Marge George and old Shakespeare

There seems to be a mushrooming of discussion on William Shakespeare, coinciding with the 400th anniversary of his death.

I saw an interesting documentary last week that looked at how little was actually known about Shakespeare the person, questioned why he wasn’t imprisoned like other playwrights of the time, and suggested the author’s name may have been a pseudonym for someone close to the royal court.

The arguments will probably continue as long as the playing of the plays.

An interesting post at Oxford Dictionaries – Language matters: Why Shakespeare is even funnier than you thought

To be honest I never found Shakespeare funny in the first place. I thought the plays I have studied while at school – Macbeth and Romeo Juliet – were tedious.

This may in part be explained by this Oxford post that explains that English was pronounced significantly differently four centuries ago in England.

For example George rhymed with charge (George has changed).

We’re all familiar with at least some Shakespeare, but the chances are that we’ve only either read his words on the page, or heard them spoken with modern pronunciation.

This, however, does not entirely match how Shakespeare and the original casts of his plays would have spoken. Even modern British English is not the same as what is known as Original Pronunciation.

Historical linguists have reconstructed Original Pronunciation, often based on conclusions that can be drawn from spelling and specific instructions given in 16th-century grammar books.

In these videos David Crystal, author of The Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespeare Pronunciation, explains how Original Pronunciation recovers the original rhymes and puns that are otherwise missing in modern performances of Shakespeare’s plays.

Puns in Original Pronunciation

Rhymes in Original Pronunciation

I find language and it’s continual evolution far more interesting the the writings of whoever used the pseudonym William Shakespeare.

I had an aunty Marge. If she had been a George in Shakespeare’s England (she actually came from Chelsea but 300 years later) her names would have rhymed.