Making Shakespeare Sound Natural


Students will demonstrate their understanding of scansion and phrasing by scoring their Shakespeare performance pieces.



Projection of Shakespeare monologue, projector, Shakespeare Lexicon and other resources (if available)   Iambic Poetry Activity Notes.Lesson 4



This hook focuses on playing with the poetic style of iambic pentameter. It is broken down into steps, and it is up to the individual teacher to use all of the steps or skip some. It is important to stress to students that rhyme an important poetic tool, but rhythm and rhyme scheme are as well. The hook instructions are attached to this lesson as a separate handout for convenience.



Transition – Collect poems and typed translations from the students. Talk with the students about how looking at the scansion allows an actor to discover performance clues in the text that the playwright has written. Emphasize how important it is to look at the operative words in the text, especially nouns and verbs that provide action and color to the dialogue.



Modeling – Using the same monologue as in the previous lesson, demonstrate how to analyze the text using the last few steps taught yesterday (identifying operative words, dividing up the text into phrases/beats, and discovering transitions). Be sure to read through the monologue once the steps have been taken in order to demonstrate the different performance value after doing the these elements of text analysis. Encourage the students to allow themselves much freedom in their speaking on stage. Often young Shakespearean actors err in being “too in-control” or holding too much restraint in their speech. They need to use natural punctuation and idea beats/phrasing to provide naturalness, variety, and freedom in their vocal characteristics and levels.



Instruction – Teach the students to use transitions between their beats/phrases. These transitions can be verbal, physical, blocking change, level difference, prop business, emotional adjustment, objective transformation, etc. Promote the idea of starting the very beginning of the piece with a transition – a “boom!” – that provides a strong opening to the monologue or scene.



Guided Practice – Have five students line up with their backs to a wall (make sure there are no chairs or other furniture, etc. along the entire wall) and have them spread-eagle on the wall so that the back of their heads, backs, buttocks, calves, heels, elbows, and wrists are in contact with the wall. If they are not memorized, with their scripts in hand have them speak their lines while they travel in circles along the wall. Their objective is to get their lines out while keeping as much of their body in contact with the wall while they turn around and slide along from the starting point.



Transition – Ask the students watching the wall to share their observations. What did they see? What did they hear? Talk with the students about how their voices sounded more natural because they weren’t thinking about how they sounded. They were so busy concentrating on being stuck to the wall that they spoke their lines in a natural way that went along with their struggles. Highlight any specific moments that may have worked for the students. Explain that a goal of all actors is to make the dialogue their “own” so that it comes from the character and isn’t forced or overacted.



Individual Practice – Have the students discover and score the phrases/beats in their performance pieces. Prompt them to use scansion, follow punctuation, and to create transitions between their beats. Guide them through this analytical process, encouraging them to read between the lines to find out the subtext of the scene or monologue and then play that vocally and physically. Encourage students to keep the rhythm or pace of their piece always moving – have them think on the line and give the words the emotion.



Instruction – Remind students to be working on their memorization as well as reading the script and Cliff Notes of the play their performance piece is in.



Students can be assessed through their original poetry and phrase/beat scoring.