What Did Shakespeare Sound Like?

By Eleanor Barkhorn

When most people imagine how Shakespeare sounded, they probably think of Laurence Olivier's British-accented performance in Hamlet or Marlon Brando's crisp, trilling delivery of Mark Antony's funeral speech in Julius Caesar. But University of Kansas professor Paul Meier—who's staging a version of Midsummer Night's Dream in the original Shakespearean pronunciation—says English in the Bard's day was much more informal and much closer to American English than these performances suggest:

Meier is staging Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in November, and it will be the first time in North America that a Shakespeare production is being performed entirely in the original pronunciation.

...

"American audiences will hear an accent and style surprisingly like their own in its informality and strong r-colored vowels," Meier said. "The original pronunciation performance strongly contrasts with the notions of precise and polished delivery created by John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier and their colleagues from the 20th century British theater."

Here's a trailer for the show, which offers a taste of how the production will sound:

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