Monday, September 14, 2009

how I work on a Shakespeare speech

After deciding to direct a Shakespeare play, but before starting rehearsals, I spend many days studying the script. Below, I'm going to take you through some of the games I play to get a handle on the text.

As an example, I'll use the famous Saint Crispin's day speech from "Henry V." If you want to see two great examples of the speech performed, rent the Laurence Olivier and/or Kenneth Branagh movie adaptation. It's interesting to compare how those two very different actors approach the same speech.

Perhaps the greatest "cheerleader" speech ever written, Henry proclaims it to his men before they go off to fight the French. Here's the complete speech:

This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.


WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

The first thing I do is to read it without looking up any of the obscure words or references. I want to experience it the way a "virgin" audience experiences it. They won't be able to check Cliff Notes during the performance, so I need to know what will be hard for them to understand.

Truthfully, it's impossible for me to put myself in the shoes of a Shakespeare newbie. I know that "'Zounds" is short for "God's wounds" (and that vowel-sound in it is "oo" and now "ow"). I can't make myself unlearn that. So sometimes it helps for me to read the speech aloud to a "lay person" and ask him what he thinks it means.

Here are the immediate questions that spring into my mind:

- who is Crispian?
- what is "the feast" and "the vigil" that occurs on "St. Crispian's day"?
- what is a vigil?


I'm lucky that, in this speech, everything else is pretty clear and is close to contemporary language. In many speeches, I will have to look up a word or two in each line. To do this, I use many resources that I've collected over the years, which you can use if you want to know about St. Crispian (you didn't think I was going to tell you the answer, did I?) Wikipedia can also be helpful for answering historical and factual questions. Here are some particularly useful resources:

- The Oxford English Dictionary. This is a very expensive dictionary, but it's the dictionary of dictionaries. In it, you'll often find several pages defining a single word, giving all its variant meanings. You can pick up cheaper copies of it on Ebay, and pretty much every library has it. Many libraries let members access it online for free.

- Shakespeare Lexicon and Quotation Dictionary. This is a special dictionary that just lists and defines the words Shakespeare used.

- Pronouncing Shapespeare's Words. It's one thing to know what a word means, but that doesn't help you know how to say it.

Finally, and most important, I buy every edition I can find of the play itself. So if I'm directing "Henry V," I will go to a used bookstore and buy the Penguin edition, the Arden edition, the Oxford Edition, and so on. Each one has different notes. I crack them all open to the passage I'm studying and read what they have to say about it. I compare these editions to the First Folio, the first printed version of Shakespeare's plays, which is easy to find online.

Speaking of online, since it's so easy to find the plays on various websites (I mostly use playshakspeare.com), I always copy and paste the text into a Word document. That way, I can easily annotate the text.

WHAT IS ITS TRANSLATION?

Getting back to the speech: to make sure I understand it, I translate it into modern English.

This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.

Today is a holiday called "The Feast of Crispian." Anyone who is still alive at the end of the day, and gets home safe, will stand up tall (with pride) when the holiday is mentioned and will get excited by the name "Crispian."

He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'

The guy that lives through today and make it to old age will -- every year on the night before the holiday -- have a party for his neighbors and tell them "Tomorrow is Saint Crispian's" Day.

Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'

No translation necessary.

Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day:

(The "yet" here is troubling. Perhaps it means "as," as in "as all shall be forgot." Perhaps it means "as someday.")

Most old men forget (as everything will be forgotten some day), but he will remember well what feats he did that day.

then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.

Then all of our names will be as commonly spoken by him as every-day words. Harry the King, Bedford and Exetor, Warwick and Talbot, Salsisbury and Gloucester. They will be remembered whenever he makes a toast.

This story shall the good man teach his son;

No translation necessary.

And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

No translation necessary.

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother;

No translation necessary.

be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:

No matter how vile (low born?) he is, this day will make him a gentleman.

And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

And high-born men in England, now in their beds, will curse themselves for not being here (with us), and they will think of themselves as pussies compared with those of us who fought together on St. Crispin's day.


