Posts Tagged ‘iambic pentameter’

Shakespeare's rhythmIn this video, the RSC looks at what can be found in the rhythm of Shakespeare’s verse, including contributions from Cicely Berry

Teaching Shakespeare | Introducing Iambic Pentameter |Royal Shakespeare Company – YouTube

If you are interested in the basics of iambic pentameter, you may find this Discover Fine Acting article helpful:

Shakespeare’s Verse: Iambic Pentameter – It’s Easy!

Any questions, feel free to ask!

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Call me before the exactest auditorsHere is a link to a well-thought-out and highly useful post by Mark Westbrook*:-

Doing a Shakespeare Monologue for Drama School Audition

The sections he covers are: Monologue Choice, Style of Performance, The Heartbeat, Speeching and Headline.

Adding to these sections, here are a few Discover Fine Acting extras, including the most important point of all…

Monologue Choice

This should be obvious, but it is worth a mention nonetheless: be sure to check the criteria set for the audition!

Some schools have a particular list of audition pieces from which to choose. Some schools state which pieces they will not accept.  Just to be really helpful, you can find these two opposites mentioning the same pieces, so make sure you are really clued up on what is wanted by the schools for which you are applying.

If you are set on a choice for one which is not accepted at another, you will have to work on more monologues than usual – be realistic about the time and work you have to put in to cover however many monologues you will need! (And remember to choose a Shakespeare piece and a contemporary piece that are contrasting.)

Style of Performance

Heightened performance which uses Shakespeare’s verse pays attention to the words at the end of a line – the break is there for a reason.

There are many ways in which trying to heighten delivery / use verse can ‘falsify’ your performance, so if you cannot get help from someone who understands these aspects, just bear in mind that the last ‘strong’ word of a line (usually the very last word) is important. A ‘strong’ word falls on the ‘dum’ beat of the ‘duh dum’ line – see Heartbeat below.

Do not try to force something onto that word, just know – as you work with your text – that it is worthy of attention.

If you can connect with someone able to help, then you can explore such aspects in depth without making technique the be-all and end-all.

Should you wish to work with me – Danielle Farrow of Discover Fine Acting – you can get in touch via www.discoverfineacting.com. Also, of course, you can ask questions in the Comments section below.

The Heartbeat

First, a reiteration of Mark’s point: unless you have checked with the school on this matter, make sure you are using a verse piece. This is part of what Shakespeare in auditions is all about.

The ‘music’ of Shakespeare is based on that ‘duh dum, duh dum, duh dum, duh dum, duh dum’ rhythm (known as iambic pentameter). Shakespeare often then ‘riffs’ on it, playing around a bit. Here lies his incredibly helpful direction for acting. If you are not familiar with using this rhythm, take steps to change that.

You can find help on the basics here, and – again – it can be worth finding someone in the know to work with.

Such technical aspects are part of your preparation and should not be what you are thinking about in performance. They are building blocks for your work, not the results of it!


Another very important point! You are speaking aloud, so make sense of that and speak to a particular person. This person can be fictional or someone from your own life – whatever best works for you.

General note: do not fix directly on someone auditioning you unless you have expressly gained permission to do so – above head(s) usually works best, with you being specific in your imagination about the person / people you are speaking to.


A useful tip there, regarding the first line, and here is another:-

Read out the last strong word of each verse line and you will find the story / journey of the speech. Say each of these line-ending words in order, with thought and feeling for what these words mean in context.

Which leads to…

The most important point of all…

You must know what your words mean!

You must make these words your own – it is you the auditioners want to see.


Mark Westbrook is a Professional Acting Coach and runs Acting Coach Scotland, a private acting studio offering acting classes in Glasgow, masterclasses, workshops and audition coaching for actors at all levels. His acting studio is based in Glasgow, Scotland, although he teaches all across the United Kingdom.

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Have been looking forward massively to this Ask Shakespeare day, and now have been ill and unable to participate properly.

Ah well – tweets can be seen to your right.

This is an event currently ongoing at Twitter, 2nd Feb. only – read more here:


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Sonnet 18 - Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?While working on the Skills for Shakespeare articles looking at iambic pentameter and blank verse, I used two lines from Sonnet 18 for an example.

Sonnet 18’s first line is the title of this post and it includes reference to ‘the darling buds of May’. I became so distracted by all the wonderful online versions available, including as part of film and television, that the first article was in danger of being completely derailed.

So: the 1st article to do with speaking iambic pentameter can be found here:


and another article, which is about Sonnet 18 and has lots of lovely multi-media links for you to dip in and out of, can be found here:



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The Skills for Shakespeare series looks at techniques that help you with acting Shakespeare.

The first in this series is an introduction to iambic pentameter.

Iambic pentameter is the term for a particular type of rhythm: an iamb is a meter which has two beats, the second one stressed, as in the word iamb itself, pronounced ”I AM“. Penta means five, so 5 x iamb = pentameter.

This is explored in simple steps, with multimedia links and clear examples, in:

Discover Fine Acting’s Skills for Shakespeare – Speaking in Iambic Pentameter

Do comment / ask questions! You are welcome to do this here or at the full article.


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