- The Eloquent Shakespeare: A Pronouncing Dictionary for the Complete Dramatic Works with Notes to Untie the Modern Tongue
To browse through The Eloquent Shakespeare is to be reminded of the richness of Shakespeare's language, but also of the difficulty of giving voice to his words. How should an actor pronounce "hewgh" in King Lear, 4.6.92, a word representing the sound an arrow makes as it approaches the target in archery?1 Or the perplexing phrase "suum, mun, nonny" (3.4.98), "generally defined as 'a sound imitating the rushing wind'" (306)? How French should "oeillades" (King Lear, 4.5.27) sound in its variously anglicized forms—"aliads," "eliads," and "illiads"? And how should an actor approach the wildly inconsistent semiphonetic spellings which Shakespeare uses to mark the accents of the Welshmen Fluellen in Henry V and Evans in The Merry Wives of Windsor or the Irishman Captain Macmorris and the Scotsman Captain Jamy in Henry V? Designed primarily for actors, directors, and teachers, Logan's dictionary provides guidelines for pronouncing Shakespeare using "a modern standard English of the American variety" (xii) in accordance with the direction provided by Standard American Stage Dialect. Its aim is to satisfy "the actor's deepest desire: that of being understood" (21).
The Eloquent Shakespeare is "more prescriptive than descriptive" (x), but some of Logan's most fruitful remarks bear testimony to the overlap between phonetics, linguistics, and literary interpretation. The subtitle promises "notes to untie the modern tongue," and Logan's lexical commentaries usefully supplement David and Ben Crystal's Shakespeare's Words: A Glossary & Language Companion (2002). Editors have sometimes glossed the phrase "do, de, do, de, do, de," spoken by Edgar (as Poor Tom) in Lear (3.4.57) as "'the inarticulate sound of chattering teeth'" (120). Logan conjectures instead that if these words are more than "interludes of nonsensical sing-song" (121), they anticipate the nearby line "Do Poor Tom some charity" (3.4.59). Such interpretive glosses always focus upon the way words sound when they are actually spoken, and Logan succinctly summarizes debates over pronunciation that have adhered in particular to certain characters. Anglicizing Jacques to [ˈdʒeɪ̆ks] preserves the pun on jakes, or privies, but neither this nor the time-honored tradition of calling him [ˈdʒeı̆kwız] suits Shakespeare's meter, which occasionally requires the name to be disyllabic (185). The uncertainty that surrounds the pronunciation of Rosalind's name arises from the poem dedicated to her in As You Like It (3.2.85-92) where the last word in each line, including her name, rhymes [End Page 578] with "find." But as Logan reminds us, Orlando is a poor versifier capable (according to Touchstone) only of "false gallop of verses" (l. 110) (page 275).
The Eloquent Shakespeare includes much practical advice about how to cope with the distance between Shakespeare's voices and our own. Logan provides useful notes on the metrical structure of verse that allows Shakespeare's words to be pronounced with differing numbers of syllables, just as words such as "interesting" and "comfortable" may today be pronounced with either three or four. Changes in vowel sounds over the last four hundred years, especially of /o/, have disrupted some of Shakespeare's rhymes. In Love's Labor's Lost, for example, "foul," "bowl," and "owl" all attempt to rhyme (4.1.137-39); the word "nothing" must once have been homophonic with "noting" in order for it to rhyme with "adoting" in the third quatrain of Sonnet 20, ll. 10-12 (226). In many cases, "one is forced to forsake the longed-for rhyme" (26). Occasionally, however, there is a solution. When "eaten" wants to rhyme with "sweaten" in Macbeth, 4.1.64-65, the common British pronunciation of the word "ate" ['et] allows the pronunciation of "eaten" to be adjusted to , thus avoiding changing "sweaten" to the nonsensical (126). This practical guidance is tremendously useful. It...