Sorry about the word "pussies," but I often find it helpful to get as slangy and colloquial as possible. The translation is just for me, and the more I can make it colorful and "just the way some guy might speak at a bar," the more accessible it will be to me.

You may disagree with parts of my translation. I'm not crazy about all of it, myself. But I'm not going to publish it (except on this blog). It's just to help keep me on track and to bring the speech down from its lofty heights.

WHAT IS IT'S METER?

Next, I scan the lines for meter. For any of you who need a refresher (or an intro -- don't be ashamed), Shakespeare wrote in blank verse. Blank verse is ten syllables long, and it alternates between stressed and unstressed syllables, like this: tee-TUM, tee-TUM, tee-TUM, tee-TUM, tee-TUM (say that aloud). For instance:


For sooth I know not why I am so sad.
for SOOTH i KNOW not WHY i AM so SAD.


What's interesting is that Shakespeare sets up this basic rhythm and then strays from it, like a Jazz performer improvising around a standard. One common variation is the feminine ending, in which there's an extra (unstressed) syllable at the end:

To be or not to be, that is the question.
to BE or NOT to BE, that IS the QUEST...... ion


He also sometimes reverses the stressed/unstressed order for one (or more) of the pairs:

Now is the winter of our discontent
NOW is the WINter of our DISconTENT


Notice how the "NOW is" reverses the order of the stressed/unstressed standard. It would be odd to say "now IS the winter..." unless someone else had just said "Now ISN'T the winter..." and you were trying to contradict him.

The "of our" is another variation, in which there are two unstressed syllables in a row, rather than a stressed and an unstressed one.

Though Shakespeare plays with these variations, he inevitably returns to the standard tee-TUM, tee-TUM, tee-TUM, tee-TUM, tee-TUM before too long. It's worth noting when he strays and when he keeps to the standard meter. Often, we can learn things from both. For instance, a character who speaks completely in regular meter may have an orderly state of mind. Another, who continually strays, may be nervous or confused.

It's important not to get too bogged down in this stuff. You and I might stress certain words differently, and there's no right way of saying a line. Scanning is a useful tool. It can help you, as long as you're not dogmatic about it.

Here's my first scan of the speech, in which I try to force it to rigidly follow the standard pattern. Say it allowed and see which lines work that way and which don't:

This DAY is CALLED the FEAST of CRISP i AN:
He THAT out LIVES this DAY, and COMES safe HOME,
Will STAND a TIP-toe WHEN the DAY is NAMED,
And ROUSE him AT the NAME of CRISP i AN.
He THAT shall LIVE this DAY, and SEE old AGE,
Will YEAR ly ON the VIG il FEAST his NEIGH ....... bours,
And SAY 'To-MORrow IS Saint CRISP i AN:'
Then WILL he STRIP his SLEEVE and SHOW his SCARS.
And SAY 'These WOUNDS I HAD on CRISP in's DAY.'
Old MEN for GET: yet ALL shall BE for GOT,
But HE'LL re MEM ber WITH ad VAN tag ES
What FEATS he DID that DAY: then SHALL our NAMES.
Fa MIL iar IN his MOUTH as HOUSE hold WORSDS [How many syllables in familiar?]
Har RY the KING, Bed FORD and EX e TER, [Do we really want to say Harry and Bedford that way?]
War WICK and TAL bot, SALIS bur Y and GLOUCE ...... ster, [difficult to scan]
Be IN their FLOW ing CUPS fresh LY re MEM ..... ber'd.
This STOR y SHALL the GOOD man TEACH his SON;
And CRISP in CRISP i AN shall NE'ER go BY,
From THIS day TO the END ing OF the WORLD,
But WE in IT shall BE re MEM ber'd; ---------- [ or "re MEM ber ED"? ]
We FEW, we HAP py FEW, we BAND of BRO .......... thers;
For HE to-DAY that SHEDS his BLOOD with ME
Shall BE my BRO ther; BE he NE'ER so VILE,
This DAY shall GEN tle HIS con DI ti ON: [ HOW many syllables in condition? ]
And GEN tle MEN in ENG land NOW a-BED
Shall THINK them SELVES ac CURSED they WERE not HERE,
And HOLD their MAN hoods CHEAP whiles AN y SPEAKS
That FOUGHT with US up ON Saint CRISP in's DAY.


