Shakespeare in the Park

Following the process of putting together an outdoor Shakespeare experience!

   Dec 01

A Shakespearean Speech in 10 Steps

From Patsy Rodenberg’s Speaking Shakespeare.

If you need to review anything click on “Education Series” under “Category” and see all the posts that correspond to the steps here!


1. Get a clean copy of your speech with plenty of room for markings. Read it silently to yourself.

2. On the back, in a single statement write a summary of what the speech is about.

3. Read it out loud to yourself and feel the words. What is the emotional response the feel of the words gives you? Again, write this initial reaction to the words on the back of the sheet.

4. Now scan the text.

–Note the variations in the rhythm.

–Consider what is happening that causes the break in the rhythm.

5. Look at the last words of the lines in the speech.

–What does this tell you about the thought structure of the speech?

–Read it with a clap and emphasis on the last stressed syllable.

6. Mark where the thoughts begin.

–Mark the punctuation. Highlight each comma, period, colon, etc.

–Walk your speech.  Find the shifts in the thought.

–What changes as the thought changes? (Pace? Volume? Etc.)

–How does this change the way you speak the text?

7. Look for Antithesis, rhyme, irony, puns, repetition. Underline them

— How do they change the feel of the speech?

— How do they increase the intensity?

8. Read the speech for imagery.

–When you find it close your eyes and say the text out loud. See it.

— What do the word choices do for the imagery?

— What does the imagery say about the character? Write this on the back of the paper.

9. Put the speech down and think through it, thought by thought. You should know it well enough at this point to not need the text in front of you.

— Breathe and center yourself.

–Exhale on ahhhh three times.

10. You are ready to perform this speech.

   Nov 30


Many actors struggle with the “flowery” language…


–  What does the images that are being evoked say about the character?

  • Remember word choices as you read them!
    What say you? Hence
    Horrible villain! or I’ll spurn thine eyes
    Like balls before me; I’ll unhair thy head:
    Thou shalt be whipp’d with wire, and stew’d in brine,
    Smarting in lingering pickle.

    The images being created are very specific.

You need to be able to see the image in your own mind clearly.

  • You need to see it as you speak it, do not anticipate it. Be in the moment.

Only one more post in the education series to go!! Need to review anything? On the right side click on the “Education Series” under “Categories” about halfway down!!

   Nov 28


This is the icing on the cake. You need to be aware of what else is happening in the text…


With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage (Hamlet)

O brawling love! O loving hate! (Romeo & Juliet)

-Explores two extreme sides of an issue within a line or a thought.

-Gives the character more emotional depth.

– It’s part of the reasoning process: think of how frightening it is when you encounter a person who has no room for doubt in their thinking or cannot see multiple sides of an issue.

–  Be aware of the lack of antithesis in a character’s speech.

-Think of it as the conscience of the speech. Look at your speech and see where you can find your character playing two opposite ideas against each other.

**Beyond in lines you will also find it in scenes, which will quickly escalate the tension in the scene.

**You can also find it in the overall concept of the show. All or nothing, love and hate, lust and restraint, respectability and disreputability.


-When it is used it has been done deliberately so it must be played.

-It often feels childlike, and can be used to conceal sinister intent.

– It can also be used to show off as a bravaura speech. You must be clever to rhyme.

– Lovers like rhymes.


THESEUS. Would you desire lime and hair to speak better?
DEMETRIUS. It is the wittiest partition that ever I heard discourse, my lord.

A little more than kin, and less than kind (Hamlet)

-When a character means the opposite of what s/he is saying.

NOT sarcasm.


Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious by the summer sun of York. (Richard III) (Sun? Son? Hmmm…)


GERTRUDE: Thou know’st tis common that all lives must die,

Passing through nature to eternity.

HAMLET: Ay, madam, it is common. (Hamlet)  (Common= prostitute, AND something all living creatures do)

– These can take the most work, often you have to learn works that had additional meanings 500 years ago.

-Read it out loud to hear the homonyms.

-Don’t be afraid to find the dirty puns. Often the most fun lines have multiple meanings- and some are quite obscene!

-This happens most frequently in dialogue. When characters start to pun with each other it creates a bond between them.


Set down, set down your honourable load, (Richard III) 

-Typically indicates a character being overwhelmed.

-Each repetition needs to be different from the previous instance and grow more intense.

   Nov 26

Adding In Thought

This might be the most difficult lesson. Work with this one a while.


-This is where we begin to grow a speech. Thoughts come in order, and you have to fully open one thought before you can move onto the next thought.

