Speak the speech

Speak the speech

"Speak the speech" is a famous speech from Shakespeare's Hamlet (1601). In it, Hamlet offers directions and advice to a group of actors whom he has enlisted to play for the court of Denmark.

The speech itself has played two important roles independent of the play. It has been analyzed as an historical document for clues about the nature of early modern acting practices and it has also been used as a contemporary guide to the performance of Shakespearean drama.

While there is some justification for each of these approaches, they should be distinguished from other, far less valid assertions: on the one hand, that Hamlet ventriloquizes the opinions of Shakespeare on the art of acting in a straight-forward and unproblematic way; on the other, that the speech offers a proto-Stanislavskian view of the art of acting. The first elides the difference between author and character, while the second ignores the historical specificity of the discourses and meanings attached to theatrical performance.

The speech

Notes

Works cited

  • Berry, Cicely. 2000. The Actor and the Text. Rev. ed. London: Virgin Books. ISBN 0863697054.
  • Carlson, Marvin. 1993. Theories of the Theatre: A Historical and Critical Survey from the Greeks to the Present. Expanded ed. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0801481546.
  • Edwards, Philip, ed. 1985. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare. The New Cambridge Shakespeare Ser. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521293669.
  • Hagen, Uta. 1973. Respect for Acting. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 0025473905.
  • Hall, Peter. 2004. Shakespeare's Advice to the Players. London: Oberon. ISBN 1840024119.
  • Merlin, Bella. 2007. The Complete Stanislavsky Toolkit. London: Nick Hern. ISBN 9781854597939.
  • Rayner, Alice. 1994. To Act, To Do, To Perform: Drama and the Phenomenology of Action. Theater: Theory/Text/Performance Ser. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 047210537X.
  • Roach, Joseph R. 1985. The Player's Passion: Studies in the Science of Acting. Theater:Theory/Text/Performance Ser. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0472082442.
  • Rodenberg, Patsy. 2002. Speaking Shakespeare. London: Methuen. ISBN 0413700402.
  • Weimann, Robert. 1978. Shakespeare and the Popular Tradition in the Theater: Studies in the Social Dimension of Dramatic Form and Function. Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0801835062.

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