We often get asked by students (and teachers) how we keep 3 shows, and so much Shakespeare in our heads! It has had me thinking, how did I learn so much Shakespeare in such a short time? And more importantly, what do I do to demystify Shakespeare’s language and put it into my own voice?
When I was at school I studied Shakespeare in English. We read his plays out loud, all sitting down in the classroom swapping at every new dialogue line with the teacher reading out any stage directions. We would then maybe watch a movie or two, if they were available, and then toddle off to write our essays. At assessment time you could find the English students during individual study time all silently pouring over their texts as if they were still writing an essay on To Kill a Mocking Bird or some other piece of literature.
Through this process I wrote good essays about themes and the dichotomy of the human spirit, but I never felt close to Shakespeare’s text and words. I loved Shakespeare’s language but never truly felt like it was my language. It was something to be enjoyed from afar, to be written about, something to discuss over tea and biscuits; not something I wanted to really investigate, get lost in a black hole of googling, or something that I could be physically and mentally challenging. Shakespeare was never something that I thought could be mine.
To essay, or not to essay?
There is nothing wrong with knowing the themes of the plays, nor spending time reading the text, or indeed writing essays… But that is not why Shakespeare wrote what he wrote. He wrote these words to be read out loud, to be performed, to inspire and excite people. This is something that I had always known from an academic point of view, but it wasn’t until I was at university studying acting that I really understood the impact of this and how we are usually taught to approach Shakespeare at school.
The thing that I really wanted to know was how could I still sound like me when performing Shakespeare? How could these people that I relate to on so many levels also sound relatable?
The best advice I was given when tackling Shakespeare was “make it your own”, but what did that mean? In my experience, I think that it means something slightly different to everyone so all I can do is give a few pointers and talk through a few of the things that I do when I first pick up a piece of Shakespeare.
What does that even mean?
One of the first ways that I make the language my own is to go to find a dictionary. I know that this might seem a little tedious, but believe me it has helped me more times that I can count! I always go through my text reading it aloud. Whenever I come across a word or a phrase that I don’t understand I look it up in a dictionary. From the simple to the obscure a dictionary can help to demystify what the characters are talking about. A great example of this is one of Hamlet’s famous lines:
“Now might I do it pat, now ‘a is a-praying.”
‘Pat’ often trips me up, and is great because depending on the dictionary/footnotes it can mean a variety of things. Such as: neatly, opportunely, aptly, simple, slick, smooth, but, precisely… The list goes on! If you have lots of time and really want to nerd out have a look at different dictionaries for different interpretations of the same word. Footnotes in your texts are also a massive help: someone else has already had a go at looking through resources and figuring out what characters are going on about! When unlocking Shakespeare it is really about having as many tools at your disposal as possible so get defining those words and phrases.
She said what?
Great, so now I know what the words mean, I know what the characters are talking about and I guess I know what is going on generally… What next, Eleanor? So glad you asked! The next thing I do is get up out of my chair, that is all the “book work” I do. As I mentioned before, Shakespeare is meant to be performed! I would highly recommend finding a buddy (or a small group) and tacking the text scene by scene, speech by speech, reading it aloud. Get up and improvise some blocking. Move where you think you might need to move and be a bit silly with it. If you are studying a comedy I find that this is 100% the best way to uncover the majority of the jokes. If you think it is a little bit naughty, chances are you are on the right track! Jokes in Shakespeare are often full of innuendoes, making fun of how words sound, or simply repeating sounds in an amusing pattern. A great example of a character that does all three of these things is Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet:
“Why, is not this better now than groaning for love?
now art thou sociable, now art thou Romeo; now art
thou what thou art, by art as well as by nature:
for this drivelling love is like a great natural,
that runs lolling up and down to hide his bauble in a hole.”
Once you have read aloud you might want to go back to the dictionary and clarify a few words that still remain illusive.
In other words…
So now you know what the words mean, you have had a bash at speaking the language, and you’ve moved around a bit. Now it is time to literally put the text into your own words. This is also referred to as paraphrasing the language. I find that this is a really important step in making Shakespeare sound like me, so that it fits my body rather than a performer over 400 years ago. There are some online resources around that have already done this, but I think it is always good to do it yourself first and if you get really lost to then check them out. In fact, I think that this is a thing I would recommend for life. You don’t need to spend too long paraphrasing, and it definitely doesn’t need to be word for word. This should be a tool to use to help deepen your understanding of the text. If you still have your buddies around you can discuss (in your own words) what the characters are saying, where they are, and what is happening to them. Often brainstorming aloud can inspire further discussion and really unlock the more subtle layers of the language.
