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"To be, or not to be": NHP's Annual Shakespeare Monologue Contest

By Sania Daniyal

The English Speaking Union’s National Shakespeare Competition welcomes young Shakespeareans to engage in the art of dramatics. Students have the chance to win prizes, engage with material that transcends past and present and practice essential skills needed both in school and beyond.  This year's NHP recitation competition took place on February 7, and the winner was junior Asmita Saha, who performed a monologue from the play "Richard II."

Students select their monologues from the monologue packet provided by the ESU, which includes over 260 monologues from more than 120 characters. To be successful in this competition, students are encouraged to not only memorize lines from Shakespeare’s plays but also to convey their character’s emotions effectively. 

“I selected my monologue because I had read it in tenth grade English and knew what the meaning of it was already. All I had to do was work on expressing the emotion that was needed,” senior Lily LeSchack said.

In years past, the English department has consistently had over 30 senior high students participate in the competition. To compete, high school students nationwide read, analyze and recite Shakespearean monologues and sonnets in three qualifying stages: school-level, ESU Branch-level and national level. Since she won NHP's school-level contest, Asmita will advance to the ESU Branch Competition later this winter. Afterward, the regional winner will advance to the national competition held in New York City’s Lincoln Center in the spring. 

Source by Mary Kay Mannle

To compete, high school students nationwide read, analyze and recite Shakespearean monologues and sonnets.

Students have a wide array of opportunities as they play both actors and casting directors simultaneously. Actors often research their roles beforehand to deliver an effective performance. 

“Understanding the broader context of the scene allows you to embody the character's emotions authentically,” sophomore Fatima Naysa said. “I chose Juliet's monologue from Act 2, Scene 2 as my focus for improvement was my acting skills. The iconic line ‘Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?’ reflects Juliet's longing and desperation as she grapples with the challenges of their forbidden love which I feel like can be reflected today because of the societal expectations that may shape an individual’s actions.”

The students will be evaluated on how well they understand the meaning of their speech, how accurately they portray their character and how confidently they express themselves.

“As the coordinator of this competition, I felt it was important to organize this prestigious event in order to further foster and cultivate an appreciation for Shakespeare’s literature, language and characters,” Shakespeare monologue contest coordinator Mr. Stencel said. “Standing in front of a group of English teachers and performing a Shakespearean monologue can be a daunting task. However, overcoming this challenge can boost a student’s confidence and self-esteem.”

The competition provides a platform for students to express their creativity and individuality as they interpret and portray characters in their own unique ways. Through exploring the variety of monologues, students can showcase their acting skills and foster their inner Shakespeare.


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