peter Quince says ‘he is a very paramour for a sweet voice’ (vice). And Lysander’s ‘All my powers’ (‘pores’). You can read more about this in the interview with Paul Meier which is downloadable from my website. Go to Books and Articles, filter with Shakespeare, search by publication date and it’s a few items down the list.

  418. Emily H. says: September 27, 20138:08 pm

    Hi David! I’m currently studying the language in Midsummer Night’s Dream. In the your video you noted that “loins” has a different pronunciation in the OP, so it’s a pun that is often missed. Are there any similar instances in Midsummer? Thanks!

  419. David Crystal says: September 22, 20139:38 am

    Yes, it surprised me too, at the time. But there is a general trend to exaggerate the differences between Early Modern and Modern English. Look at all those who feel they need to ‘translate’ Shakespeare into Modern English.

  420. Jeremy Marshall says: September 13, 20139:12 pm

    I’m surprised to hear (in a YouTube clip) that the Globe thought its audiences might not understand Tudor OP. I have never forgotten going to the Lyceum in the mid 1980s to see “Doomsday” from Tony Harrison’s Mysteries. Being largely Middlesex-raised, I couldn’t tell the difference between a medieval and a modern Yorkshire accent, but it sounded rather like your OP and, once you’d got your head around the odd unfamiliar word (such as “thole”), it was entirely comprehensible and highly engaging.

  421. David Crystal says: September 11, 20134:55 pm

    The Open University video Ben and I did a couple of years ago went viral this month on Twitter and other social media. I’ve added links to some relevant sources in the Archive.

  422. Hamilton Meadows says: September 6, 20137:55 pm

    The story, “Finding Shakespeare” is now on Amazon as a kindle ebook. It has five stars and great reviews. It does present me in both a flattering and un-flattering light which makes me simply human. Its Dan Fromson’s honest reporting of the facts, and I respect this.

    But the story’s really about Shakespeare’s work, a genius storyteller who spoke and wrote in Elizabethan times in a different way over 400 years ago which had been lost and its about David Crystal who re-discovered his true voice. There is a different tone in Early Modern English and with Shakespeare our efforts to re-stage this is what this story’s all about. Its about the efforts of those of us who wish to bring this now to the modern stage for all of us to enjoy once again.

  423. Craig Allen says: August 29, 201312:08 pm

    I am in the process of transcribing the sonnets into OP and last night began work on Sonnet II. I downloaded the text from MIT’s Shakespeare site for a simple cut and paste into Word, but upon doing so the spell checker told me that the word “besiege” was misspelled as “beseige”. I thought, this is MIT, they wouldn’t have let that typo slip by. So I quickly checked two of my volumes of the complete works and found “besiege” spelled correctly (by modern standards). And yet, something vexed me. A friend of mine is always going on about using the folios for study, and I do agree with her that original source material is always best. So I decided to check the foilos that are up at the Internet Shakespeare web site at the University of Victoria, found the folio containing the sonnets and there was the word spelled “beseige”. Now, knowing that Shakespeare wrote in dialect or for effect, and also knowing that spelling of Early Modern English was in the early stages of becoming standardized in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, I could only surmised that this must be how the Bard want it spelled, and not only how he wanted it spelled, but how he wanted it pronounced. This spelling of course puts a different vocal coloration to the word. This is going to be an interesting project and learning experience.

  424. David Crystal says: June 3, 20135:53 pm

    From Paul Meier: 1June 2013. From the Stratford Festival, Ontario, as part of their ongoing Forum (live-streamed on the Internet), Tim Carroll led an OP seminar featuring Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, scene 3, performed in OP by Steve Ross, Andre Morin, and Kate Hennig. They were coached principally by resident dialect coach, Nancy Benjamin, who had been coached in turn by Paul Meier, who also spoke on the history and genesis of the OP movement. The hope is that the festival will mount a fully-staged OP production some time soon.

