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publius
2010-Oct-26, 02:51 AM
Original Pronunciation, that is.

The University of Kansas is putting on an OP production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in Nov. in OP.

http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-10-professor-audience-shakespeare-words-accent.html




"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.”

Meier said audiences will hear word play and rhymes that “haven’t worked for several hundred years (love/prove, eyes/qualities, etc.) magically restored, as Bottom, Puck and company wind the language clock back to 1595.”

The audience will hear rough and surprisingly vernacular diction, they will hear echoes of Irish, New England and Cockney that survive to this day as ‘dialect fossils.’ And they will be delighted by how very understandable the language is, despite the intervening centuries.”



Didn't sound so hifalutin back then, did it? :) It does sound a bit Irish to me.


-Richard

Gillianren
2010-Oct-26, 05:05 AM
I've heard scholarly speculation that Shakespeare probably would have sounded very much like a West Virginian.

DonM435
2010-Oct-26, 12:35 PM
Will they do Richard III with lots of silly English k-niggits?

Ivan Viehoff
2010-Oct-26, 01:27 PM
I don't think that actually these people can be very sure about the pronunciation. We can say certain things about the pronunciation of those times, and what people thought rhymed is part of the evidence for it, and we get occasional useful descriptions here and there. But we don't actually know it perfectly. And then there is the question of which pronunciation. Stratford-upon-Avon would have had a rather different accent from London, and people of different social classes would have had different accents, much as they do today. You end up with the same muddle over what exactly is Shakespeare's English as someone asking what is "the" English pronunciation today. In fact even more of a muddle as there would have been greater diversity in those days than today.

There is a sense in which deliberately attempting old pronunciation is an anachronism. In Shakespeare's day, the language would have been contemporary, not archaic. Here we have a case of someone deliberately making it sound even more archaic than it already is. Consider how it would be to people experiencing the play in translation. It is normal to translate old material into modern language. Someone translating Shakespeare today into, say, Spanish would not think to translate it into 16/17th century Spanish. A contemporary translation (ie contemporary with Shakespeare) gives the modern Spanish reader the same sensation as the modern English reader in approaching the original text, but it is not the same experience as a contemporary Englishman had in approaching the text. I am not in general aware that it is common to translate old works into foreign languages except into the present language.

Deliberately writing in an archaic style, such as Golding in his To the Ends of the Earth trilogy, is done for specific effect. There is a short story by Borges in which Borges posits a 19th century writer by chance writing Don Quixote exactly as Cervantes wrote it, but never having been aware of the original. Borges argues that the later version is a greater work of art than the original, because of the circumstances of its writing.

Indeed there is something to be said for performing Shakespeare in a modern English, at least occasionally. We do that with Chaucer routinely, as the difficulty of understanding it in the original gets in the way of a performance. I wonder how long it will be before we feel the need to take the same approach to Shakespeare.

Strange
2010-Oct-26, 01:33 PM
It is normal to translate old material into modern language. Someone translating Shakespeare today into, say, Spanish would not think to translate it into 16/17th century Spanish. A contemporary translation (ie contemporary with Shakespeare) gives the modern Spanish reader the same sensation as the modern English reader in approaching the original text, but it is not the same experience as a contemporary Englishman had in approaching the text. I am not in general aware that it is common to translate old works into foreign languages except into the present language.

I saw the movie of "Much Ado..." in Italy and had a hard time following it. Afterwards I was told that wasn't surprising as it was translated/dubbed in an old form of Italian - whether contmeporary woth Shakespeare or not, I'm not sure.

Ivan Viehoff
2010-Oct-26, 04:54 PM
I saw the movie of "Much Ado..." in Italy and had a hard time following it. Afterwards I was told that wasn't surprising as it was translated/dubbed in an old form of Italian - whether contmeporary woth Shakespeare or not, I'm not sure.
It wouldn't be a contemporary translation. If it was a pre-existing older translation, it would, I think, be no earlier than mid-late 18th century. I think Shakespeare only became well known outside Britain in about the mid 18th century. But certainly in the early-ish 19th century it was being used for Italian opera librettos (the earliest I have spotted is Rossini's Otello from 1816). Though a lot of the plays were being performed in Britain in pretty corrupt form from about the time of Charles II (when the theatres reopened after the puritan period) until surprisingly recently, so these might be poorly sourced translations. The corrupt texts would even take "good bits" out of other plays and stick them into another. At some point the rude jokes got removed too.

