September 11, 2013 2:06 pm
The stereotypical English accent of today is not the English accent of Shakespeare’s time, which goes at least some way towards explaining why, when you read Romeo and Juliet in high school, half the play didn’t make sense. Seriously, it’s not entirely your fault. As David Crystal, a linguist from the University of Wales, explains in the video above, some of the puns, and many of the rhymes, just don’t work anymore.
According to Patricia O’Conner talking to WNYC, the modern British accent that we know and love didn’t arise until the late 1700s, more than 100 years after Shakespeare’s death.
Shakespeare’s English was more like a mix of American English, Irish, and Australian than like the modern standard English accent, says O’Conner,
More from Smithsonian.com:
Sign up for our free email newsletter and receive the best stories from Smithsonian.com each week.