  425. David Crystal says: June 3, 20135:51 pm

    Jennifer Geizhals sends this message: I phonetically transcribed “As You Like It” into OP, under the direction of Paul Meier with final editing and approval by David Crystal. She also made a recording of the entire play in OP. You can find the transcription and recordings here : about halfway down the page, you’ll see a paragraph where Jennifer’s name is featured and a link to the work, which is a PDF. In case you’re having a hard time finding the link, it’s right here: here. You can listen to the entire play and read along in English and the IPA – there are links in the PDF to Jennifer’s recordings of each scene.

  426. David Crystal says: May 13, 20139:02 am

    I’ve noticed too, in various OP productions, how certain words are given a really good time by actors, and ‘war’ (rhyming with ‘star’) is always one – I suppose because it usually occurs at a point of semantic prominence in the text. Makes up for the times when the accent slips – inevitable in a short run. It’s the overall impression that counts, and your two radio extracts certainly provide that.

  427. Kate Emery Pogue says: May 7, 20138:20 pm

    An edited down OP version of Julius Caesar was performed in Houston, Texas, May 2,3, and 4 2013. The venue was the University of Houston Downtown’s O’Kane Theatre and the director/producer was myself, Kate Pogue, a lecturer from the Drama Department faculty. The houses were full (c. 100 people each performance) and audience members were exceptionally attentive. We had enthusiastic responses to the talk-back which followed each performance; uniformly audience members found the language easy to follow and beautiful to listen to. I was thrilled with the experience, for myself and for the actors. By June we’ll have an edited videotape up on YouTube. In the meantime, if you Google KUHAthefrontrow you should get to the site where a radio interview is archived (when the screen comes up, scroll down till you see a box asking for key words. Type in Julius Caesar and it should take you to the broadcast). Our Caesar and Mark Antony each performed a speech for the broadcast which is I believe representative of our work. As the performance week went along the accents weakened a bit. I believe our work hadn’t gone deep enough to really ingrain the accent. If we’d had a longer run it would have been valuable to have had an accent brush-up. I would like to figure out just what it takes to get the accent deep enough that the actor’s instinct would be make it stronger rather than let it weaken. There were numerous places –Antony’s pronunciation of ‘war’, and Portia’s “You have some sick offence within your mind.” where she leaned so on ‘mind’ that I know those moments would never weaken back to the more colorless modern pronunciation. Two people said we should try to take the production to the Fringe in Edinburgh – and the chair of my department wants to look into raising the money to do that, which would be quite an endeavor, but would give us a chance to restage the production next year. We’ll see. I am working on a book detailing our process to help other directors or actors to experiment with original pronunciation performance.I’m eager to read reports of other OP productions and will be watching for posts. Kate Pogue Houston, Texas.

  428. Kate Emery Pogue says: April 25, 201311:02 pm

    Dear David,
    As you know — since you’ve been so helpful–here in Houston at the University of Houston-Downtown we have been rehearsing an OP production of Julius Caesar, cut to an hour and a quarter and played by seven actors. The experience has been extraordinary. With luck these seven performers will take their experience into other places and other productions. I’ll report next week how the performances went, and will be publishing a book I hope will serve as a decent guide for American performances in pasrticular. We hope to have a YouTube video to post as well. Thank you for your inspiration and encouragement! Kate Pogue

  429. David Crystal says: April 19, 20137:41 pm

    I love the painting analogy. Many thanks.

  430. Dominick Reyntiens says: April 8, 201310:35 pm

    I happened upon that OP bit from the OU you recorded with Ben. Just those few words, It was a total body blow, like a renaissance painting covered in grime and suddenly restored and showing the power of its true colour. As an ex street entertainer, I connected immediately, OP is a voice that has a direct connection to the audience. I told my wife, ‘listen to this’ & I played the pieces, I could see the tingle in her expression as she felt exactly what I felt. Remarkable work, I am converted.

  431. Hamilton Meadows says: February 12, 20136:28 pm

    We are now in full production of Macbeth in OP guided by Doug Honoroff as voice coach. Please see the review in NYC’s latest copy of Backstage this week.