If you have time, and are really enjoying the discovery of Shakespeare and want to explore a little further check out any performances you can, interviews of actors or find a different text with different footnotes. The beauty of Shakespeare’s language is that there is room for everyone to have a slightly different interpretation, it might mean something slightly different to each person. Share your ideas, have fun with the language, see if you can be silly and throw caution to the wind. I love this language so much. I truly believe that you can too. Take Shakespeare’s plays off of their pedestals and throw them around a bit, give them a run for their money and see how much you can pull them apart. This is how I unlock Shakespeare. This is how I perform Shakespeare in my own voice.
Now I could write so much more on my process, but I wanted to give you a taste and to excite you to give it a go and discover how you might make Shakespeare your own and not some piece of literature to be read in silence out of some form of respect. Go forth and enjoy!
— Eleanor – Team M
Some websites/resources that I keep coming back to:
- Shakespeare’s words http://www.shakespeareswords.com – This is my go to website to start off. It has the full texts, synopsis, character lists, word definitions etc. This is also available to buy as a book
- Shakespeare defined http://www.shakespearedefined.com – another great resource/tool for getting those definitions flowing
- Absolute Shakespeare http://absoluteshakespeare.com – the plays, some interesting resources, a bit of variety in this list
- Ian McKellen on acting Shakespeare http://youtu.be/25QcYpYCu4Q – mind the quality of the video but the man makes some fine points
- John Barton’s Playing Shakespeare http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLboSQWmG70j_S2nWkRlncZYW49nLeFKWj – a lot of information but well worth the watch
- Chilli Monologues http://youtu.be/KKn4WFG4Je8 – some chilli Shakespeare fun… Remember Treat Yo’ Self!
So, it’s 2016, 400 years after the death of William Shakespeare. It is a requirement in the Australian High School curriculum that one or more of his plays are studied. His plays have been translated and performed in almost every single language on Earth. There will be at least FIVE Shakespeare plays produced in Sydney alone in 2016.
So hang on a second-
This is an English guy who never even knew Australia existed, he wrote in words that are completely foreign to the majority of Australians, why are we still insisting that school students sit down and decipher his work?
Whilst in Brisbane, in the midst of our north coast NSW and QLD tour, I decided to ask myself this question. I searched through several documents and articles writen by literary scholars and professors, and the resounding reason was this:
“He is the greatest dramatist, the greatest poet and the greatest prose writer in the history of the language.”
Now, for me, if I place myself is the shoes of a year 9 student trying to read Macbeth for the first time, this statement isn’t going to mean a whole lot to me. If anything, it would probably turn me away even more, making his literature something reserved for only the scholars and intellectuals of our society. So I dug a little deeper. I came across a website debate of which the topic was ‘Should Shakespeare still be taught in schools?’ The votes were 51% no, 49% yes. I am aware that this is only one online poll with an unknown number of votes, but some of the written answers were quite profound.
“Shakespeare’s language is so old that it is almost the same as making them read Italian or Greek.”
“As a high school student, I personally find works of Shakespeare irrelevant to life today.”
“When in the world would we use his material any where else than a high school exam?”
The overarching response from the students on this poll were that, sure, he is the greatest writer the Western world has ever known- but what if I have little interest in literature? When will I use his work if I am pursuing a trade or one of the many career paths that have nothing to do with drama or art?
These questions arise time and time again in our Q&A sessions after our shows. I know for a fact that I experienced the same problems in high school looking at his work. I think the issue is that it was only after school finished, out in the world that I became aware of how what I had experienced of Shakespeare was relevant to me. When I was in school, obliged to study his work, in a time where the human experiences of the plays were unknown to me, how was it going to be possible for me to engage and enjoy reading his work?
I would encourage students feeling this way to think outside the box. Outside the confines of your English classroom and think deeper about the people Shakespeare is writing about.
