As You Like It at UBC

 is the first production worldwide

to explore such a text

Every human being has a basic rhythm of their own. However, when surprised, delighted, terrified, or otherwise thrown out of a "normal" situation, that rhythm changes slightly. 

So with the verse spoken by Shakespeare's characters.  When the situation/verse is "normal" (given the scene's circumstances) the pattern is given the poetic- academic term 'iambic pentameter'. In human terms this best equates to five pairs of human heartbeats, the strong stress coming on each alternate/even beat, as shown by the capitalized syllables in Rosalind's demand,

but IF you DO reFUSE to MArrie ME

Thankfully, most Shakespeare characters don't remain calm for long.  The resultant awkwardness’s make for the most interesting parts of the play.  And when in chaos, characters' verse rhythms often break, showing an actor exactly where the stress is at its highest:  i.e. the heartbeat momentarily breaks, as with the opening statement from the dying Adam,

O i DIE for FOOD

(the actor cannot speak heartbeat - 'o I die FOR food' - and make sense).

An obvious example - so, more important are the circumstantially less obvious breaks, leading to the key acting questions "why? here?", as with the opening to Jaques famous 'Seven Ages of Man' speech which cannot really start,

all THE world's A stage
but rather

The fact that Jaques is rhythmically off-balance here is undeniable: but the 'why' is up to each actor-director-dramaturgical team to explore.
Exploring all such breaks (scansion) is key, yet scansion is a dying art. Thus this text sets out to do something for the actor/director/reader never done before, illustrate the rhythmic variations on the page (see the accompanying illustration).  


There are two stages:
The 'SHOULD'S' lay out two ideas usually accepted by most critics, and deal with the more passionate and emotional of moments.  The bolding shows where the heartbeat of the line HAS to be broken simply to make sense.  The numbers show where the lines are either longer than the prescribed ten syllables (suggesting momentarily there's too much information for the character to handle easily, or shorter, where the character needs to pause momentarily).

The 'COULD'S' are not accepted (yet) by all commentators - hence they are shown in a separate section, highlighted by the italics (added for illustrative purposes).  These arise more from the line structure of the original sixteenth-seventeenth century texts  (stemming especially from the punctuation), highlighting yet another lost Shakespearean art, that of subtle debate.
Neil Freeman





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