5 Steps to Talking Like Shakespeare

— Emily, Owl Eyes Staff on

Happy birthday, Shakespeare! And happy “Talk Like Shakespeare Day” to everyone else. In the spirit of the day, we've put together a simple 5-step guide to talking like Shakespeare himself.

1. Know your iambic pentameter

A good place to start on your quest to sound like Shakespeare is with iambic pentameter. This unstressed-stressed pattern totals ten syllables per line and will automatically up your Shakespearean language game.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
— Sonnet 18

‘Tis not so sweet now as it was before.
— Twelfth Night: Act I, Scene i

2. Buff up on those classical and biblical allusions

Shakespeare was well-versed (no pun-intended) in both his classical and biblical allusions. Throwing in a couple allusions here and there will undoubtedly impress your friends and family. Try referencing oddly specific places, Greek gods, and biblical stories. Bonus points if a single sentence contains more than one allusion.

I'll drown more sailors than the mermaid shall,
I'll slay more gazers than the basilisk,
I'll play the orator as well as Nestor,
Deceive more slyly than Ulysses could,
And, like a Sinon, take another Troy.
I can add colours to the chameleon,
Change shapes with Proteus for advantages,
And set the murderous Machevil to school.

— Shakespeare, Henry the Sixth Part 3, Act III Scene iii

3. Use Shakespearean contractions

Forget the days of using proper contractions, prepositions, and words. Instead, randomly join together various words to sound like a true Renaissance raconteur. ‘Tis an easy way ‘t mimic Shakespeare and keep your iambic flow going.

Here are some examples from the man himself:

  • ’Tis (it is)
  • O (oh)
  • Wi’ (with)
  • Ha’ (have)
  • I’ (in)
  • ‘Tween (between)
  • Ne’er (never)
  • O’er (over)

4. Speak in innuendo

These can be as subtle (or not subtle) as you desire. Whether you’re talking at the office or in front of the children at home, employing some of Shakespeare’s innuendos can make just about any environment appropriate for salacious conversations. Just don’t blame us for the outcome.

Petruchio: Who knows not where a wasp does wear his sting? In his tail.
Katharina: In his tongue.
Petruchio: Whose tongue?
Katharina: Yours, if you talk of tails: and so farewell.
Petruchio: What, with my tongue in your tail?

— The Taming of the Shrew: Act II, Scene i

Hamlet: Lady, shall I lie in your lap?
Ophelia: No, my lord.
Hamlet: I mean, my head upon your lap.
Ophelia: Ay, my lord.
Hamlet: Do you think I meant country matters?

— Hamlet: Act III, Scene ii

5. Use rhyming couplets

Blank verse aside, Shakespeare also experimented with a rhyming couplet or two in his time. His better known examples often involve the love-stricken Romeo and Juliet, but don’t let that stop you from rhyming in any situation. Though spontaneous rhyming might worry your friends, it’s ultimately up to you when it ends.

Did my heart love till now? Foreswear it, sight.
For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.

— Romeo and Juliet: Act I, Scene v

Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.

— Romeo and Juliet: Act II, Scene ii

I have't. It is engender'd. Hell and night
Must bring this monstrous birth to the world's light.

— Othello: Act I, Scene iii

Are there any other tips you can think of? Leave them in the comments below!