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Helge Kökeritz, in Shakespeare's Pronunciation, lists Shakespeare's
puns, many of which are only understandable with some knowledge of the
GVS. One of the more famous is from I Henry 4, 2.4.260 and following:
your reason Jack, your reason.
FALSTAFF: What, upon compulsion? No: were I
at the Strappado, or all the Racks in the World, I would not tell you on
compulsion. Give you a reason on compulsion? If Reasons were
as plentie as Blackberries, I would give no man a Reason upon compulsion,
punning on the word reason, which he would pronounce with a long
This makes a seemingly random utterance into an understandable joke: "If
Reasons [raisins] were as plentie as Blackberries . . . " The e
in reason will later move up to e and then to PDE i.
The jokes get bawdier when Shakespeare puns on reason and raising;
Kökeritz cites this example from Taming of the Shrew, pr.2.1.126-7:
|LADY: I hope
this reason stands for my excuse.
BEGGAR: I, it stands so that I may hardly
tarry so long.
[See Kökeritz 138-9
and Pyles and Algeo 180-1 for more discussion
of these passages]
This scene is from Midsummer Night's Dream, 5.1.312 and following:
dye, dye, dye, dye, dye, dye.
DEMETRIUS: No Die, but an ace for him;
for he is but one.
LYSANDER: Lesse then an ace man. For
he is dead, he is nothing.
DUKE: With the helpe of a Surgeon, he might
yet recover, and prove an Asse.
|The words ass
and ace could be homonyms for some speakers in Shakespeare's time.
The word ass has a short vowel and was pronunced as it is in PDE:
[æs]. As Kokeritz notes, however, in the 16th century, ace
could be pronunced with the æ as a variant of the long e.
With the GVS, the æ moved up to e and
then to e, where it is today: [es].
[See Kökeritz 89
for more discussion of this passage]