At Peets in Venice over iced green-teas (hey, it’s VENICE!), John and I had a vigorous discussion about performing Shakespeare, particularly the importance of paying strict attention to iambic pentameter when approaching the text. We talked for almost two hours and I left feeling inspired and invigorated.
I spent a lot of time in the late eighties studying “The Bard” and my conversation with Farmanesh-Bocca reminded me of why I so loved working on Shakespeare’s plays (and sonnets). For an actor, Shakespeare is the apex, like climbing Mount Everest. The work will hold all you can give it-- all of your heart, all of your imagination, all of your intellect, all of your breath, all of your body, and it can always hold more.
I believe every actor should work on Shakespeare, even if he has no intention of ever performing it. It’s like a batter swinging six bats before stepping up to the plate. Studying Shakespeare will improve all of your acting.
Here is an excerpt from The Mystic in the Theatre, Eleonora Duse by Eva Le Gallienne:
"...she loved to hear the sound of Shakespeare's own words, and would ask me to read it aloud to her. Then she would sit awhile pondering over it in silence. 'The sound reflects the meaning,' she would say; 'blood; drowzy; incarnadine; those words sound like their meaning.' Then, after a moment she added: 'Of course it is Macbeth himself one would want to play. What an extraordinary complex nature! In spite of his maleness--so much woman in him! Ah, Shakespeare! He knew everything!'"
In honor of Shakespeare's birthday (and anniversary of his death), I will end this post with one of my favorite sonnets. Number 55. I love it because it is TRUE! His verse still lives...