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Hear the Opening Sonnet of Romeo and Juliet Performed in the Accent Most Used in Shakespeare’s Time

Ben Crystal, a British voice actor and artist, recently performed the opening sonnet of Romeo and Juliet with what is considered the closest approximation of what actors may have sounded like when Shakespeare was still alive.

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Crystal performed the sonnet as part of a seminar for the British Council of English and Exams. His talk, titled, “Speaking the Bright and Beautiful English of Shakespeare,” explored accents and how they happened to proliferate around the world. After the sonnet, he asked what that accent reminded everyone of, and he explained:

Wherever I go whatever age whether it’s eight years old or 80 years old and I say what accent does that remind you of and someone goes Pirates of the Caribbean … Shakespeare’s London was a melting pot of accents people would come from Norwich and Wales and Scotland and Ireland and Midlands and Somerset and pirate country and they come to London and their accents would all mix in together and then of course later on they’d go to Bristol and sail across to America and later still they’d be sent to Bristol and go down to Australia and that’s in part where those accents all come from.

It’s a super, super fascinating look at how and why we speak the way we do, and the sonnet performance feels like a bit of an added bonus, really.
(image: 20th Century Fox)

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Jessica Lachenal
Jessica Lachenal is a writer who doesn’t talk about herself a lot, so she isn’t quite sure how biographical info panels should work. But here we go anyway. She's the Weekend Editor for The Mary Sue, a Contributing Writer for The Bold Italic (, and a Staff Writer for Spinning Platters ( She's also been featured in Model View Culture and Frontiers LA magazine, and on Autostraddle. She hopes this has been as awkward for you as it has been for her.

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