Hear Shakespeare As It Was Meant To Be Heard

Accents change with time, rendering some of Shakespeare’s rhymes obsolete

Perrin Doniger

The stereotypical English accent of today is not the English accent of Shakespeare’s time, which goes at least some way towards explaining why, when you read Romeo and Juliet in high school, half the play didn’t make sense. Seriously, it’s not entirely your fault. As David Crystal, a linguist from the University of Wales, explains in the video above, some of the puns, and many of the rhymes, just don’t work anymore.

Here’s part of Romeo and Juliet‘s Act 2, as it would have been said in Shakespeare’s Early Modern English, as put on by the British Library Board, via the Telegraph:

According to Patricia O’Conner talking to WNYC, the modern British accent that we know and love didn’t arise until the late 1700s, more than 100 years after Shakespeare’s death.

Shakespeare’s English was more like a mix of American English, Irish, and Australian than like the modern standard English accent, says O’Conner,

More from Smithsonian.com:

Food From the Age of Shakespeare

Shakespeare: Original pronunciation

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.