1. GENERAL HEADING: Language: Sounds, Structure, Meter

2. TITLE OF EXERCISE: "Iambic Walk"

3. GOALS: To create confidence in speaking Shakespeare's verse.

4. NUMBER OF STUDENTS: Whole class as long as you have a clear walking space, empty stage, or rehearsal room.

5. EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES: A drum or tambourine helps but is not necessary.

6. CLASS TIME NEEDED: Fifteen minutes, but can be extended by more complicated examples, if necessary.


A. To create an awareness of the difference between pace and rhythm, and to pump up the pulse, start with a simple walking exercise. Each player walk as if balancing a pot on the head and at a specific pace based on a scale of 1 through 5; 1 as slow as possible, 2 a little faster, 3 medium purposeful walk, 4 a little faster than medium, 5 as fast as possible, but not running. The leader calls out the number to vary the pace. Players walk through the area at that pace, always turning and coming through the center. When two players meet face to face, they should make eye contact and squat then rise again, still maintaining the pace and still balancing the imaginary pots on the head. Always end with a longish section at 4 or 5 to pump up the energy and the pulse.

B. Now arrange the players on each side of the space and ask each to locate and feel his/ her pulse ( for example, just below the ear, or on the wrist.) Players now walk across the space repeating aloud "I am, I am, I am, I am, I am". After 5 "I am"s turn and walk back in the other direction, again repeating 5 "I am"s aloud. Continue this process, always turning after 5 "I am's" ( some may prefer 5 times "ball/ full" --for "ball of foot/full foot." Keep this going for some time, and, if you have a drum or tambourine, accelerate the pace from time to time.C. Now substitute a standard, modern English iambic line, such as,

"Why don't you take your big feet off that chair ?"

Then replace this with any regular Shakespeare iambic line, such as,

"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day."

8. POINTS FOR OBSERVATION, DISCUSSION: Follow up with discussion of basic rhythm patterns of English speech and Shakespeare's blank verse. Explore more complicated, irregular examples.

9. SOURCE/REFERENCE: Various teachers at Shakespeare & Co., work with Ellen O'Brien, various ideas derived from Linklater, Berry, Rodenburg.


John Frederick Nims. Western Wind:An Introduction to Poetry, 2nd. ed. Chapter 9. (Random House, 1983).

John Barton. Using the Verse videotape (Films for the Humanities, 1990).

George T. Wright. Shakespeare's Metrical Art (U. Cal. Press, 1988).

11. VARIATIONS: Each student/player can bring his/her own Shakespeare sonnet or speech to next session and work on pacing it out to the iambic walk. Discuss various shifts from regular meter.