Plays are Not Meant to be Read in Silence

Due to my five years of studying Latin, I was able to read lots of plays, stories, and jokes in Latin. Although very engaging and entertaining to read, the full power of these texts were lost due to Latin being a language which is never spoken anymore. We would only read aloud our English translations after we went over the Latin on paper. The general gist of what was going on or what the author was trying to portray was apparent, but the finite details or cleverness the author would put into each line was lost. While reading Lysistrata out loud, many jokes and innuendos were only apparent due to the lines being spoken aloud rather than in our heads. Multiple jokes were based on the pronunciations of words and not their actual meanings. Translator Sarah Ruden mentions this in the Preface when she writes “the humor in a line might depend on a particle, an element that does not exist in English but great Greeks could hardly utter a sentence without.”

The act of reading aloud also forces us, the readers, to focus on every word and makes glancing over words and skimming impossible. Skipping words or phrases is very common while reading, especially if one is not particularly interested in the text. Having to pronounce every word and feel it in our mouths makes the us, the reader, see the importance of every word. In elementary and middle school a tool that was recommended by our English teachers was that when writing anything we ought to read it aloud because while reading aloud, mistakes or clunky phrases are much easier to spot because your mouth and mind have to focus on every word and phrase in order to read it. 

Listening to stories read aloud is just as important. Being able to have a story read allows listeners to create a more complete picture of what they are hearing. Creating a movie in the mind is much easier to accomplish when stories or other literature is read aloud. 

Reading aloud or being read to aloud is an important part of understanding a text, but for the most part, schools stopped frequently using it after second or third grade other than the occasional recommendation while proofreading an essay. Reading these plays aloud in our senior English class reminded me of how important this skill really is. 

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