365 Days of Shakespeare

That's right – the Bard in a year.

249. The importance of diction

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Part of an actor’s job is to deliver their lines with excellent diction. This is not only because it is important for the audience to be able to hear every word – but it is just as important for the audience to understand each word. Though this is of course vital to the performance of any play, it is especially so when it comes to the works of Shakespeare.

Shakespeare’s plays are so incredibly famous, so known for their most popular lines, that an audience will leave highly disappointed if they hear the “To be or not to be speech” from “Hamlet” begin “Tuh be er naw tuh be”! Since many audience members going to see these plays may not be familiar with the script apart from those most famous lines and speeches, it is imperative that the rest of the show be comprehensible to them! Otherwise the play will risk only being remembered for an overly quoted soliloquy, rather than for the many beautiful exchanges besides.

One other reason that excellent diction is especially necessary when it comes to performing the works of Shakespeare is because his plays tend to be fraught with sub-plots. Take, for example, the marvelous comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, one of his most popular plays. Not only are there three main plots (plus a sub-plot), but those three plots overlap time and time again so that even those familiar with the script may find themselves wondering just what exactly is happening. In plays like this, or in the histories when dealing with kings that we in America may not be very aware of, or in the tragedies during those long monologues bemoaning the hero’s misfortune, it is so important for every word to come out crisp, clear, and understandable.

Of course, the main argument to encourage actors to use their best enunciation while performing these plays is that they ought to do so out of respect. Shakespeare’s plays are regarded as some of the best, if not the very best, theatrical masterpieces in the English language. Like them or not, we all must admit that Shakespeare’s influence on literature is almost mind-boggling in its breadth. When an actor is given the privilege of portraying one of these most famous characters, they ought to do so to their best ability, with every word ringing clear as a bell, so that all audience members might be moved by the prose.


Written by Caroline Mincks

June 7, 2010 at 5:48 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

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