Today I made my first foray into performing Shakespeare - reading it and loving it is one thing, but to someone used to modern english and very slight variants of that, memorizing and reciting iambic pentameter is a little like asking a baker to make you sashimi.
How if, when I am laid in the tomb,
I wake before the time that Romeo
come to redeem me? There's a fearful thought!
Shall I not, then, lay stifled in the vault,
and there die strangled ere my Romeo comes?
Or, if I live, is it not like,
the horrible conceit of death and night
together with the terror of this place,
as in a vault, an ancient receptacle,
Where bloody Tybalt, yet but green in earth,
lies festering in his shroud;
O, if I wake, shall I not be distraught,
Environed with all these hideous fears?
And madly play with my forefather's joints?
And, in this rage, with some great kinsman's bone,
as with a club, dash out my own desperate brains?
O, look! Methinks I see my cousin's ghost
seeking out Romeo that did spit his body
upon a rapier's point; stay, Tybalt, stay!
Romeo, I come! This do I drink to thee.
I typed that from memory, which is a good start, seeing as how memorizing it was like trying to swallow a brick. This is (obviously) from Romeo and Juliet, Act 4 Sc 3, and I'll be using it to audition for Othello in a week or two.
In response to my desperate plea for help in memorizing and performing Shakespeare (since I'm an inexperienced little thing), a friend of mine wrote: "I do laps around my kitchen island for hours. Don't fight the verse, it may seem alien at first, but let it come naturally and you'll get the flow of it. Shakespeare is very good to actors."
It's only fitting that I'd been unconsciously pacing around my dining room table while reading the thing for an hour or so. :P I'm not alone in strange habits. Yay.
Once I got decent chunks of it memorized this morning, I realized that there is a funky little rhythm I have to feel out, which is unusual and different for someone who's never had that kind of poetry in the words I've performed. Where I would normally pause and feel out the moment, I have to just plunge onward, keeping the rhythm steady and the pentameter happy. Michael had it right when he said "don't fight the verse," because that's what I'm instinctively doing, at the moment.
Practice should fix my resistance, and I must say when I get a segment right and I can feel it, it's really very smooth and wonderful. With a dash of luck and some serious work before the 8th or 9th, maybe I'll land myself my first Shakespearian role.