The Oxford University Press has a new video-interview today, on an outstanding new project…

“Over ten years, David Crystal has constructed an entire dictionary of Shakespeare’s Original Pronunciation — with guidance on how every single word in the First Folio would most likely have been heard by Shakespeare’s audiences.”

The book is the new The Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation (March 2016). The book is not yet on Google Books and there’s no preview PDF on the publisher’s website.

henry_v_1944_crispin_speechPicture: Oliver as Henry V, 1944 — giving the Crispin’s Day Speech.

Regional complications would have to be addressed when pinning down each pronunciation. Since Shakespeare’s troupe often left London to tour the provinces. Thus London actors were no doubt obliged by their local patrons, and by commercial theatre owners, to adapt their London stage pronunciation to be comprehensible to local audiences…

“Elizabethan pronunciation varied widely from region to region, and no standard pronunciation existed, although the London dialect was beginning to achieve a certain dominance by the end of the reign.” (from Voices of Shakespeare’s England: Contemporary Accounts, 2010)

Did Shakespeare occasionally slip a Midlands or Warwickshire folk-phrase into a play? Some suggest that he might have (“golden boys”), others say not. If he did, then any high standard of academic ‘on the page’ proof seems to have been lost in the mists of time…

“In spite of many attempts to trace Warwickshire vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation in his writings, no one has yet proved beyond doubt that more than a few of these regionalisms appear in his works.” (from The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare, 2015)

Which doesn’t mean that, when visiting the regions, the ‘on the page’ version of the play wasn’t amended to include regionalisms — much as today’s touring comedians and pantomimes adapt their routines to a city’s landmarks, regional food types (oatcakes in Stoke-on-Trent, Cumberland sausages, etc) and local sayings.