The must have Shakespeare resource: Shakespeare’s Words
Shakespeare’s Words by Ben and David Crystal is an incredible book. For actors it is an essential resource.
It is a glossary and language companion that gives accurate definitions of Shakespeare’s words. Often with a conventional dictionary a single word has a multitude of definitions. It can sometimes be hard to discern the correct, or appropriate, definition for a particular word. Language has changed so much since Shakespeare’s time, sometimes words have changed entirely in meaning. This means that a conventional dictionary is not good enough when trying to understand a Shakespeare monologue or scene.
Shakespeare’s Words offers accurate definitions and even references for where the particular word has been used (from what play and what line). This means you can find a precise definition and be confident that you understand it’s meaning. Context is so important for understanding the nuance of Shakespeare’s work. It is essential for speaking Shakespeare.
Understanding what you say is fundamental in any acting scene or monologue. However, it is the most important factor in speaking Shakespeare; yet it is often missed. Actors can hide behind the beauty of Shakespeare’s words and get away with speaking a whole speech without understanding the sense of the piece whatsoever. You have to understand every word, and reference, or else how is an audience going to?
Shakespeare’s words also includes Play Synopses, Dramatis Personae, Character Names and much more. This book is a staple item for any Shakespearean actor. I cannot recommend it highly enough.