Don’t Make Me Read- I’m Scared

Reading in public can be a tough call.  It can bring back memories of the school classroom with compulsory turn-taking and a bored teacher correcting mistakes in an irritated voice.  It can give you the sense that you are not as smart as the clever ones and not as charismatic as the actors.

In my reading groups I like to tell people what they are going to be reading ahead of time.  This allows everyone to prepare themselves in advance, if they need to.  Reading aloud should be a joyful experience, not a traumatic one.  I remember moments of silent reading when I really wanted to get up and start reading aloud because I caught the rhythm of the words.  This happened to me once on the train out of London reading Wordsworth’s Prelude.  I was reading quickly, almost at the speed I might read a novel and suddenly it was as though I got it.  The rhythm of the language hit me and there were cadences that fell into place.

Perhaps I will do a Romantic poets reading group in the future to bring that experience to life with a group.

However, this year we are celebrating Shakespeare.  I believe that fluid reading brings out more of the nuances of a text than the stopping and starting that mark so much school reading.  Sure, you need to study the vocabulary and phrasing.  Sure, there is always some nuance that can be read into, drawn out and pored over.  But with a group of people taking parts and reading together there is something special that happens when the reading is continuous: like music, which you do not ask to understand note by note.

The experience is deeper if you have read into your character before you start.  This is one of the joys of Shakespeare.  We know very little about him as a person and his opinions because he had the ability to give his characters a language and phraseology appropriate to their individual character.

Anyway, here is Orson Welles talking about reading Julius Caesar.  Perhaps it will get you into the mood:





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