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Let’s Explore ‘Parts and Cues’, Highlit Text’, and Standard Script

We thought it might be fun to show you how to use Parts and Cues, Highlit Text, and Standard Script, so we’ve taken six of our favourite scenes from Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Henry IV Part I, and Romeo and Juliet,  and put them into a form where you can easily read or play them, and see the different formats we can present the text. We hope you’ll enjoy it!

If you don’t know about “Let’s Play” or the MFFEV5 Cloud Reader, then perhaps you should read the following two posts first:

The Quick-Start Guide:

At the top right-hand-side of this post, next to my portrait, you’ll see a list of scenes set up in our “Let’s Play” section.
The entries in yellow are the titles of the scenes.
The entries below each title, starting with “->”, are the speakers in that scene, and the form of the script (Parts and Cues; Highlit Text; Standard Script).
Click on a yellow title, and you’ll be shown an introduction to the scene.
Click on a speaker, and you’ll be shown their speeches in the specified format.

That’s it. You know how to explore the different forms of script, and how to learn out about the scenes
Click on a few scene titles and  speakers, and you’ll soon see how it works.
If there’s more than one of you, do feel free to play parts gender and age blind. One of the delights of play-reading is playing parts you’d be unlikely to get the chance of playing in a production.
If you prefer my words to Shakespeare’s (?), you can always get back to this post, by clicking on the red link, at the bottom of the list.

The Not-so-Quick Guide:

If you look again at the list of scenes in the right-hand top corner, you’ll see that there are six of them. A brief introduction to each of them follows:

  • Feste talks with Viola

This scene consists of a brief, slightly ill-tempered chat (on Feste’s side) between Viola and Feste.
The first character shows Feste’s lines in “Highlit Text”, so you can see both Feste’s and Viola’s lines, but Feste’s line are highlit in yellow.
The second character shows Feste’s lines in “Parts and Cues”. Now you can only see Feste’s lines, and the ‘cue’ – the last three words of the previous speech (by Viola of course) which ‘cues’ the speech. This means Feste has to listen to Viola, so as to know when to speak.
Click on both of them alternately and you’ll start to get familiar with the differences between “Highlit Text” and “Parts and Cues”.

If there were two of you, you could read this scene between you.
One person can read Feste’s lines using the “Parts and Cues” version, waiting for the cues.
The other person can read Viola’s lines in Feste’s “Highlit Text” version, where they are shown unhighlit.
If Feste forgets a cue, Viola can give a prompt.

  • Hamlet berates his mother

This scene is set up for 3 players. (It could be 4 with a player each for Polonius and the Ghost, but it seems easy for one player to read both parts.)
The first player plays Polonius and the Ghost. The script is in “Standard Script” so that both parts have equal prominence. This player can also act as prompt, as all lines of all parts are shown.
The second player plays the Queen in “Parts and Cues” mode, so ‘she’ has to listen out for her cues.
The third player plays Hamlet, again in “Parts and Cues” mode, and so he, too, has to listen out for her cues.

Now, of course, you can look at all three parts on your own, but it’s much more fun to get togethether with a couple of friends and act it. I recommend you don’t start with an audience ( 🙂 ) but who knows where this may lead.

  • Hamlet fights with Ophelia

Now there’s another scene from Hamlet, which is a bit more complicated.
First it’s set up for 4 players.
Second, it doesn’t start at the beginning of the scene, but at Hamlet’s first speech “To be or not to be…” which you may have heard of.
This means the other three players have to find their position in the script.

The first speaker is Hamlet in “Parts and Cues”. You can see from the Stage Direcctions (and the Stage Direction cues in green) that quite a bit has happened before Hamlet enters. As we’re only playing from “To be”, Hamlet doesn’t have to wait for his cue.
The second speaker is Ophelia, again in “Parts and Cues”. She has to look for her first cue after Hamlet enters – “my sins remembered.”
The third speaker is King (Claudius). His script is in “Highlit Text”. A lot of speaking before Hamlet’s entry can be ignored, and then there’s a lot of listening to Hamlet and Ophelia fighting, before the King’s first speech starting: “Love? His affections do not that way tend,”
And finally Polonius, again in “Highlit Text”. Polonius has to scroll down to Hamlet’s entry, and then has to listen to Hamlet, Ophelia, and the King, until he finally gets a few lines just before the scene ends.

King Claudius or Polonius could act as prompt in case Hamlet or Ophelia get lost, and given that Polonius has so little to do, it should probably be ‘him’.

This is a great scene to read together if you have four people together.

  • Henry IV tells off Prince Hal

This is one of my favourite scenes in Shakespeare! I’d love to tell my son off  like this – of course, he’s never needed it – but I guess most fathers have felt like this at some time or other, as one generation hands over to the next.

We’re back to 2 players again.
The first player is Henry IV, in “Parts and Cues”.
The second player is Prince Hal, in “Highlit Text”.

Prince Hal can act as prompt in case his dad loses his place, but might not want to, given how he’s smarting. However, Henry IV is most likely loving it, and so there’s little chance that he’ll lose his place.

Another great scene for two people to read together.

  • Romeo and Juliet meet (the balcony scene)

The last two scenes are from Romeo and Juliet, and allow you to compare working in “Highlit Text” compared with “Parts and Cues”. They are the two “balcony” scenes, one where Romeo and Juliet meet, after the ball, and one, where Romeo has to leave for exile, after spending his marriage night with Juliet. The first scene has all actors in “Highlit Text” and the second has Romeo and Juliet in “Parts and Cues” and the Nurse in “Highlit Text”. It’s good to have at least one player in “Highlit Text” to act as prompt.

There’s no right or wrong about whether to use “Parts and Cues” or “Highlit Text”. Some people (most actors) prefer using “Parts and Cues” – it adds a little excitement, and it’s what they have to do in performance, and some prefer “Highlit Text” – they like to see the whole script. Personally I like to use both – they both show you something about the scene and the characters, (and “Parts and Cues” can be good to keep pupils / students listening to the text – or else they get lost).

The first player in the balcony scene is Romeo (Parts and Cues).
The second player is Juliet (Parts and Cues)
The third player is the Nurse (Highlit Text) (lookout for the stage direction “Nurse calls within”.
The Nurse’s minimal speech (1 call within, 2 Madams) is small but important. It motivates Juliet’s exit offstage (and eventual return).

I’m sorry to go on, but again, it’s a great scene for three people to read together.

  • Romeo and Juliet part

This scene, with the same three characters, has everyone in “Highlit Text” format.

The first player is Juliet (Highlit Text) trying to persuade Romeo to stay.
The second player is Romeo (Highlit Text) wishing he could stay.
The third player is the Nurse (Highlit Text) who has the same role of interrupting the young lovers.

When (not if) you’ve read both scenes, see what you think about “Parts and Cues” or “Highlit Text”. Do you prefer one compared with the other? Whichever you prefer, do keep trying out both. I’m sure you’ll find times when one is more effective than the other.

So there you are, you’ve got six scenes to explore on your own, or with one or two friends. Now all you have to do is click on one of the links to the right. And if you prefer my words to Shakespeare’s (?), you can always get back to these, by clicking on the red link, at the bottom of the list.

Let’s Play!

‘The Director’,
Don’t forget – for feedback on the MFFEV5, post on Players-Shakespeare.com’s Facebook page,
and to keep up-to-date with what is going on, ‘like’ Players-Shakespeare.com’s Facebook page
And finally, don’t forget we review Shakespeare productions you can watch at home on DVD or streaming. See:
Great plays to watch at home.

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