1. GENERAL HEADING: Language: Sounds, Structure, Meter
2. TITLE OF EXERCISE: "Finding the Breaks"
3. GOALS: To encourage understanding of use of line length (breath length), punctuation and holding vocal energy up to end of line/ sentences/ speech.
4. NUMBER OF STUDENTS: Whole class in groups of 4 or 5, sitting one behind the other, or in a circle.
5. EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES: Index cards
6. CLASS TIME NEEDED: 20 minutes
7. STEP-BY-STEP DESCRIPTION: Locate verse passages from less well-known Shakespearean plays. Rewrite clearly, removing all indication of length of line, punctuation marks, editorial additions. On the index cards this will look like prose. Retain capital letters for proper names and apostrophes for possessives or shortened words. The first player in the first group takes a card and reads it aloud, sight unseen, then passes it to the next person. Each person reads with only the previous reading to help her/him to make sense of the passage. By the time it reaches the last member of the group it usually makes reasonable sense. Then the first group sits aside and watches the next group struggle to make sense of their card.
8. POINTS FOR OBSERVATION, DISCUSSION: Follow up with discussion of how Shakespeare helps the reader/ actor by the way he shapes his verse line, by breath control and punctuation.
9. SOURCE/REFERENCE: I believe this game is used in the summer training course at the Royal National Theatre, but its actual source is unknown to me.
10. ADDITIONAL READING: Try the same game with passages from Moliere (Wilbur trans.), with other verse playwrights, and even with contemporary U.S. prose playwrights such as Mamet. Discuss how natural Shakespeare's verse line is to English speakers.
11. VARIATIONS: John Barton. Using the Verse videotape (Films
for the Humanities, 1990).