Here's a second attempt. This time, I have marked lines as [ok] if they seem natural when scanned using the tee-TUM standard. I also call lines [ok] if they have a feminine ending, because this is such a common deviation from the norm:

This DAY is CALLED the FEAST of CRISP i AN: [ OK ]

He THAT out LIVES this DAY, and COMES safe HOME, [ FORCED]
HE that out LIVES this DAY, and comes safe HOME [ BETTER ]

Will STAND a TIP-toe WHEN the DAY is NAMED, [ OK ]

And ROUSE him AT the NAME of CRISP i AN.

He THAT shall LIVE this DAY, and SEE old AGE, [ FORCED ]
HE that shall LIVE this DAT, and SEE old AGE, [ BETTER ]

Will YEAR ly ON the VIG il FEAST his NEIGH ....... bours, [ OK ]

And SAY 'To-MORrow IS Saint CRISP i AN:' [ OK ]

Then WILL he STRIP his SLEEVE and SHOW his SCARS. [ OK ]

And SAY 'These WOUNDS I HAD on CRISP in's DAY.' [ OK ]

Old MEN for GET: yet ALL shall BE for GOT, [ OK ]

But HE'LL re MEM ber WITH ad VAN tag ES [ OK ]

What FEATS he DID that DAY: then SHALL our NAMES. [ OK ]

Fa MIL iar IN his MOUTH as HOUSE hold WORSDS [ OK ]

Har RY the KING, Bed FORD and EX e TER, [ FORCED ]
HAR ry the KING, BED ford and EX e TER [ BETTER ]

War ICK and TAL bot, SALIS bur Y and GLOUCE ...... ster, [FORCED]
WAR ick and TAL bot, SALIS bur Y and GLOUCE ...... ster, [ BETTER ]

Note: the "salis" in "Salisbury" is pronounced as one sylleble, as in salisberry steak. Pronunciation guides (see above) really help with this kind of confusion.

Be IN their FLOW ing CUPS fresh LY re MEM ..... ber'd. [ OK ]

This STOR y SHALL the GOOD man TEACH his SON; [ OK ]

And CRISP in CRISP i AN shall NE'ER go BY, [ OK ]

From THIS day TO the END ing OF the WORLD, [ OK ]

But WE in IT shall BE re MEM ber'd; [ PAUSE ]
But WE in IT shall BE re MEM ber ED [ NORMAL SCAN ]

We FEW, we HAP py FEW, we BAND of BRO .......... thers; [ OK ]

For HE to-DAY that SHEDS his BLOOD with ME [ OK ]

Shall BE my BRO ther; BE he NE'ER so VILE, [ OK ]

This DAY shall GEN tle HIS con DI ti ON: [ OK ]

And GEN tle MEN in ENG land NOW a-BED [ OK ]

Shall THINK them SELVES ac CURSED they WERE not HERE, [ OK ]

And HOLD their MAN hoods CHEAP whiles AN y SPEAKS [ OK ]

That FOUGHT with US up ON Saint CRISP in's DAY. [ OK ]


Why do all this? We certainly don't want to say the lines with a robotic tee-TUM rhythm. But that rhythm is there, and it's a big part of what makes the verse verse. If we study it, we get its rhythm in our bones. Once it's part of us, we can mostly forget about it. We can speak primarily for meaning, not beat. But the beat will be there.

WHAT ARE THE SENTENCES?

Next, I look at the speech in terms of sentences. I forget that's it's poetry. My goal here is to really feel the speech as a series of complete thoughts.

The punctuation is controversial, because it wasn't written by Shakespeare. Each edition of the play has its own punctuation, created by that edition's editor. This is one of the reasons I buy multiple editions. I look at each editor's choice and pick the punctuation I like best. My goal isn't to be a scholar. My goal is to find an easy, fun and exciting way to say the lines.

FIRST SENTENCE:
This day is called the feast of Crispian.

SECOND SENTENCE:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home, will stand a tip-toe when the day is named, and rouse him at the name of Crispian.

