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Reader’s Theater Shakespeare Sampler 

Male: #1 & #2 

Female: #3 & #4 

Narrator: No other author has affected our society more than William Shakespeare. All of humanity’s passion, its loves, its tragedies, and its victories can be found in Shakespeare’s plays. His wit was matched only by his keen understanding of the human condition--its precarious existence in a universe full of paradox and irony.

#1:     “What a piece of work is a man,
how noble in reason,

how infinite in faculties,

in form and moving,

how express and admirable in action,

how like an angel in apprehension,

how like a god!”

Narrator : Hamlet, Shakespeare tragic hero, voices his admiration of the human race, even in his own dispair. Many of Shakespeare’s characters vocalize what must have been the bard’s own thoughts on the magnificence of humanity. Perhaps one of his most noble characters, Portia, gives one of the finest speeches in the English language about the human capacity to be forgiving:

#3:     “The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It bleseth him that gives and him that takes.
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest, it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown.
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an atribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.”

Narrator: Mercy, jealousy, passion, envy, kindness, rage . . . all of the emotions of the human condition can be found in any copy of Shakespeare’s works. And at the heart of it all: Love. The battle of the sexes, the great debate, etc. etc. As it does in life, Love motivates many of Shakespeare’s characters. Most memorable, though, are a young pair of star-cross’d lovers named Romeo and Juliet.

#4:     “O Romeo, Romeo, wherfore are thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;

Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,

And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.”

#2:     “I take thee at thy word.
Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptiz’d;

Henceforth I never will be Romeo.”

#4:     “O gentle Romeo,
If thou dost love, pronounce it faithfully;

Or if thou thinkest I am too quickly won,

I’ll frown and be perverse, and say thee nay,

So thou wilt woo, but else not for the world.”

#2:     “Lady, by the yonder blessed moon I vow,
That tips with silver all the fruit-top tree tops--”
#4:      “O swear not by the moon, th’ inconstant moon”

#2:      “What shall I swear by?”

#4:      “Do not swear at all;

Or if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self,

Which is the god of my idolotry”

Narrator: Shakespeare’s characters range from the familiar to the ridiculous--but all have their own message of profound epiphany. Even though Shakespeare believed that
#1:    “The play’s the thing”
Narrator: and that each of us is merely
#2:    “a poor player, who struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more”
Narrator: he gave his characters such depth that they have become a part of our cultural memory. And like his gently mischievous Puck, Shakespeare hoped that his plays would delight his audience, reassuring them in A Midsummer Night’s Dream:
#3:   “If we shadows have offended
        Think but this, and all is mended,
#1:    “That you have but slumber’d here

         While these visions did appear

#3:    “And this weak and idle theme,

         No more yielding but a dream

#1:    “Gentles, do not reprehend.

         If you pardon, we will mend.”

Narrator: He hoped he could make them think, and above all, make them believe, as he did, that the human race is by far the most entertaining, most beautiful, most endlessly fascinating species on the planet.

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