I'm not saying that deliberately archaicised translations don't exist - they do - they just aren't the normal thing.

HenrikOlsen
2010-Oct-26, 06:20 PM
It wouldn't be a contemporary translation. If it was a pre-existing older translation, it would, I think, be no earlier than mid-late 18th century.
It was about whether it had been translated to Italian contemporary with Shakespeare, not about the translation being done in Shakspere's time.


I think Shakespeare only became well known outside Britain in about the mid 18th century. But certainly in the early-ish 19th century it was being used for Italian opera librettos (the earliest I have spotted is Rossini's Otello from 1816).
I wonder if that may have been a case of two people taking a story from the same third source. Many of Shakspe's plays are remakes of older stories, including Hamlet and Romeo and Julietts


Though a lot of the plays were being performed in Britain in pretty corrupt form from about the time of Charles II (when the theatres reopened after the puritan period) until surprisingly recently, so these might be poorly sourced translations. The corrupt texts would even take "good bits" out of other plays and stick them into another. At some point the rude jokes got removed too.
Again, some of the "good bits" from other plays may well have been put in by Shaksper himself as that was quite normal practice in his time, copyright not really having been invented yet.

I'm not saying that deliberately archaicised translations don't exist - they do - they just aren't the normal thing.
Most translations of Shakspeare I've seen that aren't specifically aimed at children have deliberately used archaic wording, though admittedly they didn't try to aim for a language contemporary with Shakp.

grapes
2010-Oct-26, 06:54 PM
It wouldn't be a contemporary translation. If it was a pre-existing older translation, it would, I think, be no earlier than mid-late 18th century. I think Shakespeare only became well known outside Britain in about the mid 18th century. But certainly in the early-ish 19th century it was being used for Italian opera librettos (the earliest I have spotted is Rossini's Otello from 1816). The Czech composer Benda's Romeo und Julie in 1776, just in time for the USAn nilcentennial celebration.

Gillianren
2010-Oct-26, 07:19 PM
And while Romeo and Juliet is definitely taken from earlier sources, I'm not sure how well the original Italian was known by 1776.

And you know, if I were translating Shakespeare, I'd translate it into an archaic form of whatever-language-it-was. Yes, the experience for the original audience was contemporary. However, the experience for current English-speaking audiences is not. Realistically, it's an anachronism for us no matter what.

kleindoofy
2010-Oct-26, 08:04 PM
“What did English sound like back then?” Meier said. “Was it posh or down to earth?
Oh dear. Do I detect a slightly biased undertone in Meier's evaluation?

Btw, without being there, I think the danger that they will over do it either slightly over even grossly is pretty large.

One of the things I dislike most in theater or music is when the art of the piece being performed becomes secondary to the method or to the artist. Something tells me this is one of those cases.

The method of performing so-called 'early music' on original instruments and using (reconstructed) old methods has reached a maturity such that the method has become secondary. The result is that the music has has become alive in a way unkown fourty years ago. Just compare Bach recordings by Karl Richter with recent ones by Ton Koopman.

However, I still get toothaches when I think back to the woo style performances of Elizabethan music by whooping idiots in period costumes who reduced the whole thing to a monkey circus. They were so taken in by their own visions that they ended up performing themselves and not the music.

I'll risk a bet that at least two thirds of the audience in November will be seeing A Midsummer Night's Dream for the first time, which leads us back to the method usurping the piece. I.e., they'll be there for the accent, not for Shakespeare.

Strange
2010-Oct-26, 08:23 PM
Oh dear. Do I detect a slightly biased undertone in Meier's evaluation?

Because, of course, there would have been both - and shades in between. Class-based accents (and dialects) are not a new invention.


One of the things I dislike most in theater or music is when the art of the piece being performed becomes secondary to the method or to the artist. Something tells me this is one of those cases.

I don't know. From the little bits in the video, it sounded to me as if they had managed to keep it fairly natural.


I'll risk a bet that at least two thirds of the audience in November will be seeing A Midsummer Night's Dream for the first time, which leads us back to the method usurping the piece. I.e., they'll be there for the accent, not for Shakespeare.

