Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App

Advanced Class Begins Shakespeare Monologues

The Advanced Class in my private Voice and Speech program is working on their first Shakespeare monologues. We finished a series of scanning exercises. These included discussions about short verse lines, long verse lines, shared verse lines, epic caesuras, elisions, stretching a word, and acting on the verse line. Now the challenge, and I think it is an exciting challenge, is to use all of the technical tools the students have learned while acting.

It’s one thing to read the words with a nice supported voice but it’s something entirely different to invest in the emotional life of the character, understand her/his point of view about the other characters in the scene, and play the objective. While they are acting, they are trying to remember to breathe, keep the voice supported, and use the clarity of the speech sounds that we worked on during the First Level of the Program. It’s a lot! And it’s also the reason that after working on Shakespeare monologues, the actors feel like they can handle any language whether it’s voice-over copy (which can very tricky), a modern film script, a new play or a TV show.

Using the Shakespeare Pronunciation App For Shakespeare Monologues

All of the students have the Shakespeare Pronunciation app. With this app they have a wonderful source at their fingertips for the correct audio pronunciation of the words. In addition to the pronunciation of every word, I showed them that clicking on “More” takes them to the “Official Shakespeare Pronunciation Reference Website”. This website includes sections on “Scanning the Verse”, “Latin”, “Accents, Dialects and Foreign Languages”, and “Words to Watch Out For”. The section “Words to Watch Out For” gives a sampling of words in each play that expand or contract to fulfill the demands of the meter. In addition there are examples of words where the stress is different than the stress used today. One example is the word “demonstrate” which today we stress on the first syllable. In contrast, in the plays, it often scans to a stress on the second syllable.

The Shakespeare Pronunciation app is becoming an essential tool for the students. Download your copy today!

shakespeare monologues

Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App

Royal Shakespeare Company’s Recent Production of “King and Country”

The Royal Shakespeare Company recently finished a run of “King and Country” a series of four of Shakespeare’s history plays performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The opportunity to see “Richard II”, “Henry IV” (Parts 1 and 2) and “Henry V” does not come along very often. The RSC’s new (since 2013) Artistic Director is Gregory Doran and he directed all of these productions.  The highlights, for me, were David Tennant’s Richard II and Antony Sher’s Falstaff.  Tennant gave a layered performance which was filled with passion, strength, and humor and he had an ability to make the verse sound natural without losing the beauty of the poetry. Not easy to do.  Sher breathed new life in to a character that  has been performed by so many extraordinary actors including Simon Russell Beale, Kevin Kline, Orson Welles, and Robbie Coltrane to name a few, that it’s hard to imagine someone finding something new. But this incredibly creative actor did just that.  Falstaff was funnier than I’ve ever seen him but also touching and vulnerable.  Over the years, I have seen Sher play numerous roles – Malvolio in “12th Night”, Shylock in “the Merchant of Venice”, and Richard III in “Richard III” and have always found his performances exciting, truthful, inventive and memorable.  His Falstaff goes to the top of this list.

King and CountryI attended Henry IV (Part 1) with a group of my students including some from my private classes and some from my Graduate Acting Class at NYU.  The students enjoyed the production and were excited by Sher’s performance. One of them was working on a production of “Hamlet” at NYU and she said that hearing the actors had inspired her and had given her new ideas for her own performance.

After the productions I checked the Shakespeare Pronunciation audio app to be sure the actors were pronouncing the words correctly!

Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App

Acting students use the Shakespeare Audio Pronunciation App

shakespeare audio pronunciationMy First Year students in the Graduate Acting Program at New York University have been very enthusiastic about using the Shakespeare Audio Pronunciation app as they rehearse their First Year Shakespeare projects. Half of the class is working on “Hamlet” and the other half is rehearsing “Macbeth”. These projects are the culmination of their First Year of training where they work to combine voice, and speech work with text work while they are dealing with the demands of Shakespeare’s language. They told me that at the beginning of the rehearsals, they used the app every night to check the pronunciations of the unusual words and the character and place names. Most of the students had a copy of “All the Words on Stage, a Complete Pronunciation Dictionary for the Plays of William Shakespeare” by Louis Scheeder and Shane Ann Younts, which is the source for the Shakespeare Audio Pronunciation app, but they preferred to hear the words pronounced.  The students found that being able to go to their mobile phones or tablets and click on a word was very convenient. I showed them that clicking on “More” takes them to the “Official Shakespeare Pronunciation Reference Website” which has additional information including a section on “Scanning the Verse”, “Latin”, “Accents, Dialects and Foreign Languages”, and “Words to Watch Out For”.  The section “Words to Watch Out For” gives a sampling of words in each play that expand or contract to fulfill the demands of the meter. In addition there are examples of words where the stress is different than the stress used today. One example is the word “revenue” which today we pronounce with the stress on the first syllable but often in Shakespeare the stress is on the second syllable.  Other basic information included for each play is the percentage of verse and pros.

