The Guide to Shakespearean Pronunciation Gives Elizabethan Toilet Humour a Funny Accent

By Aatif Sulleyman on at

How has it taken us so long to figure out that the key to getting more people interested in Shakespeare is through dirty jokes and funny accents? Linguist David Crystal has painstakingly created The Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation, which will present the works of Shakespeare in their original, strange-sounding glory.

Hands up if the bard has never made you chuckle. It’s not your fault. The English accent back in the 16th and 17th centuries is believed to have sounded very different to the modern English accent, which sadly means that a great number of Shakespeare’s witty japes and rhymes are lost on modern audiences.

For instance, take a look at Jacques' “And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe, And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot” line from the second Act of As You Like It. It may mean little to many of us, but a gem like that would have had Shakespeare's original audience members -- who pronounced 'hour' like 'whore' and 'ripe' like 'rape' -- gangsta-snapping and saying things like "OHHHHHHH!" and "This guy, this guy". Hilarious is an understatement.

“In modern English it’s a mess,” said Crystal, who’s taken 12 years to uncover the original pronunciation of Shakespeare’s works. “In original pronunciation each couplet works perfectly.” His book arrives next month, and may just succeed in igniting new interest in one of the UK’s most celebrated poets. [Telegraph]