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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dame Judi Dench & Listening To Shakespeare

Not long ago Dame Judi Dench was interviewed and she said that she would perform a Shakespeare play every night, if she could. She also said that she tries to read a sonnet every day.

And far from making her spine tingle, the words make her cry sometimes!

She goes on to recite a passage from Anthony and Cleopatra.

I don't know about you, but I could listen to Judi Dench read Shakespeare every day. She has this terrific sensibility with the words that is unlike any other actress or actor.



I found another recording of her reciting Sonnet 116.

And today it was announced that she is releasing a CD of excerpts from Shakespeare, and recited by herself, David Suchet, and others. I encourage you to buy it and listen to it.

Why?

Because I think all too often Shakespeare is merely read from a book, and is not spoken aloud.

Shakespeare himself did not have any interest in publishing his plays during his lifetime. His actors did not read from books. The audiences did not go to see a play, but rather to "hear" a play.

So, I strongly encourage you to open up a favorite passage from a play, or find a sonnet or two you like, and read them aloud. Listen to the way the words sound. 

If you need some inspiration, you can take a look at these videos of Patrick Stewart, Stephen Fry, Dominic West, Harriet Walter, Simon Russell Beale, David Tennant, and others as they recite all of the sonnets. Try listening with your eyes closed.

Pay particular attention to Ben Crystal as he reads sonnet 141 in OP, original pronunciation, which was the way in which Shakespeare and his actors really spoke. It is quite exciting since it does away with the received pronunciation that most all actors are afflicted with, and it makes the language very accessible, even to our modern ears.

The next time you feel the urge to watch a DVD of a Shakespeare play, read the play as you watch, and pause the film occasionally and try reciting the lines yourself.

As I wrote my versions of Hamlet, Richard III and The Merchant of Venice, I practiced this and it was a lot of fun. I also came to discover that there is more humor in Shakespeare than you might think. A lot of it is bawdy.

So, whenever you recite a passage from Shakespeare's plays, imagine the sound of laughter, from a grateful audience, who appreciate your performance.

It might just take you one step closer to understanding who Shakespeare really was, and what he really wrote.

Cheers,

David



If you like this, you may like these other blog posts about Dame Judi Dench:

Dame Judi Dench and Shakespeare Solved

James Bond 007 Skyfall and Shakespeare

Shakespeare In Love, Part Two?