Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App

The Creating of the Shakespeare Dictionary App

The process of recording over 5000 words for the Shakespeare Dictionary App presented numerous challenges. The first attempt at recording was in less than ideal circumstances – my apartment with my iPad and a Snowball microphone. The apartment seemed to be quiet until listening to the words which revealed everything from birds chirping, to a siren, to a fan noise. I began to research professional recording studios and through one of my students, I found Luis F. Herrera of Liquid Lab. Once I heard the quality of the first 500 words recorded professionally, I knew that the Shakespeare Dictionary App had to have this excellent quality. Thus began the re-recording of all of the words.

The time spent in the studio varied with the longest session being four and a half hours. I have been a voice and speech teacher for over thirty years and am familiar with the demands of speaking and acting. Even with these years of experience, I was surprised at the amount of energy – both vocal and physical – that it took to record word after word after word. I wanted the words to be clearly spoken but not over-articulated or sounding phony. The professional studio made me very aware of noisy breaths, and the popping “p” to name a few challenges. The Shakespeare Dictionary App had to include the basic pronunciation of the word and then the variations of pronunciation (particularly the primary stress) depending on how the word scanned in the verse line. In addition the words with variations have examples from the specific plays including the act, scene and line. This information had been researched for “All the Words on Stage, a Complete Pronunciation Dictionary for the plays of William Shakespeare” which I co-authored with Louis Scheeder, but much of it had to be edited and expanded for the app.

I have learned a lot from recording all of these wonderful, amazing words for the Shakespeare Dictionary App. Polonius asks Hamlet “What do you read, my lord?” And Hamlet’s reply makes me smile “Words, words, words.”

From Shane Ann

Shakespeare Dictionary App

Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App

Advanced Class Begins Shakespeare Monologues

The Advanced Class in my private Voice and Speech program is working on their first Shakespeare monologues. We finished a series of scanning exercises. These included discussions about short verse lines, long verse lines, shared verse lines, epic caesuras, elisions, stretching a word, and acting on the verse line. Now the challenge, and I think it is an exciting challenge, is to use all of the technical tools the students have learned while acting.

It’s one thing to read the words with a nice supported voice but it’s something entirely different to invest in the emotional life of the character, understand her/his point of view about the other characters in the scene, and play the objective. While they are acting, they are trying to remember to breathe, keep the voice supported, and use the clarity of the speech sounds that we worked on during the First Level of the Program. It’s a lot! And it’s also the reason that after working on Shakespeare monologues, the actors feel like they can handle any language whether it’s voice-over copy (which can very tricky), a modern film script, a new play or a TV show.

Using the Shakespeare Pronunciation App For Shakespeare Monologues

All of the students have the Shakespeare Pronunciation app. With this app they have a wonderful source at their fingertips for the correct audio pronunciation of the words. In addition to the pronunciation of every word, I showed them that clicking on “More” takes them to the “Official Shakespeare Pronunciation Reference Website”. This website includes sections on “Scanning the Verse”, “Latin”, “Accents, Dialects and Foreign Languages”, and “Words to Watch Out For”. The section “Words to Watch Out For” gives a sampling of words in each play that expand or contract to fulfill the demands of the meter. In addition there are examples of words where the stress is different than the stress used today. One example is the word “demonstrate” which today we stress on the first syllable. In contrast, in the plays, it often scans to a stress on the second syllable.

The Shakespeare Pronunciation app is becoming an essential tool for the students. Download your copy today!

shakespeare monologues

Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App

Royal Shakespeare Company’s Recent Production of “King and Country”

The Royal Shakespeare Company recently finished a run of “King and Country” a series of four of Shakespeare’s history plays performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The opportunity to see “Richard II”, “Henry IV” (Parts 1 and 2) and “Henry V” does not come along very often. The RSC’s new (since 2013) Artistic Director is Gregory Doran and he directed all of these productions.  The highlights, for me, were David Tennant’s Richard II and Antony Sher’s Falstaff.  Tennant gave a layered performance which was filled with passion, strength, and humor and he had an ability to make the verse sound natural without losing the beauty of the poetry. Not easy to do.  Sher breathed new life in to a character that  has been performed by so many extraordinary actors including Simon Russell Beale, Kevin Kline, Orson Welles, and Robbie Coltrane to name a few, that it’s hard to imagine someone finding something new. But this incredibly creative actor did just that.  Falstaff was funnier than I’ve ever seen him but also touching and vulnerable.  Over the years, I have seen Sher play numerous roles – Malvolio in “12th Night”, Shylock in “the Merchant of Venice”, and Richard III in “Richard III” and have always found his performances exciting, truthful, inventive and memorable.  His Falstaff goes to the top of this list.