THIRD SENTENCE:
He that shall live this day, and see old age, will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours, and say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:' [ note the quotation]

FOURTH SENTENCE:
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.

FIFTH SENTENCE:
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.' [ another quotation ]

SIXTH SENTENCE:
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot, but he'll remember with advantages what feats he did that day: then shall our names, familiar in his mouth as household words, Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter, Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester, be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.

SEVENTH SENTENCE:
This story shall the good man teach his son; and Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, from this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remember'd we few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, this day shall gentle his condition: and gentlemen in England now a-bed shall think themselves accursed they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.


Would you divide up the sentences differently?

You'll notice that in this speech, the sentence structure gets more and more complicated at the end. I find it useful to break such complex thoughts up into main phrases and parenthetical side phrases. I often do this for the whole play. Here, I'll demonstrate with the sixth sentence:

SIXTH SENTENCE:
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot, but he'll remember with advantages what feats he did that day: then shall our names, familiar in his mouth as household words, Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter, Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester, be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.

SIXTH SENTENCE RE-PUNCTUATED:

Old men forget (yet all shall be forgot), but he'll remember (with advantages) what feats he did that day: then shall our names (familiar in his mouth as household words) -- Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter, Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester -- be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.


Having done this, I'll then speak the sentence with the side-phrases removed:

Old men forget, but he'll remember what feats he did that day: then shall our names be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.

That's the main point. Everything else is gravy. Putting the gravy back in, I'll try to speak it differently from the main point (the meat and potatoes): I'll rush through it or mumble it out of the corner of my mouth, the way people do when they're over-emphasizing that something is parenthetical:

OLD MEN FORGET (yet all shall be forgot), BUT HE'LL REMEMBER (with advantages) WHAT FEATS HE DID THAT DAY: THEN SHALL OUR NAMES (familiar in his mouth as household words) -- Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter, Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester -- BE IN THEIR FLOWING CUPS FRESHLY REMEMBER'D.

This is not necessarily the way I'd say it in performance. Maybe I'd decide to push all the names (Harry, Warwick, etc) instead of mumbling them. The goal here is simply to learn about the structure of the sentences and to understand their logic.

WHAT ARE THE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN SENTENCES?

Now that I've chopped the speech up into individual sentences, it's time to join it together again. Sentences don't exist as islands. They are sub-units in a larger argument. For years, I've done a crucial exercise (one of the most enlightening ones for me) with both Shakespeare and contemporary texts. I've turned all sentences into phrases in one big sentence. Whenever there's a period (or some other kind of full stop, such as an exclamation point), I replace it with a linking word or phrase, such as "and" or "for example." If there's no way to link two sentences logically, I add in the cheat link of, "Anyway, changing the subject..."

Here's my attempt to do this with the Saint Crispin's Day speech:

This day is called the feast of Crispian:
[AND] He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
AND rouse him at the name of Crispian.
[IN FACT] He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
AND say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
THEN will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
AND say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
[IT'S TRUE THAT] Old men forget: [IN FACT] yet all shall be forgot,
BUT he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: [AND] THEN shall our names.
[THOSE NAMES WILL BE] Familiar in his mouth as household words
[FOR EXAMPLE] Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
[WILL] Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
[AND SO] This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.


I speak the speech this way a few times, until I'm really comfortable with how the sentences join together into a whole argument. Then I get rid of the links and speak it normally, but I keep the links in my head. This generally allows me to say the speech as if it was a complete, logical entity.

WHAT ARE THE LINE ENDINGS?

Actors and scholars argue about how to deal with the endings of verse lines. The most extreme view points are held by folks who think you should pause at the end of every line and those who think you should only pause where you would in prose, at commas or full stops.

The end-stoppers (the former group) argue that if you don't pause at line endings, there's no way the audience can hear the verse as verse. The punctuation folks point out that often the speeches make no sense if you pause at the end of the lines. For instance, what does "And gentlemen in England now a-bed" mean? It's an incomplete thought.

A great way to straddle the two schools is to decide that the speaker knows the general idea of what he wants to say, but he's only thought out HOW he's going to say it up the end of the current line. To try this out, I pretend to be a very absent-minded speaker, and I add little phrases like so...

