Kitchener-Waterloo

Stratford Festival coaches how to speak Shakespearean English

Though understanding Shakespearean English may seem like a struggle, that it's understood at all is a triumph, says Antoni Cimolino, director of Stratford Festival's Hamlet.
Jonathan Goad brings clarity to the text of Shakespeare's Hamlet in Stratford Festival's 2015 production. (David Hou/Stratford Festival)

Did you struggle with Romeo and Juliet in high school? Was Taming of the Shrew an exercise in literary torture?

Though understanding Shakespearean English may seem like a struggle, that it's understood at all is a triumph says Antoni Cimolino, director of Stratford Festival's Hamlet

"The fact is, we have no right to understand Shakespeare quite as well as we do. He lived, after all, 400 years ago."

"And in Shakespeare's time they wouldn't have understood the language of Chaucer — which was just a little over 200 years earlier, " explains Cimolino

The festival has text and voice coaches, like Janine Pearson, who help actors interpret the scripts.

"Shakespeare's not meant to be read," says Pearson. "Shakespeare's meant to be heard; To hear the story, to hear the thought, and by that — to see the image that exists in the thought."

In the audio below, the CBC's Jackie Sharkey gets a crash course from Stratford Festival's text and voice coaches on how to deliver one of Hamlet's famous soliloquies. 

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