I don't think it matters why they go, if it introduces them to theatre. I'm sure a lot will never go to see anything again (until there is another "novelty" performance - Star Trek in the original Klingon?) but others may decide to go and see more Shakespeare or some contemporary theatre. Which can only be a good thing.

DonM435
2010-Oct-26, 08:28 PM
It "sounds" like it would be quite interesting to see (and hear). However, if it wasn't one of the plays that I know really well, I'd prefer to see it with subtitles (which I guess they can't use on stage).

(The story was that Orson Welles really laid on thick Scottish accents when he filmed his MacBeth, and one of the unkind critics asked "What happened to the subtitles?")

JohnD
2010-Oct-26, 09:11 PM
Ivan, All,
On the contrary, I think scholars have a very good idea how the first Elizabethans (for we are the second) spoke. A Uk Historian, Michael Wood has made several TV programmes on British and other histories, and he speaks Anglo-Saxon! (He is a A-S scholar) See his seris about Beowolf, the poem/saga: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OuMG0H_uSU
Stick with this first episode and about two minutes in, he shows you some common words that are still used in modern English. Then at 3:50, he's off into the Battle of Brunanburh, declaiming some lines of that poem as a taster for Beowolf itself.
His most recent, The Story of England , set in the Midlands village of Kibworth, features much spoken passages from old texts by locals, but in modrn English, but sometime Wood, in discovering them, just reads them aloud, in the old pronunciation. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKrPHuIOF1Q (maybe - there are a lot of extracts from that prog on YouTube!)

Or, see this, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3hjjaUQiVA&feature=related, a more scholarly programme on Beowolf, that starts with a long passage from the original poem, in Anglo-Saxon. Listen as the old words that live today shine out among the vocabulary and grammar that hasn't. "Grendal gongan Goddes ire bare" >> "Grendal walking, God's anger he bore"

So we DO know how the words were said, a thousand years ago. Melvyn Bragg's The Routes of English (Book and radio series) explained the changes over even longer, that study and research have teased out. For just 600 years gone by, to hear some Shakespeare in the original accent, go to: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/routesofenglish/storysofar/programme1_5.shtml and click on the lowest sound clip button, "How did people speak then?"

Brycap bispell!

John

PS Subtitles? Ever see Rab C. Nesbitt? Did he get across the Pond? Us Southrons needs subtitles for him, and he needs them for us: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHoQf1hI7-4&feature=related

Gillianren
2010-Oct-26, 09:12 PM
In stage performances, they can use what are called "supertitles." No, not the newest superhero--there is a large screen above the stage, and the words are projected over it. As I recall, I saw both Lucia di Lammermoor and La Bohème in special school showings, back when I was living in Los Angeles County.

JohnD
2010-Oct-26, 09:33 PM
But supertitles are for operas, sung in a foreign language!
We're talking English, as she is spoke.
J.

publius
2010-Oct-26, 09:44 PM
I don't know. From the little bits in the video, it sounded to me as if they had managed to keep it fairly natural.




Did you see the second video? It's a three minute excerpt. Here it is directly on Youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWe1b9mjjkM&feature=player_embedded

I love it, and were I near there, I'd certainly go to see it, and yes, it would be for the accents and pronunciation, not Shakespeare itself. And there's nothing wrong with that. It's Shakespeare in the original, which I think is great thing.

And I wondered as well how they could be sure of this, but after reading a bit, I'm convinced they know what they're doing. Linguists can be most impressive, as was one at a talk I attended who could pin where you were born (or learned to speak) to within 10 - 20 miles. And if you tried to fool 'em, they'd instantly know that and could hear right through it so to speak and still pin you down.

-Richard

JohnD
2010-Oct-26, 10:00 PM
Thanks, publius, that leads to this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEMXWc7X3a8&feature=channel, KU Prof. Meier, actor and 'dielectologist', explaining, most briefly, how it is done.

Gillianren
2010-Oct-27, 12:32 AM
But supertitles are for operas, sung in a foreign language!
We're talking English, as she is spoke.

If you watch The Story of English, there are sections which are subtitled. The people in them are speaking modern English, or anyway dialects thereof, but it's still subtitled for audiences speaking essentially the same language.