Not potato, pahtahto

Sometimes you get in the middle of something and because you’re just too damned impatient (or lazy), you don’t do the required homework. Such is the case with my recording of tomorrow’s podcast and the matter of names in The Winter’s Tale.

Now I was pretty sure for the daughter Perdita. Despite some lectures and summaries that named her “per – DEE – tah,” the scansion definitely pointed a first-and-third syllable stress: PER – de – TAH. And because of that, it felt like the softer “de” was necessary, rather than a harder “dee” or “die.”

But that was the easy one. The tougher one was that badass babe, that freakin’ force of nature: Paulina. The scansion points to a second-syllable stress, but it’s the pronunciation that stumped me…

pa – LIE – na


pa – LEE – na?

I’ve heard both pronunciations (most audiobooks had the former, but the BBC Complete Works television film used the latter), and I was stumped (so much that I’m pretty sure I ping-ponged back-and-forth between the two pronunciations during the recording of my podcast for tomorrow).

So which is it?

Now, in most cases, I’d go with the BBC; I mean, after all, they’re BRITISH, you know. But when it comes to Shakespearean pronunciation, I put my faith in Ben and David Crystal, those experts in what most call “Original Pronunciation.”

Last year, David Crystal (the father) published The Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation, which is a great piece of scholarship. But as I’ve never been adept at reading phonetic spellings, I’m most grateful for the companion website, which contains Crystal saying each and EVERY word from that dictionary. Including names!

So I’m going with Crystal’s judgment. And his verdict:

pa – LIE – na

(and he goes with PER – de – TAH as well…)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *