How to Speak Like Shakespeare

Two Methods:Getting StartedCommon Shakespeare Terms

Shakespearean English seems very arcane and hard to understand. At the core, however, it is still English. Not only that, but it sounds remarkably intelligent. It thus makes sense that you learn how to speak it. Luckily, this is surprisingly easy!

Getting Started

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    Read a Shakespearean play in the original if you can. Hamlet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Othello, and Romeo and Juliet are good candidates. This will give you an idea of how the language is used and also increase your vocabulary with older forms and uses of words.
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    Replace questions of the form "Can I?" with phrases such as "I do beseech you" or "I prithee". This archaic form sounds particularly Elizabethan, and has the benefit of being more polite.
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    Work on greetings. In modern times, we are satisfied with "Hello" or "How are you". To make this sound more Shakespearean, a simple form may be "Good greetings, my lord/lady" or, if you truly wish to know how the other is doing, try "How now, [Name]?". Feel free to add clauses along the form of "and may you be well". You can respond with "Likewise to you", remembering to refer to "my lord" or "my lady" A more medieval and flowery response could be "All of God's greetings upon you".
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    Work on your farewells. Farewells can be much improved from modern "Bye!". A very simple, no-thinking-required approach might be "Fare thee well", but this can be improved further by considering how your conversation ended. Did you say goodbye to someone for a long time? "Fare thee well in thy travels, and may by fate we meet again." Similarly modify your goodbyes to fit the situation.
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    Add in more-or-less superfluous adverbs such as "humbly" - they make your speech more flowery, which is the main effect.
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    Shorten "it" to just "'t". For example, "it was" becomes "'twas", "do it" becomes "do't"
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    Master forms of "thou" - use "thy" for possessive ("thine" before vowels or the letter H), and "thee" for an object.
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    Clearly mark off opinions with "methinks" and "forsooth".
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    Refine your cursing. Replace "damned" with "accursed". Other adjectives can be replaced with "traitorous", "lecherous", or "thieving". You can also refer to those of humble origin or anyone acting servant-like as "knavish"
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    Freely use the following words: "Anon", "As you will", "By your leave", "Carouse", "Chide", "Cutpurse", "E"en", "E"er", "Fie", "Grammercy", "Maid or Maiden", "Marry!", "Mayhaps", "Morrow", "N"er", "Nonpareil", "Oft", "In Faith", "Perchance", "Poppet", "Pray pardon me", "Pray tell", "Privy", "Stay", "S"wounds!", "Tosspot", "Verily", "Wench", "Wherefore", "Yonder"
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    Fix your verbs: Add "-st" to singular second-person verbs and "-th"/"-eth" to singular third-person verbs. For example, "How dost thou" and "How doth he"
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    Use "shall". It can be used to express obligation, and also in the first person. Remember that when used with "thee" or "thou", "will" becomes "wilt" and "shall" "shalt"
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    If you need to break up with someone, take a few hints from Hamlet (Act 3, scene 1, 114–121).

Common Shakespeare Terms

Sample Shakespeare Terms

Tips

  • Rhyme is unnecessary and often makes it hard to speak properly. Furthermore, it is often silly and nullifies the effect of sounding smart. Only rhyme if you are sure it is tasteful.
  • Speaking broken Shakespeare is kind of humiliating in public. Practice first!
  • You can improve further by speaking in iambic pentameter, but this is extremely hard to do off the cuff without practice.
  • Unless you're in a play simplify your Shakespeare to prevent misunderstandings/the listener not knowing what you're saying.

Warnings

  • Speaking like Shakespeare will require frequent references to God. You don't have to believe in the Christian God, or in any, to use such figures of speech.

Article Info

Categories: Speech Styles | Studying Literature