He writes Juliet, the 13 year old girl, (A year 8 or 9 student today) obsessed with myths and fables about love, (not dissimilar to learning about love from Twilight) and we get to witness her experience of her first love. We learn the foolishness of Romeo’s haste, and the potential consequences of rashness. The characters in Hamlet explore grief to us, with Hamlet’s inability to grieve, Ophelia’s destruction by grief, and Laertes’ outward rage in dealing with his grief. The Friar and Nurse in Romeo And Juliet demonstrate that age and experience do not equal guaranteed success! Macbeth explores the dangers of ambition, Iago of Othello ironically teaches us to be aware of jealousy, for it ‘It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.’ I could go on all day, believe me.
Shakespeare’s plays weren’t written to be read. They weren’t written for the classroom. They are words writ to be spoken aloud, performed and observed. So try and engage with the characters as people, not just fiction, and trust that even if you don’t see value to these plays today, one day later in life you will experience circumstances or emotions not dissimilar to those Shakespeare explored. Just turn on the news and you will see the things he wrote about. The US presidential campaign could be compared with Richard the Third. Warring nations and religions are no different to ‘two households, both alike in dignity’. Everyone will experience grief. Perhaps Shakespeare is a reference- a comfort in dark times, an explanation for why people act the way they do, or simply an escape from the ‘slings and arrows’ of everyday life. Once you sift pass the confusing words, (which I assure you isn’t difficult or something to be embarrassed about, actors/ directors are constantly referring to dictionaries or footnotes to understand a scene or a phrase.) you are able to enjoy his plays as stories. He was a storyteller, and a masterful one at that. He wants to ignite our imaginations and present the follies and intricacies of humankind.
I think what I have spoken about here is presented well in this version of the Seven Ages of Man speech. Click the image for this version, by the late Billie Brown. It is a beautiful and emotional performance of a speech simply about human life.
When we’re touring, we often get questions from students about how to perform Shakespeare effectively – especially given that the language can be quite hard! Sometimes when we’re looking at a whole scene, or an entire play, it’s tough to know where to even begin! So that’s the topic of this blog: how to begin unlocking the text, and discovering clues about the scene.
Let’s look at an example of a short excerpt from Romeo and Juliet:
Give me a torch. I am not for this ambling.
Being but heavy, I will bear the light.
Nay, gentle Romeo, we must have you dance.
Not I, believe me. You have dancing shoes
With nimble soles. I have a soul of lead
So stakes me to the ground I cannot move.
So, right from the first line, we’re given a clue as to the nature of the scene. Romeo says “give me a torch.” This means it must be dark. It seems obvious, but little clues like this are often overlooked. Also, historically, the torch-bearers never danced (as they had to provide the light for everyone else) so Romeo is also trying to make sure he doesn’t have to dance, by carrying the torch. This idea of Romeo not wanting to dance is supported by the second half of the line, “I am not for this ambling.” Romeo is pretty clearly saying that he does not want to go.
In the next line, we get a clue as to how Romeo is feeling. “Being but heavy,” suggests he is feeling sad or depressed. Shakespeare often uses words that we recognise in modern language, but he uses them in a different way. Nowadays the word heavy usually means something with a lot of weight, but here, Romeo is describing himself as being weighed down by sadness.
The second half of the line shows Romeo’s wit, and Shakespeare’s clever wordplay – “I will bear the light.” Literally, Romeo is saying he will carry the torch. But there’s more to it than that! The heaviness that Romeo complains of, suggests a burden that he is carrying. Shakespeare continues this metaphor with the word “bear,” meaning to carry, and adds a clever pun with the antithetical word, “light.”
So we can see the opposites or antitheses in capital letters: “Being but HEAVY, I will bear the LIGHT.”
Mercutio answers him with some straightforward teasing. “Nay, gentle Romeo, we must have you dance!” But even here, the word “gentle” gives us a clue as to Romeo’s nature.
In the next lines, we get a little clue as to Mercutio’s physicality – the way he moves. Romeo says “you have dancing shoes with nimble soles.” He’s not telling us that Mercutio has come wearing ballet flats, he’s describing Mercutio’s agility and speed. This gives us some ideas about who the character of Mercutio is.
He then continues with another pun, or wordplay, this time using homophones. Having just referred to Mercutio’s “soles,” he then talks about his own “soul.” Two words that sound the same, but have different meanings. This use of wordplay and quick-wittedness that Shakespeare gives to Romeo throughout the play is one of the most important characteristics of who he is: he is a poet, intelligent, quick-witted and romantic; a gentle soul.