This day is called the feast of Crispian: [HOW DO I PUT INTO WORDS WHAT I WANTED TO SAY ABOUT IT...?]
[OH YEAH!] He that outlives this day, and comes safe home, [AND DO WHAT...?]
[OH YEAR!] Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named, [And... And... And...?]
[OH YEAH!] And rouse him at the name of Crispian. [Okay. I'M DONE.]
[OH, WAIT. ONE MORE THING! ]He that shall live this day, and see old age, [WILL... WILL... WILL WHAT...?]
[OH YEAH!] Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours, [And... And... And...?]
[OH YEAH!] And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:' [And then what...?]
[OH YEAH!] Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars. [Okay. I'M DONE.]
[OH, WAIT. I THOUT OF SOMETHING BETTER! ] And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.' [Okay. I'M DONE.]
[OH! WAIT! THERE'S MORE I WANT TO SAY:] Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot, [But.... ?]
[OH YEAH!] But he'll remember with advantages [Wait! What will he remember? ]
[OH YEAH!] What feats he did that day: then shall our names. [Okay. I'M DONE.]
[OH! WAIT! THERE'S MORE I WANT TO SAY:] Familiar in his mouth as household words [What's that guy's name? What's his name...?]
[OH YEAH!] Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter, [And.... And... And... Who else shall I pick? ]
[OH YEAH!] Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester, [Wait? What about them? ]
[OH! I KNOW ] Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd. [Okay. I'M DONE.]
[OH! WAIT! THERE'S MORE I WANT TO SAY:] This story shall the good man teach his son; [Um... What story...?]
[OH! WAIT! I FORGOT TO MENTION THAT...] And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, [FROM WHEN TO WHEN?]
[GOT IT!] From this day to the ending of the world, [BUT...?]
[But we in it shall be remember'd;
[OH! I KNOW ] We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; [WHY DID I JUST SAY "BROTHERS"?]
[OH! I KNOW ] For he to-day that sheds his blood with me [WILL WHAT...?]
[OH YEAH!] Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, [UM... WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO HIM?]
[OH YEAH!] This day shall gentle his condition: [ANYWAY, WHAT WAS I TALKING ABOUT...?]
[OH YEAH!] And gentlemen in England now a-bed [SHALL WHAT...?]
[OH YEAH!] Shall think themselves accursed they were not here, [AND WHAT...?]
[OH YEAH!] And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks [ANYONE THAT WHAT...?]
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.


I actually speak the speech this way, pretending I'm William Shatner. I always have a great time doing this. When I actually perform it -- or help an actor perform it -- my end-line pauses will become very short and many of them will vanish. But I'll have a gut sense of where each line ends, and that sense will be another tool in my belt.

WHAT IS THE RHETORICAL STRUCTURE?

In Shakespeare's day, all school children studied rhetoric. Rhetoric is the WAY you say things as opposed to the meaning of what you say. There are many well-known and effective rhetorical devices. One you might know is listing three examples. For some reason, it's more powerful to say "friends, Romans and countrymen" than it is to just say "Friends and Romans."

Shakespeare uses many rhetorical devices in his plays. Educated Elizabethans would have been able to point them out, just as nowadays, if someone says, "I am the eggman," most of us will instantly get that it's a reference to a Beatles song. Shakespeare's characters also know about rhetorical devices and use them on purpose to help sway each other.

If you're interested in rhetoric, you can study it and see how many devices you can find in Shakespeare's writing (and contemporary writing). But I find it's most important to know about two devices -- the two that Shakespeare uses constantly. They are the Ladder Of Thought and Thesis/Antithesis.

A Ladder of Thought is a build: You can see it here:

This story shall the good man teach his son;
AND [even more important] Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
AND [what's MORE!] gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
AND [MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL!] hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.


Speak this section as if each and tops the last one, and as if you'd only thought of the first one when you started speaking. "I want a cookie ... Oh! And pie.... OH! ANNNND CAKE!!!!"

Thesis/Antithesis is a fancy term for opposites. A very short one is "to be (thesis) or not to be (antithesis)." Shakespeare plays are riddled with these opposites.

