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Only concise available description of reconstructed Early Modern English pronunciation
on July 23, 2007
The title of my review states clearly what I was looking for in this book, and what I had found difficult to extract from the standard scholarly works of Kökeritz, Dobson, and Cercignani. I award this book four stars because it (and it alone, as far as I know) contains (buried in its chatty commentary about the weather, how the author doesn't get nervous before giving lectures, etc.) this simple desideratum. If you've ever felt frustrated that you couldn't find the 2-5 pp. account for Shakespeare equivalent to such easy-to-find information (on a basic level) as "How to pronounce Chaucer" or "The sounds of Italian," this book is a decent remedy. It would have been better (both for usefulness and book sales) for Crystal & Cambridge to have brought out, instead of this diffuse and incomplete large-font-with-lots-of-white-space-between-the-lines book, an even slenderer (but far more detailed and thorough) volume entitled "Shakespeare's Original Pronunciation: A Practical Guide, With Transcriptions." (Perhaps Crystal, because he is not an expert, was too modest to go this route, but the experts have conspicuously failed to provide this for teachers, readers, and actors.) If you want the meat of the reconstruction, actual phonetic information is contained only on pp. 13, 37-41, 47-54, 60-92, 115, 175-181 (and could have been distilled into a five-page handout). The rest of the book will mainly interest theater people who want additional behind-the-scenes commentary on how the production happened (dealing with actors' personalities, what the audience thought, etc.).