In which I discuss the word “desert”. Spoiler alert, it’s not pronounced the way you think. I’m going to be off for two weeks but if you want more bite-size Shakespeare fun in the interim, follow me at:
@Cassius614 on Twitter
where I will be posting little Shakespeare tidbits throughout the hiatus.
Very interesting, Cassius. We often forget that many words have changed their meanings since Elizabethan times (if Shakespeare had called you a “nice” person, it wouldn’t have been a compliment!), and many more have changed their pronunciation. People have asked me what Shakespeare originally sounded like, and I tell them that no one knows for sure, but it was probably closest to what is known as Northern Appalachian dialect, nothing like a modern English accent. Elizabethan speech was certainly closer to modern American English than to “English” English. Or, as someone put it, the Bard probably sounded a lot more like John Wayne than Laurence Olivier. The opening lines of “Henry V” probably sounded like: “Oh, fer uh muze uv farr . . .” Of course, Shakespeare himself would have spoken with a strong Warwickshire accent, which was very different from the English spoken in London. As an actor, he would have had to have worked very hard to rid himself of his accent to achieve success on the stage.