Sometimes the thesis and antithesis are right next to each other, as in "to be or not to be," but other instances of the device are more complex. Sometimes the thesis comes ten or even twenty lines after the antithesis. Sometimes the thesis goes on for ten lines, only to be followed by a one-line antithesis (or vice versa).

Shakespeare plays with this device over and over, and he plays it in many different ways. It's important for actors to locate them, because if you don't know you're speaking a thesis/antithesis, you've missed the whole point of the speech.

Here are some other examples:

Now is the winter of our discontent (thesis),
Made glorious summer by this son of York (anthesis).

I am made of that self metal as my sister,
And prize me at her worth. In my true heart
I find she names my very deed of love; (thesis)

Only she comes too short... (antithesis)


In the above speech, Regan (daughter of Lear) is saying to her father, "I am just like my sister, and you should think of me the way you think of her. EXCEPT..." The whole point of the first part ("I'm just like my sister") is a setup for the second part ("EXCEPT..."). If the actress playing Regan doesn't understand that, she won't get why she's saying "I am made of that self metal as my sister."

Here's an example, from "Pericles," in which the Thesis is so long, it's easy not to notice that it is just one part of a two-part device. In the following, the Governor of Tarsus is talking about how rich his city used to be and how poor it is now:

This Tharsus, o'er which I have the government,
A city on whom plenty held full hand,
For riches strew'd herself even in her streets;
Whose towers bore heads so high they kiss'd the clouds,
And strangers ne'er beheld but wond'red at;
Whose men and dames so jetted and adorn'd,
Like one another's glass to trim them by;
Their tables were stor'd full, to glad the sight,
And not so much to feed on as delight;
All poverty was scorn'd, and pride so great,
The name of help grew odious to repeat. (thesis)

But see what heaven can do by this our change:
These mouths who, but of late, earth, sea, and air
Were all too little to content and please,
Although they gave their creatures in abundance,
As houses are defil'd for want of use,
They are now starv'd for want of exercise; (antithesis)


Is there a Thesis/Antithesis in the St. Crispin's day speech? Not an obvious one, but perhaps you could say that Henry is contrasting the men who fight with the ones who stay home:


He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition: (thesis)


And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day. (antitheis)

In fact, isn't that the argument of the whole speech? "You are going to want to fight with me so that you become legendary, as opposed to those stay-at-home cowards that everyone will forget."


OTHER GAMES

There are so many other ways to explore the language, each of which will give you a better gut feeling of the speech. If you play enough of these games, you will eventually feel that the words are yours, not Shakespeare's, and at that point, you'll sound completely natural speaking them (and they'll be a cinch to memorize).

It's worth looking at the where Shakespeare switches between short words and long ones:

This. day. is. called. the. feast. of. CRISPIAN.:
He. that. OUTLIVES this. day., and. comes. safe. home.,
Will. stand. a. TIP-TOE. when. the. day. is. named.,
And. rouse. him. at. the. name. of. CRISPIAN.
He. that. shall. live. this. day., and. see. old. age.,
Will. YEARLY. on. the. VIGIL. feast. his. NEIGHBORS.,
And. say. 'TO-MORROW is. Saint. CRISPIAN.:'
Then. will. he. strip. his. sleeve. and. show. his. scars.
And. say. 'These. wounds. I. had. on. CRISPIAN'S day.'
Old. men. FORGET.: yet. all. shall. be FORGOT,
But. he'll. REMEMBER. with. ADVANTAGES.
What. feats. he. did. that. day.: then. shall. our. names.
FAMILIAR. in. his. mouth. as. HOUSEHOLD. words.
HARRY. the. king., BEDFORD. and EXETER.,
WARWICK. and. TALBOT., SALISBURY. and. GLOUCECESTER.,
Be. in. their. FLOWING. cups. FRESHLY. REMEMBER'D.
This. STORY. shall. the. good. man. teach. his. son.;
And. CRISPIN. CRISPIAN. shall. ne'er. go. by.,
From. this. day. to. the. ENDING. of. the. WORLD,
But. we. in. it. shall. be. REMEMBER'D;
We. few., we. HAPPY. few., we. band. of. BROTHERS.;
For. he. TO-DAY. that. sheds. his. blood. with. me.
Shall. be. my. BROTHER; be. he. ne'er. so. vile.,
This. day. shall. GENTLE. his. CONDITION:
And. GENTLEMEN. in. ENGLAND. now. A-BED.
Shall. think. THEMSELVES. ACCURSED. they. were. not. here.,
And. hold. their. MANHOODS. cheap. whiles. ANY. speaks.
That. fought. with. us. UPON. Saint. CRISPIAN'S. day.


