David Crystal, author of The Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespeare Pronunciation explains how sixteenth century books on grammar and language – by Ben Jonson and others – give evidence on how Shakespeare’s plays would have sounded in their day.
David Crystal is known throughout the world as a writer, editor, lecturer, and broadcaster on language. His writings on Shakespeare include Pronouncing Shakespeare, Think on my Words: Exploring Shakespeare’s Language, and with Ben Crystal Shakespeare’s Words, The Shakespeare Miscellany, and the Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary.
© Oxford University Press
many people don't realize this people wrote books about pronunciation in the 16th century it was a century of spelling reform and people wanted to work out how to respec in which case they had to work out first how the words were being pronounced and so they wrote books about pronunciation books which say this word rhymes with this this word does not rhyme with this this word has a stress on this syllable this work has a stress on this syllable and so on now all sorts of people wrote books on pronunciation I am always most impressed by Ben Jonson of all people who is we know as a dramatist but he also wrote in English grammar and in that English grammar at the beginning he goes through all the letters of the alphabet and says how they are to be pronounced now when you hear Oh P one of the things you notice is that the R is pronounced after a vowel car heart how do we know because he says so he says we pronounce the R after a vowel and he gives examples well that's exactly what we want to know you see and when you look at all that kind of commentary from the authors of the time you add that important I mentioned to the confidence with which you're reconstructing original pronunciation