Through a mixture of scholarly scrutiny and informed guesswork, it is possible to figure out what it might have sounded like- love, after all, no longer rhymes with prove. At the London Globe theatre in 2004, with the help of David Crystal, a three-show run of Romeo and Juliet was performed entirely in Original Pronunciation, or at least as close as we can get to it. Given the Globe's dedication to period costumes, period sets, even period music, why has no movement towards period pronunciation come sooner? The costumes and music may lend the feel of exoticism to the whole affair, tempered for a modern audience by cock-gags aplenty, (as any Globe-trotter will no doubt attest). Don't get me wrong. I like cock-gags. If I see a rapier at the end of a production hanging from an actor's hip which hasn't been bloodied or employed as a phallic symbol I boo and tear up my ticket and spit in the steward's eyes before leaving the theatre. Likewise for the costumes; I have nothing against period-dress-porn, or even against the less-than-chunky riffs or miniscule hooks afforded by the lute. But why have we not seen more of an attempt to revive Original Pronunciation? Surely the aural cannot be entirely subsidiary to the visual? This is theatre! The synthetic art! Give me both or give me death! Vive la OP! Swords and chords! Never enough ruffs! The accent that was meant! Prove your love fo- Prove your lo loo Loov? Lurve? Prurve yer lar-lur-leaughm...
Ah. Maybe that's why. Perhaps The Globe's dedication to authenticity stops at the doorway of comprehensibility. I suppose you can't blame them really- they've got fire exits after all, and no doubt Shakey would have appreciated them at the time.
Here's David Crystal's website for his book, which has a bunch of recordings on it:
The book's worth a read as well, if your local library has it. (It does.)
Yours sincerely, Prof. Phil E. Stein