With the publication of Hamlet, we’ve started to help you to explore, in depth, characters in the play. If you look at the Index to Hamlet to the right of this post, you’ll see that there’s a section called ‘Let’s Explore’, with links to four characters from the play: Hamlet, Gertrude, Pelonius, and Ophelia.
Click on any of those links and you’re taken to a page which gives a brief outline of the character you’ve chosen and links to the main scenes in which they appear. The idea is to explore the character by reading out loud the character’s speeches, both in ‘Parts and Cues’ format, and in ‘Highlit Text’ format. There is a more detailed explanation of this process for the character Hamlet.
When you explore a scene in ‘Parts and Cues’ mode, you only see the lines of the character you’re exploring, and not the other speeches in the scene. For many people, this is a really strange idea – surely a scene is the speeches of all the characters in that scene? Of course, that’s true, but each of those characters is played by a different actor, and from the actor’s perspective, there are only his/her lines, and the cues that prompt them to be said. Perhaps more importantly, seeing only your own lines allows you to focus on those lines, and perhaps pick up on little characterisation clues that might be lost in the whole scene. A final point is that this is the form in which Elizabethan / Jacobean actors received their parts, and they don’t seem to have done too badly.
Of course it is helpful to see a character’s lines and speeches in context, and ‘Highlight Text’ format shows the whole scene, with your character’s lines highlit. You can see how other characters are responding to your character; you can get clues from their speeches as to what they think of your character; and frequently their lines will clear up mysteries as to why your character says something.
So what we suggest you do is explore a character by reading their lines out loud in ‘Parts and Cues’ mode, and in ‘HIghlit Text’ mode. Perhaps it doesn’t matter too much which you do first, though we prefer reading the Parts and Cues version first. What is really important is that you explore both forms, and that you read the lines out loud. Speaking the words out loud allows those words to affect your mood and change the emotions you express in the speech.
So, in Hamlet, you can explore Hamlet, Gertrude, Polonius, and Ophelia by clicking on the links on the index. But what about the other Hamlet characters? Why haven’t we put links up to Claudius, or to Rosencrantz or Horatio, or Guildenstern? And come to that, what about Cleopatra, or Lady Macbeth, or Falstaff, or Iago, or Othello?
Well you can explore any character of a Shakespeare play we’ve published in this way, though you’ll have to work a little harder. First of all you need to get to the play, by clicking on the play title on the home page. That will show you the script of the play. Then, you can use the script setup window (click on the gearwheel in the top right-hand corner of the script window) and select the character you wish to play from the ‘Single Part’ viewing mode, and choose ‘Parts and Cues’ or ‘Highlight Text’. Finally close the setup window by clicking on the gearwheel again. Now you can explore the whole play be clicking on the A?S? buttons to move through the different scenes of the play.
Let’s do that for Fastaff, one of my, and many people’s, favourite characters, and let’s look at him in ‘Parts and Cues’ mode. Here’s the steps you need to do:
- First go to the ‘Home Page’ at Players-Shakespeare.com
- Scroll down the Home Page until you come to the play Henry IV Part I, and click on its title.
- A screen will open up showing the script of Henry IV Part I
- Click on the gearwheel at the top right-hand corner of the script window – the setup window opens
- Click on the Single part radio button so you can select a character to explore
- Open the Single part window of characters by clicking on the down-arrow to the right of the single part window
- Select Falstaff from the list of characters
- Click on the ‘Show Parts and Cues’ or ‘Highlight Text’ radio button
- Click on the gearwheel to close the setup window, and you should be ready to go.
Falstaff isn’t in A1S1, so you’ll have to click on the A1S2 button to get to his first scene. When you’ve read that scene (out loud of course), you can change the display mode (Parts and Cues or Highlight Text) to see the scene in its other form, and read it again.
You can explore all the scenes Falstaff is in, by clicking on all the A?S? buttons in turn at the top (and bottom) of the scene script.
So now you’ve done this for one character, you can choose another to explore – just repeat the steps outlined above to choose: the play; the character; and the mode (‘Parts and Cues’, and ‘Highlit Text).
We think this is a powerful and fun way of exploring any character in a Shakespeare play.
If you want to know how our Shakespeare edition is developing, ‘like’ our Facebook page, and you’ll get more detailed updates on Facebook on what’s happening.
Also, if you run a play-reading, don’t forget – we want your feedback so please post at Player-Shakespeare.com’s Facebook page