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Wherefore Art Thou Courage?…to Tackle Shakespearean Theatre

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You may have loved Shakespeare in school.  Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet – it’s hard not to be captivated by the famous prose.  Yet, reading it and acting it out can prove to be a totally different experience.  To be or not to be…a renowned Shakespearean actor.  That is the question.

Many actors don’t even give Shakespeare’s wordsmithing a second glance.  To say the rhythmic iambic pentameter intertwined into early modern English is tough to recite (let alone memorize and perform) is an understatement.  But it really doesn’t have to be so tough.  Backstage offers some insight.

Compare the old with new. Study the Shakespearean text alongside a more modern version.  This way you can really get a sense of the storyline and understand the characters without tripping up on the words.  If you get too caught up trying to annunciate all of the nuances, it’ll be pretty difficult to get a solid sense of what is actually happening in each scene.  As an actor, it’s your job to not only memorize lines but to evoke emotions in an audience by getting to know the ins and outs of the script and the character you’re slotted to portray.

Educate yourself on the dreaded iambic pentameter. In this type of prose, there are ten syllables per line and every second syllable is stressed.  Understand when you need to pause between words and sentences.  But when you speak the lines, don’t put emphasis on the rhythm or it will sound too rehearsed.  Instead, note the punctuation and allow it to flow naturally.  Shakespeare would often switch up normal sentence flow in order for the pattern to continue.  However, doing so did not change the context or the message being conveyed.  This will take some getting used to

Highlight every ‘huh?’.  Shakespeare had a large vocabulary and he also coined new words.  So, if you’re stumbling on a word that you have never heard of before, or you don’t quite know it’s meaning, highlight it and make sure to look it up.  Again, it’s important to understand the context of what’s being said so you can really perform in a scene

If you’re set on conquering the world of Shakespeare, it is possible, believe it or not.  It just takes some extra practice and perhaps some brushing up on your history.  It’s not for the faint of heart, but just as the famed playwright, actors who can pull it off certainly aren’t forgotten.

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