cover image Pronouncing Shakespeare: The Globe Experiment

Pronouncing Shakespeare: The Globe Experiment

David Crystal. Cambridge University Press, $23.99 (188pp) ISBN 978-0-521-85213-5

In his account of a theatrical and linguistic experiment, Crystal, author of the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, makes the story of a Globe Theatre production of Romeo and Juliet using Early Modern English both breezy and academically enthralling. For the 2004 production, the first in fifty years to employ language and pronunciation from Shakespeare's era, Crystal prepared the play's text and taught the cast how to speak as Shakespeare's original players are thought to have spoken. Crystal explains how he used Elizabethan spellings and clues within the script (line meter, rhyming schemes and sound patterns) to determine how words sounded in the sixteenth century, a question that vexed him throughout the play's production. Despite his dazzling linguistics accomplishments, Crystal writes in a down-to-earth manner, discussing his field and the production with a dry wit and true enthusiasm. American readers may have problems following the discussion of British regional accents, and, as with all theater books, the best writing cannot make up for the reader's inability to see (and, particularly in this case, hear) the production. However, as a brief study of an intriguing experiment, this title will be as welcome to the theatrical and linguistic worlds as Crystal's earlier works.