King and CountryI attended Henry IV (Part 1) with a group of my students including some from my private classes and some from my Graduate Acting Class at NYU.  The students enjoyed the production and were excited by Sher’s performance. One of them was working on a production of “Hamlet” at NYU and she said that hearing the actors had inspired her and had given her new ideas for her own performance.

After the productions I checked the Shakespeare Pronunciation audio app to be sure the actors were pronouncing the words correctly!

Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App

O.P. Experience At The Classical Studio.

Despite the relevance of Shakespeare’s work to modern life, what theater-maker hasn’t fantasized about getting a glimpse of what an original production of these plays sounded like?  This year, The Classical Studio took a step towards expanding the “original practices” movement by learning O.P. (Original Pronunciation) in preparation for the Studio’s production of Hamlet this past spring.

O.P. is the culmination of research by linguists who have spent recent years re-constructing the Elizabethan dialect.  With the assistance of dialect coach, Jennifer Geizhals, the actors of The Classical Studio learned O.P. and presented Hamlet as it would have sounded at its premiere over 400 years ago.

David Crystal, who with his son Ben created the invaluable Shakespeare’s Words: A Glossary and Language Companion, and is perhaps the leading authority on O.P., pieced together the dialect by examining Elizabethan spelling practices, the use of puns, metrical signposts in the verse, 16th-century references to pronunciation (including the few surviving pronunciation manuals), and rhyme.  The last proved to be of particular value for this linguistic excavation project, as many rhymes in Shakespeare’s plays and, especially, the sonnets provided significant clues for pronunciation.

Throughout the fall, while the studio rehearsed and performed its production of As You Like It, students took class with Jennifer Geizhals to begin learning the idiosyncratic vowel sounds of O.P.  Through the winter break, they continued their lessons with Jennifer via Skype and returned in late January fully prepared to rehearse Hamlet in what is now thought to be its original dialect.

To read about the results of the O. P. of Hamlet, read the following article entitled, “Production of Hamlet in O.P.“.
Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App

Production of Hamlet in O.P.

Results of Hamlet in O.P

Rehearsals of Hamlet in O.P. proved revelatory, and the students initiated a blog to track their discoveries.  New wordplay emerged from a text with which the directors were thoroughly familiar.  The personalities of the characters attained greater contours than they would have in either Standard American or in R.P. (Received Pronunciation, or what used to be known as “BBC English”).  While the text at first seemed somewhat foreign to the actors and directors, it grew to sound utterly natural over time.

What does O.P. sound like?  A blend of Irish, Scottish, Southern American, and, as many folks have half-jokingly noted, “pirate.” Intriguingly, it sounds nothing at all like what people often presume to be a “correct” or appropriate pronunciation of Shakespeare replete with plummy vowels.  The diction sounds more colloquial and conversational than the patrician dialects most often associated with Shakespeare productions.  The O.P. had the effect of rendering all characters, whether royalty or commoner, of the same class.  This buttressed Shakespeare’s almost forgotten habit of eliminating differences between princes and paupers.  The O.P. had the effect of erasing the all-too-standard distinction between the cockney speaking Gravedigger and the characters of the court.

The Classical Studio shared its many discoveries with the community of the Department of Drama by hosting a symposium that brought together students, dialecticians, directors, and historians.  Noted dialect authority, Paul Meier, Skyped in from the University of Kansas to address the conference.  In addition, the Studio partnered with Laura Levine, an Associate Professor of Theatre Studies, and her “Shakespeare and Epistemology” honors seminar, on our exploration of the value of O.P. for both production and scholarship.

A rewarding and enlightening experience was had by all.
Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App

Acting students use the Shakespeare Audio Pronunciation App

shakespeare audio pronunciationMy First Year students in the Graduate Acting Program at New York University have been very enthusiastic about using the Shakespeare Audio Pronunciation app as they rehearse their First Year Shakespeare projects. Half of the class is working on “Hamlet” and the other half is rehearsing “Macbeth”. These projects are the culmination of their First Year of training where they work to combine voice, and speech work with text work while they are dealing with the demands of Shakespeare’s language. They told me that at the beginning of the rehearsals, they used the app every night to check the pronunciations of the unusual words and the character and place names. Most of the students had a copy of “All the Words on Stage, a Complete Pronunciation Dictionary for the Plays of William Shakespeare” by Louis Scheeder and Shane Ann Younts, which is the source for the Shakespeare Audio Pronunciation app, but they preferred to hear the words pronounced.  The students found that being able to go to their mobile phones or tablets and click on a word was very convenient. I showed them that clicking on “More” takes them to the “Official Shakespeare Pronunciation Reference Website” which has additional information including a section on “Scanning the Verse”, “Latin”, “Accents, Dialects and Foreign Languages”, and “Words to Watch Out For”.  The section “Words to Watch Out For” gives a sampling of words in each play that expand or contract to fulfill the demands of the meter. In addition there are examples of words where the stress is different than the stress used today. One example is the word “revenue” which today we pronounce with the stress on the first syllable but often in Shakespeare the stress is on the second syllable.  Other basic information included for each play is the percentage of verse and pros.

