Tricks to memorize monologue?


Nov 25, 2007
Our son has an AP English class and has to memorize 42 lines of Shakespeare by Thursday:nuts:. Have any of the students on TPF ever had such an assignment? What tricks and strategies do you find most helpful? Thanks so much!


Jan 17, 2007
East Bay, CA
i don't think there are any tricks really. just keep reading it over and over, aloud. then try a few lines at a time without looking. then keep adding line by line to until you get the whole thing. saying it out loud while memorizing really helps-- you can hear a sort of rhythm in the sound lines emerging. and if you can remember and feel that rhythm, change in pace and emphasis, it'll help you if you forget a word or line or two.


Nov 25, 2007
That is pretty much what he is doing. But sometimes he blanks out on the first word of the next line. The passage doesn't really flow into any meaningful story so it is extra hard to memorize. I think he should break into 4 chunks of 10 or 11 lines and not learn a new section until previous one is mastered.


I'm in character
Oct 1, 2008
There isn't a whole bunch you can do. I agree with Michelle, he just has to keep reading and reading without looking. I find that if you go over the scripts with friends or at least someone who can help, have them read the lines and then have them say their lines without looking. That way they know where their cues are. I find that that is the most helpful thing to do.


Aug 2, 2008
Along the shores of pure bliss
I think most of Shakespeare's work is written in iambic pentameter so I find that to help a little. However, the crazy eloquence of the language makes it hard to remember stuff. If you memorize the first and last words of each line, it helps as it prepares you for what the next lines are.

Also, try to understand what the lines mean so it's like memorizing normal people talk. It's harder to memorize if you don't understand.


I Bleed Georgia Red
Oct 18, 2005
New York City
I did a lot of debate and speech in high school, which required memorization for certain events, and I think the best thing you can do is learn one line at a time, if that is how the section is naturally broken up. Say the first line, over and over, until he could recite it backwards in his sleep. Then add the second line, and practice them together until he can say them both with no hesitation. Then add the third and practice them all together, and so on. The important part is to always add to the whole so that he'll learn how it all fits together, and if you break it up into unnatural chunks, learning the transition between those chunks can cause LOTS of problems.

What piece of Shakespeare is this? Hamlet's soliloquy? I promise you, whatever it is, it DOES make a larger whole (Shakespeare didn't fool around). Learn what it means in plain English so that your son understands what he's trying to accomplish. That can help SO MUCH. Otherwise, he might as well be memorizing words in a different language. It's so much easier if meaning is attached, and I promise you that it has meaning.


Mar 31, 2007
God, I used to love assignments like that.

I can still readily recall Portia's speech from "The Merchant of Venice" that we had to memorize when I was in 7th grade!

I was always good at remembering stuff like that; I used to have to remember whole speeches for oratorical contests when I was younger--2 and 3 typed pages of speech, no note cards, no teleprompters...

Just read and recite. Read and recite. As a parent, you can help him a great deal. My mom wrote my speeches and she'd go over them with me repeatedly--while I ate, while I watched TV, etc. The bad thing is that I did all that stuff maybe 20 or so years ago, so I don't remember many of my techniques. I think I did do as suggested above, though, and start with one sentence (line), commit that to memory, add another line, commit both to memory, so on and so forth.

One thing I didn't do, though, when having to memorize Shakespeare or Chaucer or something, was try to translate it into modern English. I was the type of learner who would have just been more confused by that, so I just stuck with what was in the textbook.


Oct 12, 2006
If he is not used to the language, and has never done any of the plays in drama class or local theatre, etc, what you might do is help him get past some of the vocabulary and usage issues and just work on the meaning, get into the character, and the actual lines will just come by themselves, like magic!


haha no.
Aug 2, 2007
I would break it up into sections, then memorize the first section, repeat it until i can say it without looking, then go to the second section.

after i think i have the second section, i do the first and second section together, and continue adding sections.

For smaller things, I would actually write it out over and over again! But it's really time i would do this if i was having issues with a certain section/line. Iwould visualize what i wrote, remembering a line was higher up on the page before another one.

I wouldn't translate it into modern english, but a basic understanding of what he's reading could be really helpful!
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Mar 9, 2008
I had to memorize a 20 line ( I don't remember but it was a page long ) once durning 10th grade. I don't know how I did it cz I have the worst memory but I just read and read and split them into 5 lines at a time and I remembered it.

Memorize them 5 lines at a time that should help.


Nov 25, 2007
Thanks everyone!
amanda - It is a piece that has King Edward and Clarence in it. I can get title in the morning for you as my son is sleeping now. I'm trying to get the meaning - some lines are clearer than others. 42 lines is a lot to learn!


Jan 29, 2006
OMG -- I'm SUCH a nerd -- I have dozens of poems and sonnets memorized... can you tell I'm a hit at parties?!?! LOL

For me, the *only* thing that works is writing it down... Literally just writing, writing, rewriting until it's in my head. The kinetic action helps to solidify in my mind what I need to memorize.


Oct 12, 2006
I agree, translating it into modern English would not help, either with the immediate assignment, or in the larger sense.

However understanding what it means will help with both, even make both possible - unless it is a situation where there is a strong belief in rote memorization phonetically, with meaning not being viewed as necessary or even desired, a practice which is extremely popular with educators today, in many parts of the world, both religious and secular, and has been for centuries, but I will have to confess, I know of no useful tricks for that.


Jan 5, 2007
Across a pond
Having it read to somone after learning it as well as possibl by heart is th best way. The person to whon it is read should hav the text and correct and give "clue words" if one gets lost. Also remember to repeat more than "necssary", the mind usually forgets bits easily.

Another good advice; If something is forgotten or he gets a black out, simply go on with something that is remembered ;) I know this is not easy all the time with shakespear, but it's better than shutting up and remaining stiff. :tup:

Other than that.. repeat repeat repeat. ..

(Oh, reg. the languag, it shouldn't be a problem, some children have been taught the bible by heart long bfore they could possibly comprehend the dphts of all the words. Also, many singers sing in languages they don't know at all, so learning phonetics by heart doesen't rquire comprehension).

Good luck


Aug 30, 2008
OMG -- I'm SUCH a nerd -- I have dozens of poems and sonnets memorized... can you tell I'm a hit at parties?!?! LOL

Me, too!!! LMAO!

I have everything memorized from Thanatopsis to Shakespeare to Portia's speech in Merchant of Venice to Emily's entire part in Our Town to all of the book of James in the Bible. I have no memory of how I did it - other than you have to understand what you're talking about - because that was 25 years ago. WHY I still remember every word of them all these years later is beyond me. But it really impresses my English/lit teacher when I happen to run into her for dinner or something when I am 'home.' LOL! She still quizzes me!

Just keep doing what you're doing and help him understand what he's saying. Repetition. :tup: Good Luck!