shakespeare audio pronuciation

Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App

"All's Well That Ends Well" with Shakespeare Pronunciation

Recently I was working on a production of “All’s Well that Ends Well” for the Graduate Acting Program at New York University. Because I had taught the students for two years, they were familiar with my voice and speech work and knew how to incorporate our classroom work in to the production. During the Third Year, we worked on scanning the lines, how to build a speech, how to find the spine of the thought, how to do a parenthetical and other technical elements. Having the opportunity to use all of the tools we had worked on in class, while they were acting the play, was incredibly valuable for the actors.

One of the challenges of “All’s Well that Ends Well” is to pronounce the names of the characters correctly so that all of the characters are seen (and heard) as living in the same world. We used the Shakespeare Pronunciation audio app so that everyone was saying roh-SIL-yuhn for the Countess Rossillion and her son, Bertram. Parolles is always interesting because there are two possibilities with his name. We used puh-ROHL-iz. The actor playing the role chose this from the two pronunciations that were listed on the Shakespeare Pronunciation audio app. Consistency within the names of the characters is important so that the audience is not pulled out of the action by going “What did he say? I thought she said the name another way.” We want the audience engaged in the action of the play.

Everyone who saw the production of “All’s Well that Ends Well” commented on how clear the actors were. The audience understood everything that they were saying which is no small thing in Shakespeare! The actors were also dealing with the demands of being heard in a huge theater with bad acoustics and again the audience commented on how clear the actors were and that they could be heard in that large space.

All’s Well that Ends Well

Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App

Features of the Shakespeare Pronunciation App

shakespeare_writingThe mobile audio Shakespeare Dictionary, is for anyone who is acting in Shakespeare’s plays or is teaching the plays or just likes to read the plays. The actors or readers have a quick access to the pronunciations of the words in all of the plays. This includes character and place names as well as any unusual words. More than 5000 words are included and in addition to the audio, the words are respelled in a simple respelling system that is easy to follow.  The Key to Pronunciation, which is at the bottom of each page, gives a quick reference to the respelling system.

In some cases the Shakespeare Dictionary has definitions to clarify which pronunciation goes with which word. For example “wind” is listed three times.  “Wind (n)” is “a current of air” and pronounced and respelled WIND. “Wind (v)” is “ to blow” and is pronounced and respelled WIND. “Wind (v)” “(to turn or twist)” is pronounced and respelled WEYEND.  These brief definitions will help the actor or student or teacher know which pronunciation to use.

In the Shakespeare Dictionary there is a section called “More” and this section includes an essay on Scanning the Verse, and a section on the Accents and Dialects that are used in the plays. In addition, there is a section called “Words to Watch Out For” which offers brief observations on the words with unusual stress in that play as well as words that expand or contract depending of the demands of the metre. For example, revenue is pronounced today with a stress on the first syllable but in Shakespeare’s plays the word often require a stress on the second syllable. These words are examples to guide the user to other words in the play with unusual stress, expansion or contraction. There is also a listing of how much prose and/or verse there is in each play, as well as the amount of rhyming verse.


Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App

Easy to Use Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App

When using the Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App, an actor, director, teacher or student or anyone who loves to read Shakespeare has quick access to the pronunciations of the words in Shakespeare’s plays. This includes character names, place names, as well as any unusual words. In the past, there was a lot of time spent researching various dictionaries, or asking fellow actors or the director how to pronounce a word. Now the actor can click on a word to hear it pronounced and can also see the word respelled in an easy to follow respelling system.

Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App

For example on the Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App the character in “The Winter’s Tale”, “Hermione” is respelled her-MEYE-uh-nee. There is a Key to Pronunciation at the bottom of every word and you can click on it and see the key of words for the vowels and consonants. In addition the words have a “scans to” for the examples when the word’s stress changes depending on the iambic pentameter line. For “Hermione” the scans to example is “scans to her-MEYE-nee e.g. @ WT V, 3, 28”. These examples have the act, scene and line number (based on the Pelican edition’s line numbering) so that the actor/director/student can check the example.

The Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App is just that “mobile”. The actor has the words right at her/his fingertips. It is available for iPhones or for Androids. This is very different than carrying around a book or books to check the pronunciation of words (which is what actors had to do in the past). The accessibility to the Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App makes this an invaluable tool both in the rehearsal studio and in the classroom. The research for these words was done for the book “All the Words on Stage, A Complete Pronunciation Dictionary for the plays of William Shakespeare”.

Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App

Why Use Shakespeare Pronunciation App?

Shakespeare Pronunciation AppWhile listening to the Shakespeare Pronunciation App one might ask: Why are correct pronunciations in Shakespeare important?  I would say the primary reason is consistency. All of the characters inhabiting the world of the play should be consistent.  For example, everyone says roh-SIL-yuhn for the “Countess” in “All’s Well that Ends Well” so we know that they all live in the same world. All of the characters in “Coriolanus” say vuh-LUHM-nee-uh for “Volumnia”  so again, we know the characters are in the same world.  If the audience heard a variety of pronunciations for a character, they might be wondering why everyone was pronouncing it differently.  We want the audience to be absorbed in the play and not wondering about pronunciations.

Before our book “All the Words on Stage, a Complete Pronunciation Dictionary for the Plays of William Shakespeare”, voice/text coaches used to call each other when working on a production. “How do you pronounce this character?”; “What have you used in the past?”;  “What have you heard in other productions?”; “How do you scan this line?”; “Does it change the pronunciation if you scan the line?” We needed a Shakespeare Pronunciation Dictionary to help us to coach our shows.  At that time, the only books that were available were Helge Kokeritz’s “Shakespeare’s Names”  and Theodora Irvine’s “How to Pronounce the Names in Shakespeare”.  Both books gave only character names and did not include any of the other words. The Kokeritz book was based on English pronunciation with occasional American variants. The Shakespeare Pronunciation Dictionary App is based on American vowel sounds and in addition to character names, it includes all of the unusual words. There is also a Latin section.

Many of the suggested pronunciations in the Shakespeare Pronunciation App are based on Shakespeare’s use of iambic pentameter which can change the stress of a syllable and also the vowel sound. These variants help the actor to speak a living, breathing language instead of just reciting the written text.

Shakespeare Pronunciation Mobile App

The Creating of the Shakespeare Dictionary App

The process of recording over 5000 words for the Shakespeare Dictionary App presented numerous challenges. The first attempt at recording was in less than ideal circumstances – my apartment with my iPad and a Snowball microphone. The apartment seemed to be quiet until listening to the words which revealed everything from birds chirping, to a siren, to a fan noise. I began to research professional recording studios and through one of my students, I found Luis F. Herrera of Liquid Lab. Once I heard the quality of the first 500 words recorded professionally, I knew that the Shakespeare Dictionary App had to have this excellent quality. Thus began the re-recording of all of the words.

The time spent in the studio varied with the longest session being four and a half hours. I have been a voice and speech teacher for over thirty years and am familiar with the demands of speaking and acting. Even with these years of experience, I was surprised at the amount of energy – both vocal and physical – that it took to record word after word after word. I wanted the words to be clearly spoken but not over-articulated or sounding phony. The professional studio made me very aware of noisy breaths, and the popping “p” to name a few challenges. The Shakespeare Dictionary App had to include the basic pronunciation of the word and then the variations of pronunciation (particularly the primary stress) depending on how the word scanned in the verse line. In addition the words with variations have examples from the specific plays including the act, scene and line. This information had been researched for “All the Words on Stage, a Complete Pronunciation Dictionary for the plays of William Shakespeare” which I co-authored with Louis Scheeder, but much of it had to be edited and expanded for the app.

I have learned a lot from recording all of these wonderful, amazing words for the Shakespeare Dictionary App. Polonius asks Hamlet “What do you read, my lord?” And Hamlet’s reply makes me smile “Words, words, words.”

From Shane Ann

Shakespeare Dictionary App