Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Shakespeare Is As Shakespeare Was

Ever listen to old English Christmas carols, where words like "mystery" are pronounced "eye" at the end instead of "eee" so that they rhyme better in the verse? Happens to me all the time.

It can happen to you, too, if you're anywhere between Kansas City and Topeka in the month of November. The theater department at the University of Kansas is doing a production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But it will not be unique by dressing up Elizabethan characters in 1940s period costumes, oh no, that has already been done, my friend. They are pronouncing the lines the way they would have been heard in the playwright's day -- in other words, in "Elizabethan English."

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."

Sirs John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier will surely be turning in their graves over this one. More about this production, the first of its kind since we stopped talking that way, at kottke.org and physorg.com.

Go Jayhawks!

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