Lesson 5: ?! or Inflections

Lesson 5: ?! or Inflections


Objective: Students will demonstrate an understanding of dramatic inflections within Shakespeare by notating inflections on the Crispian Speech.



Copies of Crispian Speech  Lesson 5.Crispian Speech


Hook : Inflections

Draw four shapes on the board representing different inflections

  1. Upward ⤴
  2. Downward ⤵
  3. Sustained →
  4. Caesura or Circumflex􀀀

After you draw them on the board, point to one and speak to the students, making sure all of your sentences end in that inflection.  After a few minutes, let them guess what all of the different symbols mean.  Have a brief discussion about why those different inflections would be important in theatre, especially Shakespeare.

  • Helps you know when thoughts are ending, when there is more, what is emphasized, and allows the actor to build tension.

Let them try each vocal inflection, and have them repeat the sounds a few times until they have it.

  1. Circumflex emphasis on a certain word. Ex. Mom! When you are whining.
  2. Sustained makes you feel like there is more coming, no punctuation. Ex But…ummm… well….
  3. Upward Inflection change in pitch going from a lower to a higher note within the vowel. Means there is more to this. Examples: Raise the pitch at the end of these words, keeping in mind what they convey with a upward inflection. “Wow! Really?”
  4. Downward Inflection This is when there is a change in pitch going from a higher to a lower note within the vowel. Most often, this change in pitch indicates confidence, finality, power and certainty. Examples: Lower the pitch at the end of these words. keeping in mind what they convey with a downward inflection. “Done, No, Go”


Activity: Inflection Improv

Have four volunteers come to front.  Tell them to improvise a scene, but that each person may only use one of the four inflections.  Get suggestions from the audience for the scene location and situation.  Let a few groups go.


Activity: Inflection Scenes

Split the class into 4 groups.  Tell them to create a rehearsed improvisation titled, “Studying Shakespeare,” but that their group may only use the assigned vocal inflection.  Allow for rehearsal times, then watch the scene.



Have a brief discussion again about why it is important to use a variety of inflections in theatre.

  • Keeps the audience engaged
  • Expresses emotion and meaning.


Activity: Crispian Speech: Part One

Give everyone a copy of the Crispian speech and display it on the projector.  Go through the speech with them one line at a time, deciding which inflection each line should end on or where inflections should be used in the middle of a line.  Afterward, have everyone say the speech out loud a few times and take time to answer any questions students may still have.



Tell the students to keep their papers with them, and that they will all be performing the speeches for a grade later in the unit.