Rhythm and Meaning in Shakespeare:
A Guide for Readers and Actors
By Peter Groves
‘Although actors and acting instructors may be the main beneficiaries, anyone who teaches Shakespeare or simply enjoys sounding off will benefit from this deft little book.’
—Julia Reinhard Lupton, Studies in English Literature 1500–1900, Spring 2014
‘Peter Groves’ book will come as a revelation to actors and readers of Shakespeare. With a shortage of formal training and a desperation to be “natural”, many actors today ignore or even resist the literary conventions and devices embedded in Shakespeare’s plays.
‘Dr Groves’ intensive and illuminating study demonstrates how an appreciation of Shakespeare’s use of metre, stress and rhythm, along with many attendant subtleties, will inform actors’ understanding of a text and allow them to soar beyond the bounds of mere “naturalism”, to delight the ear as well as the intellect of an audience.’
— John Bell, Bell Shakespeare
‘It is beautifully written, rich with meaning, humorous and deeply knowledgeable, with a full feeling for the life of the stage. Groves analyses the way that Shakespeare uses speech to create and reinforce meaning: and in so doing he engages in an alive and alert way with many of the complexities this entails. He really understands that speaking verse provides the key to "living" a part, and I love the colorful economy of his language – it is full of down-to-earth metaphor, which is really engaging and delightful... This is one of the most originally conceived and useful books I’ve read for a long while.’
— Philippa Kelly, California Shakespeare Theatre
About the book
How did Shakespeare intend that his plays be read?
Rhythm and Meaning in Shakespeare explores the rhythmical organisation of Shakespeare’s verse and how it creates and reinforces meaning both in the theatre and in the mind of the reader. Because metrical form in the pentameter is not passively present in the text but rather something that the performer must co-operatively re-create in speaking it, pentameter is what John Barton calls “stage-direction in shorthand”, a supple instrument through which Shakespeare communicates valuable cues to performance. This book is thus an essential guide for actors wishing to perform in his plays, as well as a valuable resource for anyone wishing to enhance their understanding of and engagement with Shakespeare’s verse.
About Peter Groves
Dr Peter Groves was educated at the universities of Exeter and Cambridge in the United Kingdom and teaches poetry, Shakespeare and Renaissance English literature in the School of English, Communications and Performance Studies at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of a series of articles on poets from Chaucer to Philip Larkin and the theoretical monograph Strange Music: The Metre of the English Heroic Line.
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