We know how a Shakespeare play sounds when performed today, but what would listeners have heard within the wooden "O" of the Globe Theater in 1599? What sounds would have filled the air in early modern England, and what would these sounds have meant to people in that largely oral culture? In this journey into the sound-worlds of Shakespeare's contemporaries, Bruce R. Smith explores both the physical aspects of human speech (ears, lungs, tongue) and the surrounding environment (buildings, landscape, climate), as well as social and political structures. Drawing on a range of evidence, he crafts a historical phenomenology of sound, from reconstructions of the "soundscapes" of city, country, and court to accounts of the acoustic properties of the Globe and Blackfriars theatres and how scripts designed for the two spaces exploited sound very differently.
Bruce R. Smith is professor of English at Georgetown University. He is author of "Homosexual Desire in Shakespeare's England: A Cultural Poetics," published by the University of Chicago Press, and "The Art and History of Washington, D.C."