  432. David Crystal says: February 11, 20137:56 pm

    Dean Hoffman writes to report an event which took place last year in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. Details are on the archive and forthcoming events pages of this site. Dean teaches in the Interdisciplinary Studies division at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. His interest in Robin Hood dates back to his college days, and his articles on the Robin Hood legend have appeared in Neuphilologische Mitteilungen (Helsinki), TDR: The Drama Review, and Studia Neophilologica (Uppsala). The event took place in association with Carolina Pro Musica, established in 1977 to promote music before 1800 with historic instrument copies and in the performance style of the periods. Since their founding, they have maintained a concert series in Charlotte, performing music from the Middle Ages through the twentieth century. They have been artists-in-residence at Belmont Abbey College since 2002.

  433. Leigh Dillon says: September 1, 20126:40 pm

    Yes, David. I was the dialect coach and this enormous “Thank You” is long overdue, to you and to David Crystal. Thank you for sharing your work with us, as our rehearsal time was shorter than short. I also purchased David Crystal’s recordings of the sonnets and listened to all of them, day and night! A wonderful project! Thank you, Two Gentlemen of OP!

  434. Roberto Mighty says: August 30, 201212:15 pm

    Using Original Pronunciation for Puritans at Harvard [see link at Forthcoming Events]

    “First Contact” is an immersive multimedia video-audio-photo installation at Harvard’s Fisher Museum. It is about the clash of worldviews regarding land use in the early 17th Century between Native Americans and Puritan colonists in New England. As a one year artist-in-residence at Harvard Forest, I spent my time reading and researching, but also working for months in the forest at all hours of the day and night — filming, photographing, recording sound, making time-lapses, and otherwise being bitten senseless by mosquitoes, black flies and who-knows-what miniature monsters. Several months in to the project, I realized what countless historians before me had previously concluded: The Puritans were highly educated as a group and many wielded the pen with great expertise.

    The Puritans believed strongly in education. They founded Harvard College in 1636. Their leaders and other contemporary colonial thinkers, including John Eliot, Roger Williams, Thomas Morton, Francis Higginson, John Cotton and Daniel Gookin were accomplished writers.

    Over the course of this project, I went from reading about them in history books to reading their actual letters, sermons, pamphlets and books, including, in a few cases, their transcriptions of the words of Native Americans in English and Algonquian dialects. These first person narratives, testimonies and reports are compelling, and gave me much fodder for my thesis: that the religious, spiritual and economic backgrounds of the two peoples — English and Native American — led them to irreconcilable views about the proper relationship between that landscape and human beings.

    As the research stretched on for months, I kept returning to these first person texts, finally deciding that the Puritans’ state of mind could most effectively be represented by selective voiceover recordings of their own writings. But who would perform these voices? How about me? Ha. Non-starter. I’d be imitating — no doubt poorly — English accents. How about getting professional actors? Nope. Precious few native UK actors here in Massachusetts. How about getting someone in England to read the passages? Ahh – getting closer, but still, I’d have no way of knowing if the accents used would be “proper”, whatever the heck that would mean.

    Around this time, thanks to the magic of radio, I heard a BBC interview with Jonnie Robinson — about the “Original Pronunciation” movement in England — people who use literary and speech forensics to reconstruct how English would have sounded in previous eras, focusing on Shakespeare. The math checked out — “my” Puritans and Shakespeare were, roughly speaking, contemporaries. Wow. I tracked this Robinson fellow down via Google. Jonathan Robinson, Lead Curator, Sociolinguistics & Education at the British Library in London, was kind enough to answer my query and direct me to two actors and authors — Englishmen Ben Crystal and Paul Meier — who are recognized experts in OP.

    Over here in the states, the Nipmuc Nation (the Native American bands of what is now central Massachusetts were primarily of the Nipmuc/Algonquin group) recommended to me the only living teacher of their language, David Tall Pine White.