-To ignore the thought is to simply be reciting words.

-You have to take the energy all the way through  the thought. To drop the energy will lose the thought, and in losing the thought you will lose the audience.

-Thoughts are signposted by punctuation.

  • A full stop: a colon, a period, a question mark or an exclamation mark is often the end of a thought.
  • Commas mark turns and diversions within the thought- typically not the end of the full thought.
  • You cannot run over punctuation. Acknowledge each comma, period, etc.

Thoughts can go on for many, many lines! Some are as short as less than one line, some are over 12 lines long! Typically a speech will have between 3-5 major thoughts within it. If a character has more they are clearly in turmoil… less shows a clear path and idea.


-Get a partner and then a speech. Read it.

-Read the speech out loud to each other like a conversation-switch readers whenever the thought changes.

  • If they drop the energy start over and have them push against your hand harder and harder until the thought is done to grow the energy throughout. No partner? Push against the wall, increasing in intensity until the thought is complete. Start over at the next thought.

Activity #2: (Outside if possible! Or a place with a lot of room to move around.)

-Select a speech.

-Read it out loud and walk it. Turn each time you feel the thought change direction. Let the changes happen as you feel them.

Example: To be (turn) or not to be (turn) that is the question.

  • Challenge: Try to walk the rhythym of the speech. Allow the iambic to dictate your steps.
  • In turn, allow the text to dictate your speed. Does the iambic flow quickly or slowly? Does it change with each thought?

-Read it again out loud and on each turn vary something in your vocal quality. Get louder or whisper, do a different voice.  It doesn’t have to fit the text, just get accustomed to changing on each thought.

-Stand still. Breathe. Eyes closed, think through the speech you just did silently to yourself.

Think about your speech for a moment and take a walk around. Loosen up.

-Mark where each thought begins. (Not the developments within the thought)

  • In another color mark where the thought begins to shift.

-Talk yourself through the speech, thought by thought in your own words.

-Standing still read the speech one last time to yourself, keeping the discoveries about the thought progression in your vocal quality.

Final thoughts: Learn a text thought by thought rather than line by line.

When you don’t understand a line or a section of a speech go back to the beginning of the speech and unlock it stage by stage, line by line.

   Nov 24

The Line

The Line

-Don’t flatten the verse into prose. (Tempting because it sounds more modern)


-Take a speech

-Observe the first word of each line. Read the first four lines to yourself, only vocalizing the first word.

-Do the same, only vocalizing the last word.

-Look at the collection of last words, and observe what that says about the concerns of the speech.

**This is your scaffolding of how the speech moves.

– Now begin to do building blocks. First word, breathe. First and second. Breathe. First second third, breathe. Etc to the end of the line. Feel the power of the line begin to grow.

– Read the first four lines to yourself. On the last stress of the line make a large clap. (Not a golf clap!)

Final Thoughts: Too often actors commit to half a line and mumble the rest. You need every word and every line.

   Nov 22

Broken Iambic

From Patsy Rodenberg’s Speaking Shakespeare

Sometimes the rhythm of the line will break or change if the character is emotionally distressed. Here are some of the variations in the iambic you need to be aware of:


Now is the winter of our discontent (Richard III)

Gallop apace you fiery footed steeds (Romeo & Juliet)

I take the offer then: pay the bond thrice. (The Merchant of Venice) 

-Flip the first foot’s stresses so the first word is stressed.

– Mid line ones show interruption of thoughts.

– Will only happen at the beginning of the line or after punctuation!

-They mark when something important has happened and stresses the more important word.


To be or not to be that is the question. (Hamlet)

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, (The Tempest)

– Shows indecision

-Softens the line

-Ends on an extra unstressed syllable and one half feet.


Love, and be silent. (King Lear)

– Beat out the remaining feet- that is how much silence you need to put after the line. The above example has 2.5 feet of silence after the last word.


LEAR: But goes thy hear with this?

CORDELIA: Ay, good my lord.


HAMLET: Consent to swear.

HORATIO: Propose the oath, my lord.

 – The combination of the lines makes a perfect 5 foot line.

– The actors need to reahearse these to come right after each other with no hesitation. (The continuation of the perfect line shows that there is no pause between the short lines.)

– This means you not only have to scan (mark the stresses) on your lines but the lines before and after yours- AND while acting be paying attention (remember the listening activities?!).


It wearies me; //you say it wearies you (Merchant of Venice)

– This is a full pause in the line, marked by a //

– Not every line has them, be aware of where there could be a full silence. Don’t be afraid of silence on stage!!