shakespeare audio pronuciation

Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App

"All's Well That Ends Well" with Shakespeare Pronunciation

Recently I was working on a production of “All’s Well that Ends Well” for the Graduate Acting Program at New York University. Because I had taught the students for two years, they were familiar with my voice and speech work and knew how to incorporate our classroom work in to the production. During the Third Year, we worked on scanning the lines, how to build a speech, how to find the spine of the thought, how to do a parenthetical and other technical elements. Having the opportunity to use all of the tools we had worked on in class, while they were acting the play, was incredibly valuable for the actors.

One of the challenges of “All’s Well that Ends Well” is to pronounce the names of the characters correctly so that all of the characters are seen (and heard) as living in the same world. We used the Shakespeare Pronunciation audio app so that everyone was saying roh-SIL-yuhn for the Countess Rossillion and her son, Bertram. Parolles is always interesting because there are two possibilities with his name. We used puh-ROHL-iz. The actor playing the role chose this from the two pronunciations that were listed on the Shakespeare Pronunciation audio app. Consistency within the names of the characters is important so that the audience is not pulled out of the action by going “What did he say? I thought she said the name another way.” We want the audience engaged in the action of the play.

Everyone who saw the production of “All’s Well that Ends Well” commented on how clear the actors were. The audience understood everything that they were saying which is no small thing in Shakespeare! The actors were also dealing with the demands of being heard in a huge theater with bad acoustics and again the audience commented on how clear the actors were and that they could be heard in that large space.

All’s Well that Ends Well

Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App

When to use You vs Thou

plays of ShakespeareClose readers of the plays of Shakespeare will have noted that characters will often address others using either you or thou. The employment and differentiation of you and thou are still in use in French, Italian, and Spanish. The words in translation are also used in the speaking of German. Further, individuals will often alternate between using these terms. Lady Capulet in “Romeo and Juliet” does this, perhaps revealing her unsettled nature about Juliet’s status as one who is ready to get married or one who is still a child. The shift from you to thou is also prevalent in “As You Like It,” which The Classical Studio has just produced. In the opening scene, the character of Oliver begins by addressing Orlando as you and quickly employs the more insulting thou as Orlando attacks Oliver. Later, Celia uses the more familiar thou (often used among equals), while Rosalind keeps herself apart from Celia by using the more formal you.

It will be up to the speaker of the text to determine what clues are being given and how the speaker is departing from what is considered to be the norm. In short, the use of you indicates a polite form of address and thou indicates an informal or familiar form of address. One would use you in addressing someone who is of a higher social status than oneself, or a parent, or someone whom you would like to keep away from yourself. Also, if one person is using thou and another is using is using you, you might find yourself in a situation where the user of you is clearly not just into the one using thou. In addition, one would use thou when addressing a servant or an intimate friend or colleague. Thou could also be used to hurl an insult to one who has caused displeasure, as in the case with Oliver and Orlando cited above.

In sum, the use of you and thou, while potentially confusing, can lead to a greater understanding
of the speaker’s intentions and present the actor with a wider range of possibilities in interpreting the text of a given play.

For more help the plays of Shakespeare download your copy of the new Shakespeare Pronunciation App.

Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App

Hendiadys in Shakespeare

Hendiadys is a figure of speech in which two words connected by a conjunction (usually ‘and’) are used to express a single notion that would normally be expressed by an adjective and a substantive, such as “gracious favor” in place of “grace and favor.” It stems from the Latin phrase “one thing by means of two” or “one through two.” While the phase is no longer cited among grammarians of ancient Greek, Medieval Latin grammarians cite it frequently. Perhaps most famously used by Shakespeare in Hamlet in the line “Oh what a rogue and peasant slave am I” from “Hamlet.” Shakespeare, of course, made the device his own, using an adjectival construction such as “they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the time,” in reference to the Players. Instances of both substantive and adjectival construction abound in this play.Hendiadys