    Fortunately, all three of these gentlemen agreed to make voice recordings for this project, and Tall Pine also translated 17th century Narragansett transcriptions by Roger Williams (missionary, Puritan dissident and later founder of Rhode Island) into Nipmuc. In addition, Tall Pine recommended and recorded a 17th century poem by Ousemequin (otherwise known as Massassoit) about the notion of owning land.

    I sent Ben Crystal and Paul Meier their selected passages via email, along with bios of the historical authors, including what towns they were born and raised in, what churches they’d attended, their education, occupations, etc., and minimal “stage direction.” They made the recordings on their own home setups. What these actor-director-writers returned to me in digital sound files was, in each case, a dramatic revelation. Their voice acting surpassed my wildest dreams.

  435. David Crystal says: July 25, 20124:03 pm

    Well I could, but there are already plenty of fine Sonnet analyses out there. Take a look, for example, at Will Sutton’s page – and if you get the chance, go to see his Sonnet show (or book him).

  436. dotsid55@optonline.net says: July 25, 20124:02 pm

    Having gone through every sonnet in the OP can Mr. Crystal make the claim that he understands the sonnets enough to give us a short precis of the plot.

  437. David Crystal says: July 6, 20121:10 pm

    You’ll find information on this in the papers listed under Evidence on this site. There seems to have been both long and short variants for ‘love’ around at the time, either of which would have made the rhyme work. In my transcriptions I prefer the short variant, given the clear statement by (among others) Ben Jonson in 1616 that ‘o’ is ‘in the short time’ and lists ‘love’ and ‘prove’ along with ‘mother’, ‘cosen’ [cousin] and others.

  438. Holly says: July 6, 20123:20 am

    I would like to explain to students why, in several Elizabethan era sonnets, “move” rhymes with “love.” Can you explain the phonetic etymology?

  439. Chris Hunter says: June 8, 20128:43 am

    As one of the singers on Musica Contexta’s new Byrd recording I’m delighted with what we’ve achieved but slightly frustrated that it’s taken such a long time to arrive. OP was quite a hot topic about 30 years ago among scholars and serious performers of Early Music but was never taken up in a big way by professional ensembles of the time, so interest seemed to die away. I have a recording of Byrd’s Songs of Sundrie Natures made by the Hilliard Ensemble in 1987 which uses OP: Paul Hillier wrote a piece in the CD booklet explaining and justifying such a novelty. I find it sad that apart from the occasional concert or recording ‘authentic’ Latin nobody’s really bothered since.
    Perhaps if theatre audiences come to expect OP as a norm they’ll look for recordings of contemporary music also using OP and market forces will encourage musicians to take it up.

  440. David Crystal says: June 2, 201212:06 pm

    Thanks, Chris. I’m puzzled too. After the Globe Romeo, there was an audience talkback session in which there were several early music people present, and I got the impression that some were going to do something practical afterwards, but nobody got in touch. I think one of the problems is that the term ‘OP’ covers a multitude of possible effects, and it takes quite a bit of time to master the detail of it. I’ve heard some recordings of so-called OP music in which the only OP feature was the pronunciation of words like ‘salvation’ as ‘sal-vay-see-on’. What’s lovely about the Musica Contexta recording is the way the whole sound system is taken into account, so that one hears a variety of fresh effects. It is spine-tinglingly effective, and I hope others will follow your lead. I do get enquiries from time to time by music groups, so I’m hopeful that a climate will emerge. It took five years for the ripples from the Globe theatre initiative to turn into performance waves.

  441. David Crystal says: May 25, 20129:18 am

    The long-awaited CD of William Byrd’s ‘The Great Service in the Chapel Royal’ is now available from Chandos (CHAN 0789), directed by Simon Ravens, with an OP text arranged by Robert Easting. It’s the first time I’ve heard OP used in this way and it sounds amazing.

  442. David Crystal says: May 24, 201211:37 am

    In ‘Making Sense of Shakespeare’ (1999, pp. 133ff.), Charles H Frey offers early and illuminating support for OP. Thanks to Charles for this link.