It's also worth looking at the end-ing words of each line:

Crispian:
home,
named,
Crispian.
age,
neighbours,
Crispian:'
scars.
day.'
forgot,
advantages
names.
words
Exeter,
Gloucester,
remember'd.
son;
by,
world,
remember'd;
brothers;
me
vile,
condition:
a-bed
here,
speaks
day.


Notice which words repeat:

CRISPIAN:
This day is called the feast of CRISPIAN:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of CRISPIAN.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint CRISPIAN:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on CRISPIN'S day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And CRISPIN CRISPIAN shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint CRISPIN'S day.

DAY:
This DAY is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this DAY, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the DAY is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this DAY, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's DAY.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that DAY: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this DAY to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-DAY that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This DAY shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's DAY.

NAME:
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is NAMED,
And rouse him at the NAME of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our NAMES.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

REMEMBER:
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll REMEMBER with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly REMEMBER'D.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be REMEMBER'D;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

LIVE:
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outLIVES this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall LIVE this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

FORGET:
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men FORGET: yet all shall be FORGOT,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

WE:
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But WE in it shall be remember'd;
WE few, WE happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.'

HE:
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
HE that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse HIM at the name of Crispian.
HE that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast HIS neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip HIS sleeve and show HIS scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But HE'LL remember with advantages
What feats HE did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in HIS mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach HIS son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be HE ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle HIS condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

SAINT:
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is SAINT Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon SAINT Crispin's day.

GENTLE:
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall GENTLE his condition:
And GENTLEMEN in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.


Notice which structures repeat:

THIS DAY is called the feast of Crispian...
THIS DAY shall gentle his condition...

HE that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
WILL stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
AND rouse him at the name of Crispian.

HE that shall live this day, and see old age,
WILL yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
AND say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'


Notice the pairings:

This day is called the feast of Crispian:

[ He that outlives this day, AND comes safe home, ]

[ Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
AND rouse him at the name of Crispian. ]

[ He that shall live this day, AND see old age, ]

[ Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
AND say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:' ]

[ Then will he strip his sleeve AND show his scars. ]
[ A TRIPLE: And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.']

Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king,
[ Bedford AND Exeter, ]
[ Warwick AND Talbot ], [ Salisbury AND Gloucester ],

Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed

[ Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
AND hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day. ]


Notice the lists:

This day is called the feast of Crispian:
1. He that outlives this day,

and

2. comes safe home,

Will

1. stand a tip-toe when the day is named,

And

2. rouse him at the name of Crispian.

He that shall
1. live this day,

and

2. see old age,
Will
1. yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,

And

2. say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'

Then will he
1. strip his sleeve and show his scars.

And

2. say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'

Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages

1. What feats he did that day:

2. then shall our names.

Familiar in his mouth as household words

1. Harry the king,

2. Bedford

and

3. Exeter,

4. Warwick

and

5. Talbot,

6. Salisbury

and

7. Gloucester,

Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall
1. think themselves accursed they were not here,

2. And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.


Notice (and speak) the sensual words:

This day is called the FEAST of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will STAND A TIP-TOE when the day is named,
And ROUSE him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and SEE OLD AGE,
Will yearly on the vigil FEAST HIS NEIGHBORS,
And SAY 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he STRIP HIS SLEEVES and SHOW HIS SCARS.
And SAY 'THESE WOUNDS I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men FORGET: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll REMEMBER with advantages
What FEATS HE DID that day: then shall our names.
Familiar IN HIS MOUTH as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be IN THEIR FLOWING CUPS freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man TEACH HIS SON;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that SHEDS HIS BLOOD with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall GENTLE HIS CONDITION:
And gentlemen in England now A-BED
Shall think themselves ACCURSED they were not here,
And HOLD THEIR MANHOODS cheap whiles any SPEAKS
That FOUGHT with us upon Saint Crispin's day.


