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Talk Like Shakespeare Day

Updated on October 9, 2014

Hear Ye, Hear Ye! April 23 be the Day to Celebrate the Bard!

'Tis cause for celebration as mayhaps this day 'twas also the birthday of said Elizabethan Bard. So do gather around, cousins, or be bunch-back'd toads for not taking this chance at rhyme in couplets or otherwise speaketh as did Will.

Good day, cousins. Well met! How now? Ah, methinks thou may be quite lost in this Shakespearean soup of a language; verily, by the time thou hast read these few words 'twill be thee cursing and insulting with the best of 'em (which, like modern-day rapping, was considered a most clever skill back in Will's day.) So a few fun rules to get thee started.


Community Shakespeare at its Best! - Orcas Island WA becomes Shakespeare's Isle once again

Shakespearean street theater
Shakespearean street theater | Source

March 21st through 23rd, 2013 is the second annual Shakespeare Festival on Orcas Island, WA. Imagine if this was your town: On the evening of March 21st, dine with the actors at a local restaurant. Hear their descriptions of the challenges of performing "Julius Caesar".

The next day, partake in an acting lesson from one of the actors, on how to fight onstage without causing any real harm, but make it look real. One class for adults, one for students. How cool is that? Then, an afternoon performance of Julius Caesar for students only.

All day Saturday, there are street performances by jugglers, musicians, and songsters. The entire community is welcome to don costumes and rub elbows with local and Shakespearean performers. Local artists, galleries, restaurants, and businesses of all types participate in the Elizabethan fun.

Small communities have so much fun!

#1 - More is better, when it comes to talking like Shakespeare

Forget the modern rules against using double negatives or more than one superlative - not only is more better, its more better than not never!

"Thou art most welcome, sire."

"Never not wanting for words, thou speaketh wondrously beautifully."

Or so I would imagine one spake in those long past former days.

Thus Spake Shakespeare

The best way to learn how Elizabethans spoke is to read lots of Shakespeare. You can go for comedy, tragedy, or sometimes both in the same play. And if at all possible, visit a city where you can see Shakespeare in the Round performed live. I loved to visit Stratford, Connecticut as a teen, and I understand that Ashland, Oregon also has a Shakespearean Theater.

#2 - Do not worry about contractions - do not use them!

Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth

Contractions were used in Elizabethan times but not as frequently as today, so you will sound most authentic by spelling words out. However do pray tell use 'twas, 'twill, 'tis by dropping the i in it now 'n' then. Same thing with the word "of"; drop the f and use o'. Where did you think "will o' the wisp" came from?

Download the PDF, field guide to Elizabethan English

Photo Credit

In case you can't read the print, Elizabeth is saying, "Unhappy man! My yielding soul is touch'd." ~ Act 4, Scene 1 of "The Earl of Essex"

To Speak or Not to Speak, that is the question - dost thou darest speak in the tongue of the Bard himself?

Shakespearean "debate"
Shakespearean "debate"

Again, thank you Wikipedia for the picture from 'Taming of the Shrew'. As you can see from the picture, Kate does not hesitate to speak HER mind!

Can you talk like Shakespeare? If Yes, you are courageous, if not, why not??

See results
take thee to a nunnery
take thee to a nunnery

#3 - Mix up the syntax of your sentences

as if you were speaking Korean or Russian, or like Yoda

Replace "get lost, stupid English grammar teacher!" with "Teacher of English grammar so soft of head, take thee to a nunnery!"

Or, something like that...go crazy, it sounds fairly intelligent, really.

picture courtesy Wikimedia

"A B or Not a B" - Sesame Street Shakespeare

Talk like God and Shakespeare
Talk like God and Shakespeare

#4 - Play God

God shalt not smite thee down dead for spaking thusly

"Thou shalt not steal" and so forth are most well done!

Methinks thou shalt get the hang of this most quickest of all just by practicing this one linguistic device!

Kudos to Wikimedia for the awesome photos for public use.

Talking Like Shakespeare on the Street

Verily, thou shalt now be blessed to harken upon the words as the Bard didst himself speak them.

Shakespearean actors talking like Shakespeare
Shakespearean actors talking like Shakespeare

Immerse Yourself in Shakespeare

Orcas Island WA became Shakespeare's Island

For a week this spring, Orcas Island, WA became "Shakespeare's Island". Wherever you walked in downtown Eastsound you met Shakespearean actors and entertainers. Students at the local high school were treated to a free performance of Romeo and Juliet and then an acting workshop.

All this thanks to the Orcas Island Chamber of Commerce, many local volunteers, and the visiting Seattle Shakespeare Company. What could your community do to learn how to talk like Shakespeare?

Photo Credit

Who deserved to die in Othello? - anyone? no one?

'Tis only fitting and proper that there shouldst be a duel in this lens - let us battle as we rewrite a Shakespearean play to our own liking. In Othello, Cassio kills Roderigo and Othello kills himself. Who should have died? One of these two or some other scoundrel? Was Othello too weak, too susceptible to his own doubts? Was Iago just making a light brunch of Othello's "milk toast" personality?

Who do you think most deserved a deadly blow in Othello?

harp player
harp player

Learn to talk like Shakespeare from the pros!

Renaissance Fair people got it going on!

Who better to teach you how to talk like Shakespeare than some of these Renaissance Fair people. They dress up for every event, slip into character, duel and share their Period crafts, skills and acting abilities. As they so kindly point out, it's just a matter of learning vocabulary, grammar, and accent, and then practice, practice, practice! Your cat won't notice your mistakes, and your best friends will play along.

Give Elizabethan Accents your best shot!

Photo Credit

dueling and insulting in Twelfth Night
dueling and insulting in Twelfth Night

Shakespearean insults

By the (tools of my trade)

Here's another quick tip: take on a persona while insulting. If you consider yourself a warrior to be reckoned with, then "By my sword, ye be a churlish knave!" might do the trick. If you be a refined young woman, then "By my maidenhead, ye assumeth much my lord" could come in quite handy.

If construction be ye trade, then "By my hammer..." and so forth; if your threat is with the written word, then "By the might of my pen..."

Oh, the delightful art of mudslinging!

A duel by sword or by words is as sweet....

Photo Credit

Alas, will nary a one be so bold as to leave me a cheery note? A brief cheerio? Godspeed, and be well!

Forthwith, ye be challenged to spake as wouldst Shakespeare!

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