  443. David Crystal says: May 3, 20129:33 pm

    Hamilton Meadows has sent a link to his new
    Shakespeare OP
    site, and also to a review of his production of Twelfth Night.

  444. Mary McDonald-Lewis says: March 19, 20125:56 am

    Here is a short video, a collection of scenes from “Shakespeare’s Amazing Cymbeline” produced at Portland Center Stage using Original Pronunciation, with me as dialect coach:


    Only 5 actors play all the roles, and along with the OP you’ll hear a little Welsh, some RP, and a bit of Italian. In general, I’m well and truly satisfied with our first outing using OP.

  445. Hamilton Meadows says: March 16, 20128:49 pm

    David, again thank you for all your help to make Twelfth Night our first OP production Off-Broadway in NYC. Next, Macbeth in OP this October. Best, Hamilton

  446. Bryan Park says: November 30, 20118:21 am

    This is fascinating. You are doing for Shakespeare what the period performance practice movement has been doing in music – stripping away the accretions of the centuries and hearing as the original audiences heard. In the musical realm, instruments in general have been getting louder, and ensembles have been getting bigger. What happens when we use the instruments that Bach, Handel, Mozart, and Beethoven would have been familiar with? What techniques are different as a function of using those instruments? What tempos need to be changed? This is what has been going on in the musical realm. Now it’s happening for Shakespeare, and I say bravo.

  447. Sylvia Reuter says: November 7, 20119:31 am

    Another project of mine that also included original pronunciation was the research into the York Mystery Plays, a cycle of mystery plays from the late 14th century until at least 1569. All biblical in content and serving what we would call ‘infotainment’, the whole York cycle of plays encompasses the medieval Christian view on the history of the world, from the Fall of the Angels to the Last Judgment. On 7/7/2011, MA-students presented the results of their close reading and linguistic analysis of the following guilds and plays: “The Playsterers” (The Creation), “The Parchemyners and Bokebynders” (Abraham and Isaac), “The Cordewaners” (The Agony in the Garden and the Betrayal), and “The Pynneres” (The Crucifixion), exploring the plays’ word fields, pronouns, paradigms, different spellings, and sound patterns. This last aspect included transcribing and then reading out of parts of the Middle English versions.

  448. Sylvia Reuter says: November 7, 20119:20 am

    In summer term 2010 I devoted a seminar to the linguistic analysis of lyrics used in songs, from Middle English/1250 onwards through Modern English, researching and analyzing, among other aspects, their pronunciation. During the concert 25 June, 2010 (Leipzig, Germany) the following pieces were performed (a cappella both solo and choir, lute, counter tenor, Baroque instruments): Sumer Is Icumen In, Miri it is while sumer ilast, Brid on a breere, Lullay Lullow, 2 pieces by Henry VIII, Th. Tallis/If ye love me, W. Byrd/ Crowned with flowers, Dowland’s “Wilt thou unkind thus reave me” and “Come again sweet love”, pieces by Blow, Purcell, plus a Magnificat based on St. Luke. The linguistic analyses included much more than the original pronunciation, of course, but it was this aspect which turned out to be the most fascinating and challenging one when, finally, the transcription (IPA) was the basis to teach professional singers a pronunciation of pieces that they had already sung before. To listen to “Come again, sweet love” in this “new” version gave the piece a completely new flavour.

  449. Susanna Jennings says: November 3, 201111:17 am

    Took part in an OP Workshop in London with David Barrett a couple of weeks ago and it was fantastic, in four hours we learnt the basics of OP and how it can help an actor and had a go at some extracts from ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ Myself and 7 other actors were extremely extremely excitedand only wish we’d discovered this sooner!

