“Speaking Shakespeare: social and regional accents in Love’s Labour’s Lost

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


‘Modern readers or playgoers are auditorily misled by their experience of Shakespeare […]. If we could be transported back to Elizabethan London and actually hear Shakespeare’s own speech, the experience would be totally different’ (Lass 256-257). Since most of Shakespeare’s works belong to the dramatic genre, they were primarily meant to be performed on stage; which means that the oral aspect of them is fundamental in the construction of meaning. The phonology of Early Modern England—that is to say, the pronunciation system of that time—varies considerably from the way people speak English today. The evolution of the pronunciation of the English language results in various elements of the plays, including puns, jokes, rhymes and other play on words being lost when pronounced in Modern English.
Variation is a key element when speaking of original pronunciation, and it has different manifestations. Firstly, there are variants of OP, because the actors in Shakespeare’s time had very differing backgrounds, like Shakespeare himself, who arrived in London from Warwickshire, having thus, a mixture of accents. Second, regardless of what the particular background and accent speaker could have had, during the Renaissance, there was no consistency even within one person’s speech. In the third place, it is necessary to consider that there are a number of characters in Shakespeare’s plays that are depicted as either foreigners, natives of different British regions or foreign countries, or as belonging to lower social backgrounds. Love’s Labour’s Lost features ample social and regional variations, and its dense use of wordplay makes it a somewhat obscure play due to its complexity and playfulness in language. The application of OP to it brings to light a myriad of fresh insights, enhancing the storylines and richness of its characters.
Period18 May 2019
Event titleShakespeare & Co: On the Page and on the Stage: Postgraduate Conference
Event typeConference
Conference number1
LocationYork, United KingdomShow on map


  • Accents
  • Original Pronunciation
  • Wordplay
  • Shakespeare