Shakespeare and the development of acting skills

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There are several reasons it may be important for actors and actresses to play Shakespeare or work with similar heightened language, rather than being solely trained in modern plays.

Historical and cultural significance:

Shakespeare’s plays are literary masterpieces and have had a profound impact on the English language and theatrical tradition. They are an integral part of Western literature and have shaped drama and storytelling for centuries. By performing his works, actors contribute to preserving this cultural heritage and connecting audiences to the historical context in which the plays were written.

Development of acting skills:

Shakespeare’s plays often involve complex characters, intricate plot lines, and rich poetic language. Performing these works challenges actors to develop their interpretation, emotional depth, vocal range, and physicality. Working with heightened language demands a heightened level of expression, requiring actors to explore nuanced interpretations and develop their vocal and physical control.

Versatility and flexibility:

Working with Shakespeare helps actors develop versatility in their craft. Shakespeare’s plays encompass a wide range of genres, from tragedy to comedy, and demand a diverse set of skills. By working on these plays, actors learn to adapt to different dramatic styles and explore a variety of characters, enhancing their range as performers.

Linguistic agility:

Shakespeare’s language is known for its complexity and richness. It often involves intricate wordplay, puns, and metaphors that are not commonly found in modern plays. By honing their skills in performing heightened language, actors gain linguistic agility and the ability to convey deeper meanings and emotions through words. This training can benefit them even when working on contemporary texts, as they develop a heightened sensitivity to language and expand their expressive range.

Intellectual and artistic growth:

Studying and performing Shakespeare’s plays can be intellectually stimulating and artistically rewarding. The depth and complexity of his writing offer actors the opportunity to explore profound themes, grapple with moral dilemmas, and engage with timeless questions about the human condition. This engagement with Shakespeare’s works can lead to personal growth and a more in-depth understanding of humanity, ultimately enriching an actor’s artistic development.

Overall, by playing Shakespeare and working with heightened language, actors not only contribute to the preservation of cultural heritage but also enhance their own artistic abilities, versatility, linguistic skills, and understanding of human nature.

Example Video: Succession – How Brian Cox Perfected Logan Roy by Just an observation

“Brian Cox delivers a masterclass performance due to his Shakespearean background, his voice

and how he uses eye contact.”

Article: What Studying Shakespeare Offers Film + TV Actors – Backstage by Andrew Wood