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Our MFFE V5 release – Parts and Cues + examples

Our MFFE V5 release plan

Our release of Modern First Folio Edition, Version 5 (MFFE V5) is getting very close. Currently:

  • We have eight plays converted to MFFE Version 5 format, including:

    • The Tempest

    • Twelfth Night

    • Othello

    • King Lear

    • A Midsummer Night’s Dream

    • Much Ado About Nothing

    • Henry IV Part I

    • Henry IV Part II

    • and we’re currently working on Romeo and Juliet

  • We are also very close to having an online MFFE Version 5 reader which will let you view MFFE V5 plays in their glory ‘on the cloud’. We’re actively looking for people to try out that online reader, so that we can get feedback from you, the readers, of our system. If you’d like to try out our MFFE Version 5, please email us at rforsyth@live.co.uk and we’ll add you to the list to get in contact with when we’re ready (looks like mid-August).

  • Following on close behind will be  an App which lets you read MFFE V5 plays on your e-reader, either as HTML via your browser, or as one of our three supported formats: epub; azw3; or pdf. If all else fails, a pdf should give a reasonable rendering of MFFE V5 plays.

  • Then we’ll be releasing all plays from the First Folio in MFFE V5 format over the coming months.

How can you use the MFFE Version 5?

Shakespeare is typically enjoyed in performance, or studied for understanding. Enjoying a performance, as a member of an audience, as a participant in a play-reading, or as an actor on stage, typically builds enthusiasm for Shakespeare, and motivates studying him to understand more.

The Modern First Folio Edition is helpful for ‘playing Shakespeare’, and so is complementary to the academic editions (e.g. Arden, