One of the most troubling areas of study for young actors is Shakespeare. They feel challenged by the language, vivid characters, and scenes that are often foreign to them. It’s a great way for them to expand their craft, and when given the right material, they can actually have a lot of fun with it. My colleague and associate teacher, Shoshana Canali, who loves to work with our students on classical material says, “Young actors are typically still growing vocally, physically, and emotionally. Working on Shakespeare helps connect all these different moving pieces so that they can work with confidence.”
Here are five Shakespeare monologues for your young actor to explore.
1. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: Puck
What better character to get kids interested in Shakespeare than the mischievous, high-energy Puck. Puck has many great monologues in the show, from breaking the fourth wall to provide helpful commentary to carrying out King Oberon’s demands, and they can be performed by any child. They rhyme and have consistent rhythms, making them easier to memorize and fun to perform, and the playful nature of the character really gives young actors space to explore the style and make bold choices. It’s a great way to get kids interested in the Bard through material they can have fun with. The various monologues can be found in Act 2, Scene 2, Act 3, Scene 2, and Act 5, Scene 2.
2. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: Snug the Lion
This is a great segue into Shakespeare for very young actors. It’s short and easily understood with some coaching and it provides the adorable irony of a gentle child playing a fierce lion. The monologue can be found in Act 5, Scene 1. In it, Snug explains that although he was cast as a lion in the play, he’s still a gentle creature who may be somewhat afraid of the women in the audience. It’s a great way to introduce kids to dynamic writing, as it balances a nuanced character with humor without losing Shakespeare’s signature lyricism.
3. “Macbeth”: Witches
“Double, double toil and trouble! Fire burn and caldron bubble.” These wicked ladies are perfect for helping kids expand their range, playing completely opposite to their personalities while still having to find ways to connect with the characters. The monologue can be found in Act 4, Scene 1, and follows them as they list their ingredients to cast a spell, while also explaining the outcomes of using magic. Kids love getting to play these heightened, extreme personalities while still working to find the humanity hidden beneath the surface.
4. “The Tempest”: Ariel
Another gender-neutral, mysterious character, Ariel is a spirit inhabiting Prospero’s island. In Act 3, scene 3, he explains to his shipwrecked guests how he and his spirit friends were the cause of their destruction, chastising them for the poor behavior of the nobility. Its writing is deep and rich, giving young actors a large canvas to work with, and the heightened character allows them to step out of their shells and work with confidence (after all, you do need confidence if you’re going to tell someone they were “belched up” by the sea). This is a great piece for young actors to explore with physicality, giving them the chance to build a spirit and how they think it would move.
5. “As You Like It”: Rosalind
This speech is essentially an extended insult, as Rosalind mocks Phoebe for being boring yet egotistic because of the men who fawn over her and can be found in Act 3, Scene 5. The long string of insults flows well because of the engaging language, which will keep young girls excited and connected to the story. It’s also a great avenue for kids to express some of their unspoken frustrations, which is always a cathartic experience.
Working with Shakespeare allows young actors to improve their craft in all genres. Dynamic language and nuanced characters help push them to better understand themselves. These five monologues are great ways for them to start exploring that nuance with scenes that they’ll enjoy. If they need help understanding the language, No Fear Shakespeare is a great resource, although it shouldn't be used as a substitute for reading the full plays.
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