Monday, May 6, 2024

Book Note: Speak the Speech!: Shakespeare's Monologues Illuminated

Silverbush, Rhona, and Sami Plotkin. Speak the Speech!: Shakespeare's Monologues Illuminated. New York: Faber and Fabler, 2002.

As my university’s resident Shakespeare expert, I naturally teach all the Shakespeare courses that English majors need to take, but I’m also often approached by faculty and students in other fields to answer questions or to offer advice. I’ve enjoyed talking to the music department about Mendelssohn, the history department about Shakespeare’s take on the Wars of the Roses, and the math department about campanology.

Okay, that last one was because I teach a course on Dorothy L. Sayers, but still.

Most frequently, I’m asked about Shakespeare by our theatre majors. They want to know what Shakespeare monologues they should prepare for various auditions. 

When I started out, I was relatively unprepared for the question. The ones I knew best I knew for scholarly or interpretative reasons, not performative ones. I realized that I needed to know quite a bit more and have quite a large number of options for theatre majors.

Fortunately, I found Speak the Speech!: Shakespeare's Monologues Illuminated. The book provides dozens and dozens of options, all annotated with information about length, genre, gender, and popularity (so the performer will know if they’re likely to be the only one giving this speech in an audition or the fifteenth “Is this a dagger?” that the casting directors will hear that day).

More than that, the book offers helpful notes so that performers will know what they’re saying, a substantial amount of context so that performers can place themselves in character, and (for verse options) good notes on prosody.

Here’s a representative example: Constance’s “Grief fills the room up of my absent child” speech from King John

The book has been an invaluable, oft-used resource on my shelves. I highly recommend it, especially to the actors among us.

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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2039 (and into perpetuity thereafter) by Keith Jones.

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