In the last line shown here, Romeo returns to the image of heaviness by referring to his soul being made of “lead.” Lead is one of the heaviest metals, but it is also a cheap and common metal, often associated with dullness. So we get a stronger sense of his depression and melancholy here. Romeo tells us that because his soul feels as if it were made of lead, and therefore very heavy, he is pinned to the ground by it, and can’t possibly dance.
As we start to unlock the language of Shakespeare, we can see just how many clues he has left for us as to who these characters are, and how we could play them. In just six lines of text, we have exposed all sorts of clues and ideas about Romeo and Mercutio, their relationship, and the time of day (or night).
Hopefully, this helps you guys who are learning scenes for English or Drama, and shows you that you don’t need to be intimidated by the language, but just go through it, line by line, word by word. Once you begin to dig below the surface, you will find that there is a wealth of clues and ideas just waiting to be unlocked! Good luck!
Felix – Team Capulet.
“… For never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet, and her Romeo.”
Blackout… applause… the lights come up, and we take a bow for the last time as a cast. We file out to backstage where we all hug and congratulate each other for a great last show; a great season of this very unique production of Romeo And Juliet.
It’s been such a blast bringing this show to life for you all. From early in the rehearsal process – when we first explored the set, learnt our lines and discovered our characters – to sharing the show with all the wonderful audiences who have come to see us at the Opera House and the Arts Centre… the whole experience has been amazing. And every cast is like a little family that you live with for a time; but like everything, eventually it finishes. No matter how many shows you do, it’s always a bit sad when it comes to an end. It reminds me of one of Prospero’s great speeches in the Tempest (which Bell Shakespeare is currently performing at the Opera House!):
“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”
So what’s next?
We’re back on the road!!
Yep – after a little sleep, a few naps, we’re back in the rehearsal room with our in school shows: Macbeth Undone, Midsummer Madness, and Just Macbeth (abridged). Now we’ve been split back to Team Ariel and Team Caliban and the competition is on! Both teams are going to Melbourne, then Team A are hitting regional Victoria and Canberra while Team C visit Tasmania.
Re-rehearsing a show that you haven’t performed in a while is pretty strange. Your mind can play all kind of tricks on you – “Is this where I moved on this line? Where have the purple flowers gone? We definitely need new magic thumbs!” – but it’s also really fun. Because we know the shows so well, we can try all kinds of different things with the characters. As an actor you can make lots of creative choices, and coming back to a show gives you the opportunity to branch out a bit.
This is also the time of year to start thinking beyond The Players… scary! One of the most important parts of being a professional actor is auditioning. It’s like having to constantly go for a job interview, and if you’re lucky you have lots of them. Some of us are starting the think about what we want to do next, and luckily we’ve got a whole year’s worth of experience under our belt which means we’ll be show-fit and ready to take on the next challenge. So keep an eye out for us, you never know what we might be doing next…
See you back in school!
THE MIGHTY TEAM ARIEL
Alright, alright, alright…….so as we draw to a close of our season of Romeo And Juliet at the Opera House in Sydney and the Arts Centre in Melbourne, everybody wants to point the finger and blame someone or something for the tragic death of these two star crossed lovers. I’m sure this has been the topic of many heated debates in the classroom, at the dinner table, with the taxi driver (although be warned that the taxi driver is never wrong…even if you say so) and even the lovely canteen ladies that feed us players DELICIOUS treats on tour.
It is therefore the perfect time for us all to sit down and work this one out together with the grand old question…. (cue dramatic music)…..
WHO OR WHAT IS TO BLAME FOR THE DEATHS OF ROMEO AND JULIET???
Now it would be easy to get all Cluedo on this and make wild accusations and start blaming one person or thing….. like it was Romeo in the Capulet’s monument with the candle stick, or Friar Laurence in the cell with the poison, or Tybalt with his sword prepared in the town square…. However, whilst these are all possibilities and contributing factors (maybe not so much Romeo with the candlestick) we need to understand the circumstances in which this ill-fated tale starts.
The prologue tells us that the Capulet and Montague families have had a long standing hatred for one another and this has now been taken to a new level of violence where blood is being spilt on the streets of Verona. This feud between the families acts as a pressure cooker throughout the play and underpins the majority of the characters actions and events which take place. The family feud causes civil unrest in Verona and the city is consumed by it.
Throughout the play we see different characters respond to the feud in different ways. On one hand, the Prince tries to lay down the law, and, on the other hand, we see the Friar trying to find peace. At the same time, fiery Tybalt seems determined to drive the feud to bloody violence in the name of honour.
