William Shakespeare Sounded Like Your Drunk Uncle Doing an Offensive "Irish" Accent
What You Think:
If you're going by movies (or plays, if you're fancy) based on Shakespeare's works, you probably think everyone involved sounds like Sir Laurence Olivier reading a Medieval Times menu. That's presumably one reason the kids aren't much into Shakespeare these days, or it might have more to do with teachers continuously keeping Shakespeare's best material (by which we mean filthy sex jokes) out of the classroom, or the fact that the Bard once tried to rhyme the words "proved" and "loved" in his "Sonnet 116."
National Portrait Gallery
You can fail a middle school creative writing class for that, right?
Believe it or not, back when Shakespeare first wrote "Sonnet 116," "loved" and "proved" did rhyme, because they were pronounced differently than they are today. Accents constantly evolve, as regional mingling and personal quirks gradually change the flavor of the English language over time. That's why some scholars say that Shakespearean readings aiming for some level of authenticity should sound less dignified and grandiose and more like Hagrid telling a dirty joke at a strip club.
"And that's why you never get your huffle puffed without a sorting hat."
If you can't hear that in your head, here's linguist David Crystal demonstrating Shakespeare's original pronunciation by having his son Ben first read Henry V in sexy modern English, followed by the strange moon-tongue of 16th- and 17th-century London that sounds like a mix of Irish, Welsh, and Appalachian:
So in "Sonnet 116," "proved" was pronounced closer to "pruvved," rhyming comfortably with "loved," which actually segues nicely into Shakespeare's secret whore-fucking. You see, after literary scholars realized that Shakespeare wasn't actually bad at rhyming, it allowed them to discover a ton of smutty puns cleverly hidden in his works, like in As You Like It:
And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.
It's now believed that "hour" is a homophone for "whore," "ripe" for "rape," and "rot" for "rut," and with that in mind, this cynical rumination on mortality suddenly becomes a story about a guy bragging about endurance fucking.
For more things you're just so wrong about, check out 44 Important Parts of History You're Picturing Wrong. And then check out 20 Things Everyone Pictures Incorrectly (Side by Side).
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