Examples of Hendiadys

The King refers to “delight and dole,” while adding “sweet and commendable”(I, 2, 87). He refers to the “cheer and comfort” of his eye, while calling Hamlet’s reply, “loving and fair” (I, 2, 121), while referencing his “auspicious and dropping eye” (I, 2, 11).  It is not Hamlet or the King alone that employs this rhetorical trope.  Laertes uses it also, when he cautions Ophelia about her involvement with Hamlet, invoking the state’s “safety and health” (I, 3, 20) , its “voice and yielding “(I, 3, 22), and the “morn and liquid dew.”  Ophelia herself is also prone to this construction, in referring to Laertes’ “steep and thorny” (I, 3, 47) path to heaven, as well as his “puffed and reckless” (I, 3, 48) behavior.  Their father, Polonius, himself is not stranger to the device as well, citing Hamlet’s “rank and station” (I, 3, 72) and “select and generous” (I, 3, 73) being.  Ophelia uses this standard later when she cites Hamlet as “Th’expectancy and rose of the fair state” (III, 1, 152) and refers to his “form and feature” (III, 1, 159), while declaring his words to be “out of tune and harsh” (III, 1, 158).   Hamlet himself does not abandon the device, continuing its use in the closet scene with his mother in instances like “frock or livery” (III, 4, 164) and “fair and good (III, 4, 163).

As we point out in the Shakespeare Pronunciation App, Shakespeare experiments with different poetic tropes in each play.  The prevalence of Hendiadys in “Hamlet” is a feature unique to that play and exhibits Shakespeare’s fascination with the possibilities of linguistic formation.

Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App

Features of the Shakespeare Pronunciation App

shakespeare_writingThe mobile audio Shakespeare Dictionary, is for anyone who is acting in Shakespeare’s plays or is teaching the plays or just likes to read the plays. The actors or readers have a quick access to the pronunciations of the words in all of the plays. This includes character and place names as well as any unusual words. More than 5000 words are included and in addition to the audio, the words are respelled in a simple respelling system that is easy to follow.  The Key to Pronunciation, which is at the bottom of each page, gives a quick reference to the respelling system.

In some cases the Shakespeare Dictionary has definitions to clarify which pronunciation goes with which word. For example “wind” is listed three times.  “Wind (n)” is “a current of air” and pronounced and respelled WIND. “Wind (v)” is “ to blow” and is pronounced and respelled WIND. “Wind (v)” “(to turn or twist)” is pronounced and respelled WEYEND.  These brief definitions will help the actor or student or teacher know which pronunciation to use.

In the Shakespeare Dictionary there is a section called “More” and this section includes an essay on Scanning the Verse, and a section on the Accents and Dialects that are used in the plays. In addition, there is a section called “Words to Watch Out For” which offers brief observations on the words with unusual stress in that play as well as words that expand or contract depending of the demands of the metre. For example, revenue is pronounced today with a stress on the first syllable but in Shakespeare’s plays the word often require a stress on the second syllable. These words are examples to guide the user to other words in the play with unusual stress, expansion or contraction. There is also a listing of how much prose and/or verse there is in each play, as well as the amount of rhyming verse.


Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App

Easy to Use Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App

When using the Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App, an actor, director, teacher or student or anyone who loves to read Shakespeare has quick access to the pronunciations of the words in Shakespeare’s plays. This includes character names, place names, as well as any unusual words. In the past, there was a lot of time spent researching various dictionaries, or asking fellow actors or the director how to pronounce a word. Now the actor can click on a word to hear it pronounced and can also see the word respelled in an easy to follow respelling system.

Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App

For example on the Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App the character in “The Winter’s Tale”, “Hermione” is respelled her-MEYE-uh-nee. There is a Key to Pronunciation at the bottom of every word and you can click on it and see the key of words for the vowels and consonants. In addition the words have a “scans to” for the examples when the word’s stress changes depending on the iambic pentameter line. For “Hermione” the scans to example is “scans to her-MEYE-nee e.g. @ WT V, 3, 28”. These examples have the act, scene and line number (based on the Pelican edition’s line numbering) so that the actor/director/student can check the example.

The Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App is just that “mobile”. The actor has the words right at her/his fingertips. It is available for iPhones or for Androids. This is very different than carrying around a book or books to check the pronunciation of words (which is what actors had to do in the past). The accessibility to the Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App makes this an invaluable tool both in the rehearsal studio and in the classroom. The research for these words was done for the book “All the Words on Stage, A Complete Pronunciation Dictionary for the plays of William Shakespeare”.