Shakespeare is hard enough to understand with the hard grammatical constructions, and difficult vocabulary… so why is it that so many people make it harder for the listener to understand?
I’m sure no one would consciously torture an audience like that but it happens. How? Lack of good diction. In today’s film and tv entertainment dominated society we see actors whispering, mumbling, and speaking in a very conversational fashion that is easily picked up by large microphones and blasted back to the audience on a great big sound system. Even now with microphones being used in theatre, projection isn’t an issue for many. Still, actors seem to get the idea that not all their consonants need to be there. When talking a modern text it’s easier to get away with. But when you’re speaking classical drama – enunciation becomes much more important.
As I mentioned before, there’s enough in the listener’s ear that hinders their understanding. Having good diction is the foundation to telling the story effectively. The audience won’t understand the unfamiliar words some of the time, but you need to make sure they understand the familiar words too!
Shakespeare throws in a lot of lines that are hard to say, or some that make you move your mouth more than you’re used to (ie: Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths… – Richard III, I.i OR The Duke of Exeter is as magnanimous as Agamemnon – Henry V, III.vi), so be sure to practice speaking! It sounds kind of odd to think that you should practice speaking… it’s something you do every day right? Well, I doubt you have perfect diction. Go on and work on your articulatory ability!