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Let’s Play Hamlet – setting up your own “Let’s Play”

We’ve published quite a few scenes and plays that you can play in our Let’s Play section with scenes requiring 1, 2, 3, 4, 5….10 players, and people are starting to use them. What you  may not have realised, is that you can set up your own “Let’s Play!” scenes for your own use. In this post we’re going to show you how, using a few scenes from Hamlet as an example. So if you’re a director, rehearsing a cast, or a teacher / drama lecturer, reading scenes with students, someone teaching their children about Shakespeare’s work, or someone who runs a play-reading group and wants to set up a playreading that meets the needs of your play-reading group, you can do it.

If you’re new to Players-Shakespeare.com’s “Let’s Play”, you might like to read the following posts before trying to follow the following tutorial:

The key component of each “Let’s Play”  is a set of URLs (or links) – one for each player –  which links to the scene and character(s) that that player is playing,  and says how the script should be displayed (standard script, parts and cues, highlit text).  You’ll see how to generate those links below.

These links don’t have to be on a “Let’s Play” page on Players-Shakespeare.com. They can be in any electronic medium that supports the use of URLs – for example: emails; MS-Word documents; or your own internal web pages; or any electronic medium which supports URLs. Each PC, smartphone, tablet, etc which is going to be used, has to be connected to the Internet, and have a web browser (e.g. Safari; Google Chrome; Microsft Edge; Opera; Firefox etc). The players click on the link for the part that they want to play, and the configured text will open in their web browser.

So how do we create a “Let’s play” for use by our students ; actors; play-readers? This post will show you below, by showing you a ‘worked example’. That example will be one or more scenes from Hamlet chosen to demonstrate how we set up a “Let’s Play”

We’ll do that in 4 steps, each shown below:

  1. Select the scene(s) we want to use in “Let’s Play”
  2. Decide how many players and in what form they’ll see the script.
  3. Setup each player by using the MFFEV5 version of the play
  4. Create the text for your students / players and include the appropriate URLS
  5. Send the electronic document to the students / players
  6. Meet with the students / players and “Let’s play” the scene.

So let’s go through each of these six steps to see each one in more detail:

  • Step 1:  Select the scene(s) we want to see in “Let’s Play”

I want to choose scene(s) which demonstrate how to set up a “Let’s Play”, so I want the selected scene to be simple and easy to implement. I had a quick look at Hamlet, to find scenes we hadn’t already used in “Let’s Play” and came up with the following options:

A1S4 & A1S5: (Hamlet meets the Ghost): Hamlet, Horatio, and Marcellus are on watch, wondering if the Ghost will turn up. Sure enough he does, and beckons Hamlet to follow him. Horation and Marcellus try to prevent Hamlet from going, but he follows the Ghost and is told his father was murdered. Horatio and Marcellus re-join Hamlet, and the Ghost (underground) makes them sear to keep things secret.

This is good exciting, dramatic stuff, only requires 4 players (and we could make Marcellus or Horatio play the Ghost as well) or 3 players, but does involve playing two scenes. A definite candidate.

A2S1: Polonius is insensitive towards his children:  Polonius advises his servant Reynaldo to go and spy on Polonius’ son Laertes in Paris and to run down Laerrtes to all the Danes in Paris, so they’ll tell him how badly Laertes is behaving. This may be good espionage technique, but is rather strange behaviour for a father towards his son. It also has no plot function which makes one wonder why it’s there. Then Ophelia enters, very upset, because Hamlet has been behaving strangely towards her. Polonius is keen to understand what’s happened and immediately wants to rush off with Ohpelia to tell the king. He offers no comfort to his distraught daughter.

This is a short scene, only involves 3 players, perhaps is not so dramatic as ‘Hamlet and the Ghost’ but does let me point out that Polonius puts his job  before his children, so he can be played, not as the conventyional silly old buffer, but as spymaster to Claudius.

A3S2: Hamlet and the Players: This is another of my favourite scenes from Hamlet. It starts with Hamlet teaching the players how to act (and there’s some good stuff for putative actors there); the audience gathering to see the play with some cruel bawdy stuff between Hamlet and Ophelia; the players play The Mousetrap; Claudius and Gertrude leave guiltily; Hamlet and Horatio discuss their reactions; and Hamlet deals with the aftermath with Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Polonius.

It’s one of my favourite scenes, but it requires around 20 players; it is really 4 or 5 scenes, so lovely as it is, it’s too complex for our objective of having a simple scene. Of course it might suit someone else’s objective, who has a class of 20 or so to involve in a class, but it’s not for me.

So we’re down to “Hamlet meets the Ghost” or “Polonius is insensitive towards his children”.  And I decide to go for the Polonius scene, because it’s a little bit simpler.

  • Step 2: Decide how many players and in what form they’ll see the script.

There are three characters in the scene, so the usual thing would be to go for 3 players, each playing 1 character. We could do it with two, asking one player to play Reynaldo and Ophelia, but it seems simpler to go with three.

On script format, it’s usual to have one of the players in Highlit Text format, so they see the whole script of the scene and can act as prompt and in this scene that could be Reynaldo or Ophelia.  Let’s go with Ophelia in Highlit Text format and Polonius (the biggest part) in Parts and Cues and Reynaldo as well. Of course, you could equally well have everyone in Highlit Text format, but one of the advangages of having most of the characters in Parts and Cues is that they have to pay attention, because they’re listeining out for their cues.

  • Step 3: Setup each player by using the MFFEV5 version of the play

So now we have to setup the links for each player in the scene.

First we go to the MFFEV5 version of the play by selecting it from the MFFEV5 menu, or the Let’s Play Complete Plays, or by clicking on the following link:

A new window will open up, showing the script of the play Hamlet. Now, for each of the three players we have to configure the script as follows:

  • Step 4, 5, & 6: Copy the links into your document; send it to the students / players; meet with them, and play the scene.

  • Now we’ve created the three URLs for each of the characters in our scene, we can copy them into any electronic document that we wish to use. You could copy them into an email to send to the students / players. You could copy them into an MS-Word document which outlined a course lesson, with as much descriptive text in it as you liked, including questions to discuss after playing the scene, or directorial notes on how you wanted the scene played. In you have you’re own web-site, you can build web-pages which include those links.
  • Once you’re happy with the document you’ve written, you can send it to the students / players, or tell them where they can find it on your web-site.
  • The next step is to meet with the students / players, and play the scene!

So, I hope you can see, that you can construct your own “Let’s Play” scenarios with all the plays we’ve published (and will continue to publish in the coming months). Of course we’ll continue to publish our own “Let’s Play”s,  (and more “How tos” explaining what you can do),  but you are not constrained by our imaginations. Indeed we might be interested in publishing your “Let’s Play”s on Players-Shakespeare.com!

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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