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Babel Lecture 2024



Babel Lecture 2024: 'Original Pronunciation - The sound of Shakespeare'

What did Shakespeare's accent - and that of his actors and audience - sound like? What can we learn from hearing and speaking his works in that accent? And with no recordings or transcriptions available to us, how do we know? 

Actor and author Ben Crystal (Shakespeare's Words, Shakespeare on Toast) explores the fascinating 400 year old sound of Shakespeare's plays and sonnets - Original Pronunciation - showing a world hidden beneath our modern accent readings full of rhyme, rhythm, and a very subtle humour. And a not-so-subtle one too.

About the Speaker 

Ben CrystalBen Crystal is an actor, author, producer, and explorer of original practices in Shakespeare rehearsal and production. He is an Associate Artist with the Shakespeare North Playhouse, and a consultant creative producer for Shakespeare companies around the world.

Ben is the Founder of The Bridge Theatre Ensemble and Consultant Creative Producer to The Show Must Go Online, nominated for The Stage’s Digital Project of the Year 2022. He played Hamlet in the first Original Pronunciation production for 400 years, and was the curator of the first CD of extracts of Shakespeare in Original Pronunciation for the British Library, and their 2016 Shakespeare Birthday celebrations.

His first solo book, Shakespeare on Toast – Getting a Taste for the Bard (Icon 2008) was shortlisted for the 2010 Educational Writer of the Year Award. 

Ben was the co-writer of Shakespeare’s Words (Penguin 2002) and The Shakespeare Miscellany (Penguin 2005) with his father David Crystal. Their Illustrated Dictionary of Shakespeare was published April 2015 with OUP, and was shortlisted for the 2016 Educational Writer of the Year Award. 

Lockdown Shakespeare, published for Arden Shakespeare (July 2022), offers the first in-depth analysis and sourcebook for 'lockdown Shakespeare'. With David Sterling Brown, Ben contributes the chapter, In the Time of Corona: Questioning What You Will, an exploration and analysis of The Shakespeare' Ensemble’s 2020 digital promenade, What You Will. Everyday Shakespeare will be published by Chambers in 2023.

Ben has toured the US, Canada, Europe, Asia, India, Australia and New Zealand, and has frequently collaborated with New Hampshire based Seven Stages Shakespeare Company, the Prague Shakespeare Company, the British Library, the British Council, the English Speaking Union, the Prince’s Trust Institute, and the Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust.

He gave the English Council Lecture at the British Council on Speaking the bright and beautiful English of Shakespeare. His TEDx talk was called Original Practices: Shakespeare's Craft.

He has given talks on the future of education at the Global Teacher’s Fair for Macmillan English, and the Keynote lecture for the National Teacher’s Conference at Bell Shakespeare, Sydney.

Ben has taught in schools, universities, colleges and theatre institutions around the world, and has been developing physical games for children and young people with SEND, working with Joe England.

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