Aye, there's the rub, dear Will.  How DID you pronounce it? 

       There have been serious studies going on in this field recently,  trying to pin down how Shakespeare and his men pronounced Elizabethan/Jacobean English.  Texts are combed in order to deduce, through repeated rhymes, how certain words were pronounc'd. The vowels, of course,  are key, although intonation would influence the delivery as well, I would think, and the rhythms of a line.   

       I saw a Youtube, which is probably still available, of a scene from "Romeo and Juliet" which is delivered by its actors using the kind of pronunciation that experts on Shakespeare working at the Globe Theatre in London,  have deduced, after quite a bit of study,  must be how the language actually sounded  originally.  It is sweet and sounds kind of Scottish, with a  tinge of rough Anglo-Saxon consonants. I can certainly understand the temptation to try to reconstruct what the Elizabethan audience actually experienced.  Here is a link you can go to hear some of it:        (Thanks to Edward Pospiech for the link.)

(There is also a CD available called "Shakespeare's Original Pronunciation: Speeches and Scenes Performed as Shakespeare Would Have Heard Them" put out by the British Library, with an Introduction by David Crystal.  You can get it from Daedalus discount books on line for $12.  Their address is:

        But--to do this in a theater for a general audience,  or even as general practice for an audience of Shakespeare-lovers who happen to be living in the 21st Century?    Many people now regard Shakespeare's language as Old English, although scholars label it Early Modern English, as opposed to Chaucer (Middle English), and Beowulf (Old English, i.e. Anglo-Saxon).  Shakespeare's language is already far enough back in time that it requires some study, exposure, and acclimation to follow fairly easily.  Indeed, it has been predicted that in 200 years time, if the English language continues to be spoken, and, in fact, if the human race continues to exist, Shakespeare will be as obscure to English-speakers as Chaucer's English is to us now!  Of course, that doesn't make allowance for the possibility that Shakespeare's plays will be performed continuously, so that there is no danger of his language dropping out of sight, to mix a metaphor.

        In my next post, I'd like to talk more about pronunciation, especially as it has to deal with British English for Shakespeare vs. American English.  And what Richard Burton had to say about it all.