Review of Shakespeare’s Accents: Voicing Identity in Performance by Sonia Massai  

Medieval & Renaissance Drama in England, volume 34, 2021, pp. 213-215.

Voices carry weight in the embodiment of characters on stage, because accents are a strong marker of a character’s and actor’s identity. Orlando praises Rosalind’s courtly accent in As You Like It by saying “your accent is something finer than you could purchase in so removed a dwelling” (3.2.334–35), for example.

   Sonia Massai’s new book explores the cultural connotation of regional accents in four centuries of performances of Shakespeare on the English stage. Shakespeare is selected for case study because, as Massai asserts, since the mid-eighteenth century the “National Poet” has played a key role “in the establishment of a Standard English pronunciation” and Received Pronunciation (1–2) and thus the canon provides fertile ground for understanding English attitudes toward accents.

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