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Shakespearean Names

A Simplified Pronouncing Guide for some of Shakespeare's Names

Gary Logan
Head of Voice and Speech
National Theatre Conservatory

Listen To Shakespearean Names

A few simple rules apply to names when pronounced for Shakespeare's plays: French names, and other foreign names (but French especially), are given virtually no native integrity — that is, they are rarely pronounced the way they sound in their native tongue.  How often in conversation do you say Paris, France the way the French do? How did you say it when you just read it?  See what I mean?  They are Anglicized in Shakespeare, too, on purpose. To pronounce them as French words, or with a pseudo-French affectation, only goes against their purpose and meaning in Shakespeare.  Also, since Shakespeare wrote verse in a particular metrical pattern, he tinkered with some names to fit his verse line.

A key to the pronunciation guide:

A or a,  as in hat  OR or or,  as in for
AY or ay,  as in cake OOR or oor,  as in poor
UH or uh,  as in above  AHR or ahr,  as in are
AH or ah,  as in don AYR or ayr,  as in air
AW or aw,  as in draw EER or eer,  as in pier
OH or oh,  as in coat IGH or igh,  as in eye
EE or ee,  as in tree OO or oo,  as in two
IH or ih,  as in bib EH or eh,  as in said
UR or ur,  as in fur  U or u,  as in put
TH or th,  as in thin ZH or zh,  as in rouge
TH or th,  as in this CH or ch,  as in church

Abhorson uhb-HOR-suhn Achilles uh-KIH-leez
Adriana ay-dree-A-nuh  or ay-dree-AH-nuh Aegle EE-glee
Agenor uh-JEE-nur Aguecheek AY-gyoo-cheek
Anthony AN-tuh-nee Ariel AYR-ee-l
Ate AY-tee  or  AH-tay Bacchus BA-kuhs (never BAH-kuhs)
Bassanio buh-SAH-nee-oh Benedick BEH-nuh-dihk
Berowne buh-ROON Bolingbroke BAH-lihn-bruk
Caius KIGH-uhs  or KAY-uhs Calais KA-luhs  or  KA-lay
Caliban KA-lih-ban Capulet KAP-yoo-let
Charmian KAHR-mee-uhn  or CHAHR-mee-uhn Cinna SIH-nuh
Circe SUR-see Comfect KUHM-fiht
Corioli kuh-RIGH-uh-ligh Dauphin DAW-fihn (Shakespeare originally spelled it and pronounced it like the sea creature, i.e. DAHL-fihn)
Dian DIGH-an Dido DIGH-doh
Egeus ih-JEE-uhs Feste FEHS-tee
Fleance FLEE-uhns Fortinbras FOR-tihn-bras
Ganymede GA-nih-meed Glamis GLAHMZ  or GLAH-mihz (depending on the meter)
Gloucester GLAW-stur Golgotha GAWL-guh-thuh
Goneril          GAH-nuh-rul Greenwich GRIH-nihj  or GREH-nihch
Hecate HEH-kiht Hecuba HEH-kyoo-buh
Hippolyta hih-PAH-lih-tuh Holofernes haw-luh-FUR-neez
Iago ee-AH-goh Jaques JAYKS  or  JAY-kihs (depending on the meter.  Never JAY-kweez)
July JOO-ligh  or JOO-lee Juliet JOOL-yeht
Laban LAY-buhn Lavache luh-VACH
Leicester LEH-stur Leonato lee-uh-NAH-toh  or lay-uh-NAH-toh
Lucrece LOO-krees  or LYOO-krees Lysander ligh-SAN-dur
Michaelmas MIH-kl-muhs Milan MIH-luhn
Moor MOOR Montague MON-tuh-gyoo
Moth MAWTH  or  MOHT Niobe NIGH-oh-bee
Norfolk NOR-fuhk Oberon OH-buh-rahn
Orsino or-SEE-noh Othello uh-THEH-loh
Pandarus PAN-duh-ruhs Perdita PUR-dih-tuh
Petruchio puh-TROO-kyoh Phaëton FAY-uh-tuhn
Phoebe FEE-bee Phoebus FEE-buhs
Plantagenet plan-TA-juh-niht Plautus PLAW-tuhs
Posthumus pawst-HYOO-muhs Prospero PRAH-spur-oh
Romeo ROH-myoh Scone SKOHN  or  SKOON
Setebos SEH-tih-bahs Shrewsbury SHROOZ-buh-ree  or SHROHZ-buh-ree
Southwark SUH-thurk Stephano STEH-fuh-noh
Strachy STRAY-chee Suffolk SUH-fuhk
Sycorax SIH-kuh-raks Tamora TA-muh-ruh
Thames TEHMZ Theseus THEE-see-uhs
Thisbe THIHZ-bee Tibalt TIH-bult
Titania tih-TAHN-yuh  or tih-TAN-yuh Ursula UR-suh-luh  or UR-syoo-luh,  and sometimes URS-luh
Verges VUR-jihs Viola VIGH-uh-luh
Warwick WAW-rihk Worcester WU-stur
Yorick YAW-rihk    

There are hundreds of proper names in Shakespeare.  Where can you look them up?  There are two guides I recommend:

Irvine, Theodora; A Pronouncing Dictionary of Shakespearean Proper Names, Barnes & Noble, Inc., 1945.
Kökeritz, Helge; Shakespeare's Names, A Pronouncing Dictionary,Yale University Press, 1972.

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