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From rep to reps: can a 'Shakespeare gym' solve the crisis in verse-speaking?


The Royal Shakespeare Company has vowed to drill the Bard’s rhythms into its actors – but our alienation from his language runs deeper

‘Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue.” So says Hamlet to the players. But has his advice gone unheeded at a time when Shakespearean verse-speaking is widely held to be in decline? The RSC clearly thinks there is an issue as it has set up a Shakespeare “gym” in Stratford-upon-Avon to ensure, in the words of its artistic director Gregory Doran, “Everyone has the iambic pentameter in their bloodstream.” That’s a welcome trend, but I suspect the crisis goes deeper than that – and that classic texts are often regarded as alien, hostile territory.

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