Why does Shakespeare write in the way he does? And how can actors and directors get the most out of his incomparable plays?
In Speaking the Speech, Giles Block – ‘Master of the Words’ at Shakespeare’s Globe – sets out to answer these two simple questions. The result is the most authoritative, most comprehensive book yet written on speaking Shakespeare’s words.
Throughout the book, the author subjects Shakespeare’s language to rigorous examination, illuminating his extraordinary ability to bring his characters to life by a simple turn of phrase, a breath or even a pause. Block shows how we can only fully understand these characters, and the meaning of the plays, by speaking the words out loud.
Drawing on characters from across all of Shakespeare’s plays – and looking in detail at Macbeth, The Winter’s Tale, Hamlet, The Merchant of Venice and Much Ado About Nothing – Block covers everything the actor needs to know, including: the essential distinctions between prose, rhymed verse and unrhymed verse, and the different strategies to be used when speaking them; the difference between ‘you’ and ‘thou’; Shakespeare’s use of silence; and the vital importance of paying attention to Shakespeare’s ‘original’ punctuation.
Speaking the Speech is a book for actors and directors who want to improve their understanding of Shakespeare’s language in order to speak it better. It is also a fascinating read for anyone who wants to deepen their appreciation of Shakespeare’s language and the way it comes to life when spoken aloud.
‘We call Giles our ‘Text Guru’ at the Globe, partly in jest, and partly out of respect for the depth of his knowledge, the gentleness of his teaching, and the sudden illuminations he can throw across a play. If this book can afford even a small part of the pleasure and insight Giles can provide in person, then it will be a great asset.’ Dominic Dromgoole, Artistic Director, Shakespeare’s Globe
‘Giles deepened my love for Shakespeare and for the way we all speak. I trust you will have a similar experience reading his book.’ Mark Rylance, from his Foreword
Blog Entry: Giles Block on 'seeing a voice'. 'Today, before I sat down to write this, I was working at the Globe Theatre with actors from the cast of our upcoming production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. So lines from that play are very much in my mind...' Read on >>
'The remarkable clarity of this book is born of the author's deep knowledge and experience of Shakespeare's language... Whatever your background and experience of working with Shakespeare, you will find new and refreshing insights here'
'Any student embarking on training, or any actor who wants to know more about Shakespeare's words and how to speak them, will learn a lot from this book.'
'If you want to know how to do something well, find yourself the best expert in the field and get them to teach you. Giles Block is currently Master of the Words at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, and has been since its opening in 1999. ... I will certainly be using [his book] the next time I direct Shakespeare.'
'a fascinating Virgilian tour through the circles of Shakespeare's language... This is a guide providing answers, in a craft demanding the rituals of mystery.'
'Fresh and innovative... a useful and valuable addition to the field of Shakespeare scholarship'
'A tour de force from a theatrical insider... a handbook that Hamlet might have given to his players'
Giles Block began his career as an actor, before turning to directing in the 1970s, and working at various venues, including the National Theatre under Peter Hall. In 1999, Mark Rylance appointed him ‘Master of the Words’ at Shakespeare’s Globe, where he has worked ever since. He has directed several plays by Shakespeare, principally at Shakespeare’s Globe and at the reconstructed Blackfriars Theatre in Virginia.
Mark Rylance is one of the most acclaimed actors of his generation. He has played many of the great Shakespearean roles, both for the Royal Shakespeare Company and as actor manager of Shakespeare’s Globe. He has won numerous awards for roles in London and on Broadway, perhaps most famously in Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem, in which he created the role of Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron.