Thou canst not speak of that thou dost not feel (Romeo and Juliet Act 3 Scene 3) which is why a lot of people get tripped up in Shakespeare- they can’t feel what they are reading… yet. The great thing about Shakespeare is that through his characters he gives voice to thoughts and feelings we experience as human beings every day but can’t always find adequate words to express on our own. Reciting as a character in a play can give us the freedom to express ideas and feelings that may be too frightening or audacious to hear from our own lips in relation to ourselves. The words and the characters give us boundaries that make connecting with emotions deep within ourselves a safe experience that can help cleanse, heal, and awaken the human and the divine in us.
In that spirit, it is infinitely helpful when reading Shakespeare to experiment with possible feelings behind the words. You can try it right now with this one line: Thou canst not speak of that thou dost not feel. Try reading the line while laughing or giggling. Say it boldly with conviction. Speak it as a question. Say it like you are in the heat of an argument. Say it like you would say “You don’t understand.” Pronounce it with an accent (or two or three- have fun here). Say it while frowning. Now while your mouth is open and your eyes are opened wide like you are surprised. Now say it as you think someone who has seen and experienced much in life would.
If reading with emotion is difficult for you, try this: Read the line v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. Now say it as fast as you can. Whisper it. Read it with one word louder than the rest. Experiment with what word gets the emphasis. Say it while brushing your teeth. Say it while doing jumping jacks. Say it as you reach for something as high and then as low as you can. Say it as you sit down. Say it as you stand up. You probably have it memorized by now. Say it one last time. Does the line sound differently to you now than when you first began? Does it feel differently- more natural and real perhaps?
Go ahead and try it. The ways that help the words make sense and feel real to you may surprise you. Also, being silly with Shakespeare can help take the fear, the foreigness, and the “boring” out.