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.


The reconstruction of the sound system (or phonology) of earlier periods of a language has a long scholaarly history, beginning with studies in comparative philology in the 19th century, and continued by historical linguistics in the 20th. The motivation for the present site began in 2004, when there was an initiative by Shakespeare’s Globe in London to present a production of Romeo and Juliet in OP. This was so successful that the following year the Globe mounted a production of Troilus and Cressida in OP, and since then over twenty plays have been performed in OP, most of them reported in the Events archive below.  

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. This website was created to enable people to find out about OP, archive their events, announce plans, raise queries, and share their experiences of working with it and listening to it.


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.

Why bother with OP?

OP performance brings us as close as possible to how old texts would have sounded. It enables us to hear effects lost when old texts are read in a modern way. It avoids the modern social connotations that arise when we hear old texts read in a present-day accent.

In relation to Shakespeare and other poets...
  • Rhymes that don't work in modern English suddenly work.
  • Puns missed in modern English become clear.
  • New assonances and rhythms give lines a fresh impact.
  • OP illustrates what is meant by speaking 'trippingly on the tongue' (Hamlet).
  • OP suggests new contrasts in speech style, such as between young and old, court and commoners, literate and illiterate.
  • OP motivates fresh possibilities of character interpretation.