Shakespeare's Anniversary – free access until 04-24-2024


Each of the words in the Glossary has been recorded in both Modern English (ME) and Early Modern English pronunciations - what in Shakespearean contexts is usually referred to as 'original pronunciation' (OP). All forms are spoken by a single person (David Crystal), the same voice quality making it easier to hear the similarities and differences across time.

Several words in both periods have more than one pronunciation. For ME, we follow the variants as presented in the online Oxford English Dictionary; for OP we use the system presented in The Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation.

To hear the audio, click on the loudspeaker icon next to the word. Each word is heard twice. If the pronunciations in ME and OP are the same, you will hear the sequence: 'WORD - and it's the same in OP - WORD'. If the pronunciations differ, you will hear first the ME pronunciation(s) followed by a pause, and then the OP pronunciation(s). 

The audio file is also hyperlinked to the glossary words as they appear in the Modern or Folio texts. If the 'show Hyperlinks' box in the menu is checked, you will see these words highlit. If you do not want to see them highlit, uncheck the 'show Hyperlink' box. In the case of multi-word glossary entries (such as set down, fare thee well), only the first word in the text is highlit.

The modern movement to hear Shakespeare's plays and poems in OP began in 2004, when Shakespeare's Globe in London mounted a weekend production of Romeo and Juliet in the reconstructed accents of the time. The welcome given to this experiment led to a short season of Troilus and Cressida in OP the following year, and a growing number of productions in other countries, especially the USA. As of 2021, eighteen of the plays have been given full OP performances, along with extracts of others. There have been occasional productions of plays by contemporary Elizabethan writers, as well as OP performances of the Sonnets.

Outside of the theatre, OP has been used in early music performances and in prose texts, notably the King James Bible. Much of what has taken place can be seen in the archive at the dedicated OP website: A catalogue of the recordings made by David Crystal for theatre companies, as well as the Sonnets and extracts from the King James Bible, can also be found on that site.

There is now a considerable literature on the background and use of OP. The introduction to The Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation (2016) is the fullest account, and shorter accounts of the phonetic character of OP and the issues surrounding its reconstruction can be found by typing 'original pronunciation' into the Search box at The story of the first Globe production is told in Pronouncing Shakespeare (2005, updated in 2019).

The historical dimension should not make us lose sight of the importance of hearing the words in Modern English. This is something that second-language learners of English have frequently requested, and there are of course several words in the Glossary about which native-speakers of English may feel a degree of uncertainty, such as abiliments, gyves, and oeillades, classical names, words where the metre indicates variation in stress, and names and expressions in Latin or French.


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