The Friar envisions the union of Romeo and Juliet as bringing peace to the two warring families and agrees to marry them:
“But come, young waverer, come, go with me,
In one respect I’ll thy assistant be;
For this alliance may so happy prove,
To turn your households’ rancour to pure love.”
Whilst the Friar hatches this plan hopeful of reconciliation, the deaths of both Mercutio and Tybalt act as catalysts to accelerate the chain of events that ultimately lead to the death of the lovers. As punishment for killing Tybalt, Romeo is banished from Verona. This, coupled with the pressure of Lord Capulet’s arranged marriage of Paris and Juliet, causes Juliet to seek further help from the Friar. Again the Friar, filled with goodwill for peace between the families, devises a plan for the lovers to be reunited.
Now this is not the most foolproof plan…. it’s the old classic you-pretend-you’re-dead-by- drinking-this-potion-and-everything-will-work-out-A ok-plan…..Call it bad timing, miscommunication, or just plain old dishonesty, this plan does not (not surprisingly) work out as it was intended.
Now it may seem that the Friar is taking most of the heat for the deaths of the lovers, but the finger should not only be pointed at him. Let’s not forget that the Nurse is also in on the secret marriage and Lord and Lady Capulet have no consideration as to what their daughter wants in their hasty plans to arrange her marriage to Paris.
We can’t forget that the lovers themselves are also somewhat responsible for their own downfall – both Romeo and Juliet are young adolescents and act in haste with their love and in secret with their marriage. Some may argue that they lacked maturity, acting on their lustful impulses without any consideration or forethought, and that this caused them to make rash (and risky) decisions which eventually led to both of their deaths.
Maybe the hatred of the families also forced the young lovers to take such drastic measures and if that hatred didn’t exist maybe their love could have blossomed, all misery would have been avoided and they would have lived happily ever after …… but then we wouldn’t have the Tragedy of Romeo And Juliet.
So in regards to the question who or what is to blame for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet … Well…….it’s complicated! There isn’t just one thing or one person that is to blame for the deaths. Ultimately, it is a combination of many factors that drive the play to this end – their young love knowing no boundaries, the hatred and anger carried by their families, and the individual characters who all respond to the feuding families in their differing and often misguided ways.
Said my 15 year old self.
No, that’s a lie. I didn’t really “hate” him; I just didn’t “get” him and what he was harping on about. When I was in high school, I had some great English and Drama teachers. I remember studying Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Macbeth, King Lear probably even a Sonnet or two. English was even one of my favorite subjects in school. But Shakespeare? Nope. Nadda. No deal. The groans and sighs from the students as his plays were being handed out in class were almost unanimous. Being a bit of an English nerd, I didn’t mind too much. I remember liking the stories but the actual language itself remained a big fat mystery. Shakespeare was something old and outdated that young people (like myself back then) had no use for and were being forced to learn…
So how did I get from thinking I hated Shakespeare to working for one of Australia’s leading theatre companies touring Shakespeare to schools?
I went to a school where most of the kids were from homes that had English as a second language or languages other than English. Most of these kids were also first or second generation Australians with parents who had migrated from another country. Shakespeare’s works were not something many of us grew up with around the house. And furthermore at my school, Sports was the Arts and English’s biggest competitor; and it often dominated with our attention and appreciation.
So I left Shakespeare as a boring,incomprehensible old fart with my signed/graffitied school uniforms, old textbooks and letters on colourful Morning Glory stationary (which is like a Japanese Typo) as I farewelled high school.
Until I went to university. Here, I studied Shakespeare from an acting perspective. Not having to approach it as a compulsory English text, I realized that I had forgotten something so simple yet so essential. I had forgotten to play.
I always loved playing when I was a kid. What kid doesn’t? And actors are constantly playing- we ‘re imagining, role playing, “acting”. Our “textbooks” are even called “plays”!
This is what I ignored when studying Shakespeare in English class. My sense of play. Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be enjoyed and performed, not just read sitting down but feeling it in your body and allowing your sense of play to discover what else the words could mean. Also looking up every complex and important word I didn’t understand in a dictionary specifically for Shakespeare (even those words you think you might know as their meaning may have changed from Shakespeare’s time to now) helped enrich my understanding of what these characters were saying. Once I did all this work and research, I then let it go. So now, when hearing the lines again, the musicality and richness of the words washed over me.
