© Andrew Gurr, 1971, 2003
ANDREW GURR, a retired professor of English at Reading University (U.K.), is a noted author on Elizabethan drama and playhouses. His most valuable contributions include The Shakespearean Stage, 1574-1642 and Playgoing in Shakespeares London, both published by Cambridge University Press. He had been the chief academic advisor to the reconstruction of the Globe Theatre since 1981, as well as the Director of Globe Research since 1998.
My thanks to Prof. Gurr for his kind permission to reproduce his article.
EDITORIAL POSTSCRIPT II (2003)
The Oxfordians Shortened-Vowel Shift
The question of the pun on Ann Hathaways name has given Professor Gurrs article as well as the Editorial Postscript by F. W. B. (Frederick W. Bateson) a significance it did not have when it was first published.
When referring to the Stratford man, Oxfordians pronounce his name Shackspeare, or Shacks- per [sic]. It is however uncertain whether the absence of the first e in Shakespeare means that his name was pronounced with a short a.
The mention of E. J. Dobsons English Pronunciation 1500-1700 is in reference to what is known as the long-vowel shift that occurred between late-Medieval English and the early-modern English of Shakespeares day, which has some unknowns including its affect on regional pronunciations. Consequently, Batesons note notwithstanding, Dobson is not explicit about how the first a in Hathaway (and in Shakspeare) was pronounced in Elizabethan Warwickshire. And, perhaps, elsewhere in England.
It is interesting therefore to find that the name of playwright Richard Hathway is recorded in the accounts of Elizabethan theater magnate Philip Henslowe as Haythway and Hatheway, as well as Hathway. Henslowe, a native of Sussex who was living in London by 1577, is famous for his wide range of phonetic spellings. His variants on Hathway suggest that hate away may indeed be a very tolerable pun on Hathaway and that Shakspeare may indeed have been pronounced Shake- speare.
But then, Oxfordians seem to incline toward a shortened-vowel shift generally, for they have a very similar problem with a name dear to them: J. Thomas Looney, the founding father of Oxfordianism. Here, they insist, the name is pronounced Loney (rhymes with baloney). This was revealed in a letter by Charles Wisner Barrell in 1972, likening Looney to, for example, the pronunciation of Roosevelt preferred by Franklin: Rōsevelt. (It should be noted that cousin Teddy preferred the double-o pronunciation).
But what did Looney himself have to say about how his name was pronounced? Publishers and friends foresaw the handle my name would provide for critics, he wrote in a letter, and wished me to adopt a nom-de-plume. I declined and lost one of the foremost English publishers in consequence
He went on to say that his immediate forefathers came from the Isle of Man and the family is descended, as I have been informed, from the Earls of Derby, once Kings of Man.
a mans surname establishes links of sentiment with the distant past and thus come to have for him a kind of sacred claim which makes him resent a disrespectful use of it.
Quite clearly Looney took pride in his name and gave no indication that it was pronounced any way other than with a double-o. What makes this most interesting is that the quotations above come from a letter that Looney wrote to, of all people, the very same Charles Wisner Barrell in 1937. One may suspect that he might well have resented Barrells linguistics of the Looney name, 35 years later, which (as printed in Ruth Loyd Millers edition of Looneys Shakespeare Identified, Volume 2, see pages xxx-xxxi for both letters) gives analogistic grounds only for the Loney pronunciation. Now Oxfordians claim that this is a common pronunciation of the name on the Isle of Man.
But Shakespeare it is not when they say it is not,
And Looney changes even as their minds.
What they will have it named, even that it is.
― I. L. M.
© 2003 Irvin Leigh Matus