Memorizing Poetry (Shakespeare) Using the Method of Loci

I’ve been experimenting with methods for memorizing poetry. Here are examples of the mnemonic images I used to memorize Hamlet’s famous soliloquy.

The Method of Loci

The method of loci is a mnemonic technique that goes back at least 2,500 years to the ancient Greeks. If you aren’t familiar with the method of loci yet, this post might not make a lot of sense. I recommend reading one of the memory books on my reading list or asking questions about it in the memory forum. A great book to start with is Dominic O’Brien’s How to Develop a Brilliant Memory Week by Week.

To quickly summarize the method: a mental journey is created, and the data to be memorized is converted into bizarre, exaggerated, visual images that are then placed along the imaginary journey, fooling the mind into believing that it has traveled along the journey. To recall the information, one mentally walks back through the journey, converting the visual images back into the original information that was memorized.

If you’ve never tried the method of loci, it may sound strange, but it’s the same basic concept that people use to memorize thousands of random digits. The key is to convert everything to visual images. Visual memory is incredibly powerful.

The Text to Be Memorized (from Hamlet)

Here is the text to be memorized as written in the book, By Heart: 101 Poems to Remember: Read more

Simonides of Ceos

Roman legend claims that Simonides of Ceos was the inventor of the method of loci where large amounts of data can be remembered in order by placing images that represent the data into mental locations or journeys. (The actual origin of the technique goes far back into prehistory though — read The Memory Code for the full story.)

I was in the Greek Islands last summer and tried to visit his birthplace on Kea, but due to a Greek holiday I couldn’t find a ferry from Athens. I’m planning on visiting Kea next summer to make a memory journey in his hometown of Ioulis.
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