David Crystal is a linguist with a wide variety of interests, including Shakespeare—his website Shakespeare’s Words is “the online version of the best-selling glossary and language companion.” He has also devoted himself to the practice of “original pronunciation,” the attempt to perform works written in older forms of English more or less as they originally sounded, and as his blog recently announced, he has launched an Original Pronunciation website:
This site is devoted to the production or performance of works from earlier periods of English spoken in original pronunciation (OP) – that is, in an accent that would have been in use at the time.
The present-day movement to perform works in OP began in 2004, when David Crystal collaborated with Shakespeare’s Globe in an OP production of Romeo and Juliet. This was so successful that the following year the Globe mounted a production of Troilus and Cressida in OP. Subsequent interest from American enthusiasts led to OP Shakespeare events in New York, Virginia, and Kansas, ranging from evenings of extracts to full productions. As only a handful of works have so far been performed in OP, interest is growing worldwide to explore the insights that the approach can provide.
I’m sure there must be other OP initiatives around the world, and until now there has been no place where they can be brought together. The time thus seems right to provide a website where people can find out about OP, archive their events, announce plans, and share their experiences of working with it and listening to it.
I approve, and would love to see such a performance. (To head off a possible objection: no, I don’t think all, or even very many, productions should attempt this—it would have to be done well to work, and there’s not that much expertise available. Besides, performances in modern pronunciation are perfectly fine, and doubtless communicate better to most audiences. But I’m glad the alternative is out there.)