The Eloquent Shakespeare

A Pronouncing Dictionary for the Complete Dramatic Works with Notes to Untie the Modern Tongue
by Gary Logan

Have you ever read one on Shakespeare’s works and not known how to pronounce a word? (If not, are you human?) Where do you normally turn? Most regular dictionaries that you might keep on your shelf only include words in modern usage; not words, names, and places that haven’t been in widespread common use in 400 years.

You could ask someone and hope they’re right. If you have a good movie or audiobook of a play you can check there and listen… but that seems like a little too much trouble for a single word.

What you need is dictionary of pronunciation (I have several) from an authoritative source. I’d say Gary Logan is one: He was the Chair of Voice and Speech at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and has worked as a voice coach for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford Shakespeare Festival, The Shakespeare Theatre Company, and several others.

There’s really no reason not to have a pronouncing dictionary if you’re an actor or director working on Shakespeare’s plays. You’re doing yourself, your company, and your audience a disservice by deciding not to check to see if you’re pronouncing a word correctly. Even if it’s not Shakespeare, and the play has difficult words, one should do their homework and look it up.

But why buy this one? It’s not the cheapest one out there so it had better be good. As a matter of fact, it is good. It might even be right for you — not all dictionaries are the same or right for everyone, I’ll have you know.

The Eloquent Shakespeare lists its pronunciations in Standard American Stage Dialect, a sort of “neutral” dialect that has no distinct regional features. It’s like the speech that most news anchors and classical actors employ while reading the news and speaking Shakespeare, respectively. This means that some of the common words may have a pronunciation that is different from the way you speak.

A feature that I enjoy is the fact that all the words are only transcribed using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). If you’ve learned IPA in theatre school, all the better. If you haven’t, there’s a key to each symbol at the bottom of every page. It’s not that hard to figure out.

The notes and introduction are very well done and informative, if you ever read them. Not everyone’s the type that reads an introduction to a dictionary but I suggest you always do. You’ll be happy you did — why have a tool when you don’t know how to use it properly? The dictionary seems to be complete. It even includes one of my favorites, honorificabilitudinitatubus! Rare or show specific words have the play in which they appear listed next to the headword. If it scans differently in different places there’s a note there to help you. There are even foreign language pronunciations of words and phrases. I know now how to pronounce Si fortune me tormente, sperato me contento.

My biggest complaint is the cover. It looks nice and pretty, but if I saw it on a shelf I would never know that I needed to have it. The whole cover looks like a really long title. Not a big deal, I can take off the dust jacket if needed. But don’t judge this book by its cover!

There are other pronouncing dictionaries out there for less, but if you are an actor, director, teacher, or other serious Shakespearean, I would recommend spending a little extra to get this nicely produced, authoritative, complete, hardcover (long-lasting), and easy to navigate resource.

The Eloquent Shakespeare: A Pronouncing Dictionary for the Complete Dramatic Works with Notes to Untie the Modern Tongue is available from

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  1. Jeremy @ shakespearepost Nov 11, 2009

    We gave a nod to your review on our site! Good stuff!

  2. Mary McGloin Nov 30, 2009

    Gary Logan’s the real deal and his book rocks! I think anyone, especially any actor who does Shakespeare should have it!

  3. literacles Sep 25, 2010

    Not a very necessary dictionary, I think. One can find what was meant in easier ways, such as reading modern translation, which are easier to find.

  4. Gary Logan Oct 5, 2010

    Thanks, Jeremy and Mary! Literacles, I think you might have this dictionary confused with another. This is a pronouncing dictionary in no way dedicated to meanings. As the title indicates, and the above review discusses, it is a pronouncing dictionary with notes concerning alternative ways of speaking words when the verse inclines them in a certain direction. Modern translation or not, there does not happen to be any other volume containing nearly the amount of words encountered in Shakespeare’s works related to the way the words are spoken. If it is easy you are looking for, there is no easier way to find out how to pronounce the Latin, French, Spanish and Italian words and phrases, or the myriad archaic, arcane, and even mysterious words in Shakespeare than in this one reference. I concede that to find out “what was meant” other sources are the way to go.

  5. CS Jan 2, 2011

    This is great information. This could be useful for more than just actors. It could be a great classroom tool for students reading Shakespeare’s works. As for “literacles.” Please don’t be so ignorant. They aren’t saying that this book is a necessity. It is for people who are interested in understanding Shakespeare’s plays or pieces better. It is for people who care about this. ITs simple, if you aren’t interested in what Shakespeare has to say then don’t get it.

  6. Amy Oct 23, 2011

    I think it’s possible this level of education could point towards the works having been done by someone else. Its being constantly brought up that Shakespeare didn’t have this type of education.

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    Who am I must find the answer in our?

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