Notice (and speak) the sounds:

This day is called the feaSSSSST of KRRRisPEEan:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a TTTiPPP-TTTOOOOW when the day is named,
And ROUSE him at the name of KRRRisPEEan.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feaSSSSST his NAAAAAYbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint KRRRisPEEan:'
Then will he STRIP (spit the P) his sssssssleeve and shhhhhhhow his SKarrrrrrrs.
And say 'These WOOOOONDS I had on KRRRiSPin's day.'
Old men forgeTUH: yet all shall be forgoTUH,
But he'll remeMMMMMMber with advaaaaaaantages
What feaaaatttts he DDDid that DDDay: then shall our names.
FaMMMMiLLLLLiar in his MOOOOOOWTH as HOOOOOWZhold words
Harrrrrry the king, Bed - Ford and Ex.et.er,
War-Wickkkk and Tallllbotttt, Saaaaaal'bury and Glooooooowster,
Be in their flooooooowing cuPS FRRReshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teeeeeach hizzzzzon;
And KRRRiSPin KRRRisPEEan shall ne'er goooooo biiiiiii,

- etc --


WHAT ARE THE ACTIONS?

You're now ready to move on from thinking about the speech as a poem to thinking of it as something a real-life character says. The Russian theorist and director Stansilavsky (who influenced the way most actors are trained today), suggested that you break a speech down into actions. An action is something you're trying to do -- usually to another character or characters. In this speech, Henry is trying TO SWAY THE CROWD.

But that's not granular enough. HOW is he trying to sway the crowd? There's no right answer, but let's go through the speech and try to come up with actions for each part:

MAIN GOAL: enlist the men

SOUND THE GONG, RAISE THE CURTAIN
This day is called the feast of Crispian:

PROMISE
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.

PROGNOSTICATE
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'

FORTELL,
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'

CUT OBJECTION OFF AT THE PASS BY STATING IT YOURSELF, ANTICIPATE OBJECTION,
SPOIL YOUR OWN ARGUMENT
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,

REBOUND FROM DEFEAT, POUNCE ON THE ENEMY
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day:

SERVE THE CAKE
then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words

POINT AT PEOPLE IN THE CROWD AS EXAMPLES
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.

PROCLAIM, FORECAST
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;

EMBRACE
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother;

REHABILITATE
be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:

MOCK, INVITE FRIENDS TO MOCK (US vs. THEM)
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.


Having done all this -- and it was a joy to do -- I now feel ready to meet with the actor playing Henry (who has done similar work). We'll have plenty to talk about! In the end though, when he performs, his goal should be to let all these exercises go. He needs to do them until they are a part of him -- until the language is a part of him. Then he needs to forget them and just perform.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey, I teach a Shakespeare course at a high school and would like your permission to use some of your ideas. I found your analysis very useful and insightful. I will check back here for a comment.

Marcus said...

Absolutely! Please do. And let me know how it goes!

Anonymous said...

Thank you. The kids will have to dissect a speech using several of your (and other) methods. I take them through some excercises I found in Barry Edelstein's Thinking Shakespeare book to practice saying the words and lines. The final result is a professional reading of the speech using some of the techniques. They cannot act out the speech. It's all voice. If nothing else, this exercise shows them just how much is involved in Shakespeare's writing, especially the longer speeches. Thanks again, Greg

Marcus said...

You sound like a great teacher! Let me know about the results.

If you can afford them (over $400, alas), take a look at the "Working Shakespeare" DVDs. Chock full of great exercises.

http://www.amazon.com/Working-Shakespeare-Library-Cicely-Berry/dp/1557835381

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dana said...

Phenomenal approach. I have tried a bit of this in Public Speaking class, but now I see we could spend a week on it. Thank you for activating such a great text! -- Dana

Anonymous said...

Thank you, very helpful. :-)