At Acting Coach Scotland, we work with people from all over the world on preparing for drama school and college acting auditions. My colleague Nick J Field and I spend a considerable amount of time on the dreaded classical Shakespeare monologue.
Most applicants only experience of Shakespeare has been school and generally these have not left a good impression. The idea that most young people read Shakespeare for fun aged 17 and 18 (like I did) is somewhat fanciful.
Here is my cheat sheet for tackling Shakespeare monologues:
Break It Down
First break it down into chunks. Remember that this piece of writing has chunks - segments and sections which help to tell the story of the monologue. At Acting Coach Scotland, we coach our clients to break down their monologue into the following chunks.
Each Shakespeare monologue starts with a question, a problem, a task to undertake. The opening line, what director Adrian Noble calls the ‘Headline’. This is where the story starts and grabs the audience’s attention. It starts on the first line and is designed to intrigue the audience.
Whatever question, problem or task is undertaken in the Hook is explore in this next chunk. Usually the dramatic tension drops for a while and then starts to build as we head towards the...
Usually found towards the middle of the speech, here the direction of the story take a turning. A turning or tipping point which delights the listener as it starts to head off in a different direction from the one initially started in the hook.
In this chunk, we are decreasing tension from the Turning Point, as we explore the change the Turning Point provoked. This builds to the...
The moment of make or break in the story starts in the Hook. The ‘will-she/won’t-she’ moment. It is at this point, the question, problem or task posed reaches its decision point.
One way or another, the decision is made and a final resolution to the question, problem or task posed in the Hook.
Draw boxes around these sections in your script to remind you to tackle each chunk separately. Read the Monologue through until each chunk feels like a separate section. Each chunk should have its own intensity.
In the next part, we’ll reveal a secret in Shakespeare’s writing that will really help your Shakespeare Monologue ZING!
To You, The Best
Mark Westbrook is the author of the soon-to-be-released eBOOK - APPROACHING SHAKESPEARE - A Guide to Fearlessly Tackling Shakespeare Monologues for Drama School and College Acting Auditions.