Even now, I am always feeling a small sense of pride and excitement when I discover something new about the lines. A new possible thought behind them which in turn can bring a new delivery to them, a new meaning. And trust me, I am still learning and still have so much to learn. You then start to realize that his stories are not so different to those contemporary novels we read today. There’s a reason why his works are being made and remade and re-imagined. They still speak to us today because his characters feel and express emotions we still have today: love, jealousy, betrayal, lust, anger, revenge, alienation.
Plus Shakespeare’s legacy can be seen all around us. He has had such a huge influence on our language. Shakespeare invented close to 1700 words (give or take); Words such as
assassination, aerial, bedroom, bump, countless, excitement, gossip, lacklustre, quarrelsome and watchdog. Phrases such as: “A fool’s paradise”, “a sorry sight”, “all that glitters is not gold”, “fight fire with fire” ,“fair play” and “send him packing”.
Working for Bell has made me look back on this journey I’ve had and renewed my appreciation for the Bard. My struggle with understanding Shakespeare in school is a huge reason why I love this job. I get to bring Shakespeare to schools across the country; allowing students to engage and access his work in a fun and entertaining way.
Isn’t it amazing how language can be your friend or your foe. It can add to feelings of inferiority, alienation, resentment if we can’t find a way in; and on the other hand, make us feel confident, open and proud when we do. The more we understand the language we are dealing with, the more we appreciate and open ourselves to feelings of achievement and wonder. Kind of like when you order something in another language for the first time successfully.
Lucky for us Shakespeare isn’t another language. It’s literally English. Just remember to have fun and play. Do your research and you’ll master it.
That’s what I would say to my 15 year old self if I could. And also to stop spending so much money on those adorably cute stationary pads with the animals on them. Your friends you see everyday in class don’t need hand written letters telling them you’ll see them at school tomorrow Alice.
Spend it on something more important. Like gelato. Which I will do right now. Thanks Alice. You’re welcome Alice. (Insert fist bump)
— Team Ariel
Team Ariel and Team Caliban are on the road for one more month before we head into rehearsals for Romeo And Juliet. So, this week I thought I’d give you a little insight into how some of us worked on the script for our Actors At Work shows before we meet each other to rehearse.
Many weeks before we step foot in the rehearsal room, we are sent the scripts that we are to spend the year performing. As you probably know, the shows we bring you are abridged versions of Shakespeare’s plays so you can get the major scenes and a sense of the whole story in under an hour. This is no easy feat for the writers! And for us actors, first we need to read Shakespeare’s original, full length play so we know the full story we’re telling.
As beautiful as Shakespeare’s writing is, it’s not always easy to understand, so it’s good to have a dictionary handy. One of the first things many actors do is say the lines in their own words – this way you can get a more personal feeling for what your character is saying.
Shakespeare often writes in a poetic rhythm called Iambic Pentameter, which can give you an idea of which words are more important, and it can help you learn your lines quicker. It’s often referred to as ‘verse’. In Shakespeare’s time actors only had a few weeks to rehearse, so they needed all t help they could get. Each line has ten syllables, with every second syllable being stressed. It sounds like a heartbeat, or a horse galloping:
Da-dum Da-dum Da-dum Da-dum Da-dum
The rhythm of a line from Macbeth would sound like this:
So foul and fair a day I have not seen
If a character is speaking in verse but the rhythm is broken or inconsistent, this can indicate that the character is feeling unsettled.
Actors are known to do some weird things in preparing for a role, and one of them is skipping. Often to learn the lines actors will skip while speaking the words out loud to get a feeling of the rhythm of the poetry. It looks silly, but it really works!
Sometimes if a character is speaking casually, or is of a lower status, they will speak without poetic rhythm, which is called ‘verse’. The Mechanicals in A Midsummer Night’s Dream are a perfect example of this.
To get to know you’re characters, its important to go through the script ask some simple questions.
- What do I say about myself?
- What do I say about other people?
- What do others say about me?
You can also look at who they are in society. Are they a King, or Queen? A servant? A warrior? A faery? Look at the images they use in their language. Macbeth is often describing dark and horrible images, while the Lovers from A Midsummer Night’s Dream talk about beauty, longing and heartache. This gives you a great idea of what their priorities are.
All of this will feed your imagination and give you an idea of where to start. And then it’s off to rehearsal to bring it all to life!
— Team Ariel