  450. Lizzie Locker says: October 28, 20113:24 pm

    My undergraduate honors research project is entitled “Lost Lines and Forgotten Rhymes: The Use of OP in Modern Performance.” I’ll be working with a set of actors to produce a long scene and a series of monologues in OP. I plan on focusing my attentions on how OP affects the actors, and how it changes the performance from the actors’ perspectives. Being in Mississippi, I will be working with native Southern actors, so I’m very excited to see how their accents translate into OP. As a student of creative writing and theatre rather than lingusitics, I’m a bit out of my element in some areas of the project, so any help and advice is very welcome!

  451. David Barrett says: October 19, 201111:15 am

    Just for the record:

    The students at the Circle in the Square Theatre School in NYC gave the first OP performance of Twelfth Night in the summer of 2010, directed by Ed Berkeley.

  452. David Barrett says: October 19, 201111:10 am

    OP Workshop, London, October 2011

    This highly successful workshop, given by David Barrett, introduced eight actors and actresses to the possibilities of performing Shakespeare in OP. Following a crash course in the pronunciation, we went on to read extracts from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, ‘Henry Vth’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Apart from the obvious benefits of restoring rhyme and metre, we explored the ways in which OP could be used as an aid to characterisation and for comedic effect. The particpants found this a real eye-opener and went away determined to put their new knowledge into practice. The next workshop will be for drama students at the University of Glamorgan.

  453. Hamilton Meadows says: October 1, 201112:55 pm

    David, the sections of my film documentary on “Speak the Speech, I Pray Thee” where Tangier Island natives read Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet with their distinct accent is on-line at hamiltonmeadowsfilms.com. Hope it is helpful and possibly provide a clue to the pronunciation of Early Modern English and with Shakespeare OP.

  454. Alex Torra says: September 15, 20114:05 pm

    The event in May 2011 listed in your archive was part of a longer research project to find how we might use the information gleaned from the OP work in contemporary American Shakespearean performance. One of the things we did was put the various performance dialects next to each other — we did a portion of a scene from As You Like It in OP, RP, then Standard American. So fascinating, so informative.

    Along with Shakespeare in Clark Park, we’re hoping to do another OP workshop and showing sometime in the next year. I’ll keep you posted on those dates and the nature of that event.

  455. David Barrett says: September 12, 20112:13 pm

    ‘As You Like It’ in OP:

    I am currently transcribing ‘As You Like It’ into OP for actors with a British base accent.

    I am researching performing Shakespeare in OP at the University of Glamorgan and am running a series of OP workshops for drama undergraduates and post-graduates.

  456. David Barrett says: September 12, 20112:06 pm

    Shakespeare in OP at the KIng’s Theatre, Southsea, England:

    This is a youth project, generously supported by the King’s Theatre. A group of young people from Portsmouth, England will be rehearsing scenes from Shakespeare for a public performance in May 2012.

  457. Paul Meier says: September 12, 201112:11 pm

    Bravo, David! You have started quite a movement. It seems to me quite possible that discerning theatre-goers will now regularly ponder what they are missing when an older work is presented in anything other than its OP! You have shown us that it’s not only possible, and how it’s possible, but that it’s hugely rewarding for actors and audience alike, to mount OP productions. We will undoubtedly be seeing many more such productions..

    Thanks for turning me on to OP. Working with you has been the highlight of my career in Shakespeare and dialects.

  458. Hamilton Meadows says: September 12, 201111:05 am

    David, my documentary on OP is within a weeks of being up-loaded to the net. Part one is “The watermen of Tangier”.

    Then filming will begin for part two which is the futher search for OP, where experts in the field, like yourself and others clarify their efforts. This documentary will end hopefully with a trip to Reno to film some of the rehearsals for Hamlet in OP, this fall staring your son Ben.

    Part three will be the filming of the complete process for the first OP production of Twelth Night, here in NYC. Best to you as always, Respectfully Hamilton Meadows

  459. Paul Roebuck says: September 12, 20117:50 am

    Dear David – I remember you well in Melbourne some years ago – and I did try to implement your ideas – lukewarm reception – I need more encouragement – Paul Melbourne Shakespeare Society – you and your book are great – continuous encouragement from your many articles – Thank you David Love to keep in touch

Submit comment