Improv Game of the Day: Shakespeare Madrigal

William Shakespeare

Today is the birthday of the immortal Bard of Avon, so let’s celebrate by playing an improv game in his honor.

5+ players. One player acts as a conductor. Each player chooses a short quote from Shakespeare.  The conductor points to Player One, who starts speaking, chanting, or singing his quote in a rhythmic manner. The conductor signals other players to join in, adding or subtracting other players at will (each with his own line). Players must match the original line in tempo/pulse; players may leave brief rests between repetitions of the line in order to breathe. The conductor may indicate crescendos or decrescendos with hand signals. The effect should be very like a madrigal – vigorous and contrapuntal.

At some point, players may steal words from other players and substitute them in their own line, thus changing the line gradually over time so that “What fools these mortals be” may start combining with others like “There is something rotten in the state of Denmark” or “Brevity is the soul of wit” and start morphing into things like: “What fools are rotten in the state of wit” and then perhaps “What brevity is the soul of Denmark” and finally “There is brevity in the soul of rotten wit.”

Variation 1: Instead of just one quote, each player may use two or three different quotes.

Variation 2: Use longer lines for your parts if you like, such as the To Be or Not to Be speech from Hamlet, or the Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow soliloquy from MacBeth.

Here are some quotes to get you started (but feel free to add your own favorites):

The course of true love never did run smooth.

My salad days when I was green in judgment.

Get thee to a nunnery, go.

To be, or not to be: that is the question.

The lady doth protest too much.

Now is the winter of our discontent.

A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!

What light through yonder window breaks?

If music be the food of love, play on.

Things are neither good nor bad but thinking makes it so.

Tis time to fear when tyrants seem to kiss.

Tis better to be brief than tedious.

O! I am Fortune’s fool.

They do not love that do not show their love.

Conscience doth make cowards of us all.

There’s daggers in men’s smiles.

Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him, Horatio.

Double, double, toil and trouble.

All’s well that ends well.

What a piece of work is man.

I am as constant as the northern star.

Double, double, toil and trouble.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be.

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.