Performing Shakespeare in the Original Pronunciation

  • David Barrett

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The purpose of this study is to assess the merits and practicalities of performing Shakespeare in original pronunciation (OP) on the modern stage and to develop a pedagogy, through the medium of the actors’ workshop. I have reviewed the major texts relating to Shakespearean pronunciation and used the findings to create a transcription policy which is workable and relevant to today’s theatre. The transcription policy is tested in a series of workshops attended by drama students and professional actors. I have reviewed the past practice of performing Shakespeare in OP, which helps to place modern OP productions in context. In terms of language restoration, the project explores significant effects of the use of OP on rhyme, word-play and metre; examples of the positive effects of the repairs are included in Appendix 1 and an illustrative transcription of a Shakespeare play in Appendix 2.

    This thesis proposes a possible methodology for presenting and rehearsing the text, based on discoveries made in the workshops. The choices available to drama teachers, voice coaches and directors wishing to use OP in Shakespeare are explained and the merits and drawbacks of the various methods of presenting the text and teaching the pronunciation are discussed. A complete transcription policy, which may be adopted by drama teachers or voice coaches in full or in part, presents the major pronunciations and variants which were probably heard on the Shakespearean stage. The thesis includes evidence for the pronunciation choices from Shakespeare’s works.

    The appendix includes sample transcriptions and teaching materials used in the workshops, together with two booklets, which I wrote as an aid to actors taking part in the workshops. There is also a transcription, for illustrative purposes, of As You Like It.
    Date of AwardDec 2013
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorRichard Hand (Supervisor) & Robert Dean (Supervisor)

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