charlotte's shakespeare tips: part two
Updated: Jun 20
OK, so now you know what your monologue means and maybe you’ve gone off and done some of your personal acting rituals like figuring out objectives/wants/goals, but you are still feeling overwhelmed or stuck in a rut. I know that when I used to feel like this it was because I felt like I couldn’t do the words justice. It’s the Almighty Shakespeare! He is a genius and the words are just too good for me! It’s at this point that I would remind myself, the character doesn’t feel like the words are good enough. If they had found the perfect way of expressing themselves they would have finished on their first line. This reminder would go some way towards squashing my anxiety about living up to the words.
Now I am feeling a little calmer I would start looking at the world of the character by doing some of these exercises:
This exercise is helpful for mapping out where people are in your imaginary world and gives you a clear understanding of who you are talking to.
Stand up and say the text, but every time you hit a pronoun, point to where the person is. If it is a memory or image of a person that you are talking about, make sure you give them their own space. Be very strict with yourself, make sure you are pointing on every pronoun and make sure that the point is coming on the word, not after or before.
You can take this a step further and do an action on every word. For example, you might say the word “little” and use your whole body to curl up as small as you can on the floor. This will free you up and will give you a lot of colour to your text.
Now say the text without actions. Notice how it has developed your relationship with different words that you hadn’t thought about before.
Sitting or standing, close your eyes. Slowly, and taking your time, say the text. On each line imagine the memories and descriptions that the character is talking about. Think about what this might bring up for them. Picture what they might have seen.
Go through your whole speech like this. As soon as you have finished go straight into your text again but with your eyes open. I find this exercise a quick way to help flesh out the character’s world.
Who Am I Talking To?
When there is no one there, it’s hard to feel like you are doing it new every time as there are no reactions to spark off. I find this exercise helps.
Think of the person you are talking to and pull out an aspect of their personality (always try to base it on the text). For example this could be your loving Dad that reads you a bedtime story every night. That same Dad could also be really grumpy in the morning without his coffee and quite dismissive. Say the text through, each time imagining a different aspect of your imaginary scene partner’s personality. I would normally try out four contrasting versions. Then do a version that encompasses all of them. On each line imagine a different version of the person before you. Keep playing around with this. It can work as endless fuel for your character.
As you can see, all of the exercises above can be used for modern monologues as well. Apart from stressing the end words of the verse line or using Iambic Pentameter to help me figure out some key words in the text I treat Shakespeare exactly the same. Don’t let the language scare you, don’t let the rules bind you. They are there to give you clues, not dictate. Do all the things you normally would and use your imaginary friend for inspiration. Above all have fun with it!