In’t, as’t, hea’en, o,  lock’d, accomplish’d

In Shakespeare’s time the “ed” at the end of the word was frequently pronounced. (Now we would mark it as “pronounce-ed”- but that is not the case in Shakespeare’s text!) If there is an apostrophe then you can use the modern pronounciation because it is shortened.

– “As it” becomes “as’t”… “It were” becomes “twere”… it’s a contraction of words we no longer contract.

– The letter “v” also frequently dissapeares to make words like “heaven” a one syllable word “he’an”.


-Take a monologue and a pencil and scan the first two lines

  ** Proof it by reading it out loud using the stresses. Does it work?

 ** Make necessary corrections.

** If you think something is “wrong” figure out if it can work both ways.

-Have someone else scan a speech and try to read it with their scanscion marks.

Final Thoughts: You can spend hours examining iambic and line length. Each time there is an irregularity, the content will be highlighted and sense and intention made clearer. This is not easy, and often takes much, much practice for it to come naturally. Keep working at it!!

   Nov 20

Iambic- Round 1

Iambic:  (From Patsy Rodenberg’s Speaking Shakespeare)

What is it?

  • The heartbeat of the words. Finding this will help you discover the pace of the text.

Practice: de DUM de DUM de DUM de DUM de DUM. (Emphasize the capatalized words)

-Walk it and say it out loud.

-Now start to put extra emphasis on the last DUM. Clap on the last DUM.

Read out loud and emphazise the iambic meter:

When I do count the clock that tells the time.

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks  (<– note that words can be split between the syllables)

The quality of mercy is not strain’d


-Create a couplet (2 lines) in iambic pentameter. (Double points if you can make the lines rhyme!)

-Learn how to mark it to indicate stressed syllables. Over the words, put a flat line  over unstressed syllables and a upright dash over stressed. Perfect iambic pentameter looks like this: – / – / – / – /- /

-Count the total syllables. Note if it is an even 10 or if there are more or less.

-Don’t force the line to fit into the iambic, you will know when it breaks.

-Each set of one unstressed and one stressed syllable is called a “foot”. There are typically 5 feet in a verse line.

Thus far we have worked with perfect iambic. However, it is the breaks that indicate trouble, and give each line more specificity.

   Nov 18

Beginning Structure

Education series is from Patsy Rodenberg’s Speaking Shakespeare.

Alliteration, Assonance & Onomatopoeia

-Alliteration: Grouping of consonants together

-Assonance: Grouping of vowels together

-Onomatopoeia: Words that sound and feel as they mean, expressing by sound what they represent.

Play with these words in your mouth; see if the way it feels to say it is the same as what it means:

– Uneven — jagged

-Take — Give






Final thoughts: Think about why a specific word is used in the text. Shakespeare does not choose his words arbitrarily.

   Nov 16



-Perhaps the hardest thing to learn while doing Shakespeare is to learn to fully listen to what is happening around you while you are performing. To practice this skill try the following things:

  • Listen to yourself breathe.
  • Then notice how many other noises you are able to hear. Start listening to what is closest to you and move away. Stretch your ears are far as possible.
  • Listen to the music of someone else’s speech patten. Do they end sentances with an upward inflection? Downward? Does it stay the same or change?
  • Listen to the words people choose to emphasize in their speech.
  • The challenge: listen to a viewpoint that is not your own. Don’t think of your rebuttal, why you disagree or anything about yourself. Simply listen to it. Analyze how they are speaking rather than what they are saying.

   Nov 14

Looking At Word Construction

Word Construction

-You must be able to speak clearly in order to be understood, and also to find the resonance within the words.

Compare: O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven (Hamlet)

To: What studied torments, tyrant, hast for me? (A Winter’s Tale)

-Compare the use of vowels and the hard Ts and Ds. What does this tell you about the emotion of the speaker? (Read out loud. Make sure you can hear the difference in the words!)


-Take a monologue. Read the first two lines (at least) twice, making sure to pronounce your vowels correctly and hit the consonants.  Simply read clearly. Don’t act the lines- emotion will come through the word construction. Find someone to give you feedback.

– On the first time through have the listening partner listen to make sure the speaker is hitting the consonants correctly and hard. Make needed corrections.

– On the second read through discuss what emotions are shown by the word construction.

Conclusion: You must be a clear speaker to find the emotion in the words themselves (beyond the meaning of the words) and to woo the audience into listening to you.