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Utilizing Punctuation as a Shakespeare Performance Tool

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Utilizing Punctuation as a Shakespeare Performance Tool


Students will identify and utilize punctuation to frame and amplify phrasing in a Shakespeare text.


4th grade – 12th grade


60 minutes



Punctuation in Shakespeare’s plays provide textual tools that can aid in understanding, interpreting and performance. Punctuation informs on how to phrase and provides context for meaning and delivery.

    Share the Dear John Handout with the students.

    Assign a student to read the first paragraph to the rest of the class. Encourage them to read it straight through, without a break or emphasis on any words because there is no punctuation.

    Ask students: What did you notice about the text when there is no punctuation? Is it possible to understand the meaning of the text?

    Assign a student to read the next paragraph to the rest of the class.

    Ask students: How did the use of punctuation change the intent of this letter? What is the message of this letter?

    Assign a student to read the next paragraph to the rest of the class.

    Ask students: How did the use of punctuation change the intent of this letter? What role does punctuation play within this text? How does phrasing within this letter change the intent of the letter?

    Identifying the punctuation and utilizing it when we perform assists in providing context for delivery.

  2. JULIET’S MONOLOGUER[Romeo and Juliet Monologues Handout](/media/utilizing-punctuation-romeo-and-juliet-monologue.pdf)

    Students will learn how to identify punctuation, by phrasing for context.

    Share the Juliet monologue with the class. Have the class stand in a circle. Read the monologue as a class, one student at a time, stopping at all “end stops” and moving on to the next student. An end stop is a period, colon, semi-colon, exclamation point or question mark. It is not a comma. Have the students put all of the feeling and expression into their individual lines. As if each line stands on its own.

    For example:
    First student: “Farewell.”
    Second student: “God knows when we shall meet again.”
    Third student: I have a faint cold fear thrills through my veins, That almost freezes up the heat of life:
    Fourth student: “I’ll call them back again to comfort me:”
    Fifth student: “Nurse!”

    After the students have read through the scene. Ask: What do we learn about Juliet when it is phrased in this manner? How does the punctuation/phrasing identify individual and specific thoughts? What does this tell us about Juliet state of mind? How does the exercise assist you in performing Juliet? Does it provide more clarity for our performance?

    Point to emphasize:
    Punctuation identifies specific thoughts (acting beats and speech measures) in Shakespeare’s characters. It allows phrasing for meaning and should inform our acting choices.

    Romeo and Juliet Monologues Handout

    Students will learn how to physically identify the punctuation with their bodies.

    Share the Romeo monologue with the class. Have each student move around the classroom, filling the space (like a Viewpoints exercise-include youtube video link). The class will chorally read the monologue together. When the text has an end stop, students will stop and change direction.

    For example: Students start to walk and say:
    Ha, banishment! (stop, change direction)
    be merciful, say ‘death;’ (Stop, change direction)
    For exile hath more terror in his look,
    Much more than death: (Stop, change direction)

    Following the exercise, ask the students:
    What did this exercise inform you about individual thoughts and their connection to punctuation?

    Romeo and Juliet Monologues Handout
    Students will physically identify punctuation marks with body, exaggerating emphasis.

    Share the Capulet monologue with the class. Students will add the following physical actions for each of the punctuation marks within the text:
    Period: stomp your foot (as if to say “That’s it!”)
    Exclamation Point: Jump in the air with enthusiasm.|
    Colon or semi colon: Throw your arms out enthusiastically, proclaim it.
    Question mark: Put your hands up, as if to question.
    Comma: continue moving forward, unless it is a parenthetical like a quote, you will put your hands at the side of your mouth as if you are telling the audience.

    Questions for students: How did over-exaggeration of punctuation inform this speech? Did you notice anything about the text from the punctuation? Of the three exercises that you have done, which method did you prefer to identify punctuation? What can you do with scenes to help you recognize individual thoughts and phrases?


Students will select a monologue on the Romeo and Juliet monologue page. Students will utilize one of the above exercises (phrasing, move, or physicalize) to help them identify the punctuation. With a pencil they will mark all punctuation and phrases. They will then perform the monologue emphasizing specific phrasing and speech measures for a scene partner. The scene partner will then share observations about their partners performance with the class. The scene partners will answer the question: What are three major moments or phrases within the monologue that are heightened by my partners’ punctuation acting choices?

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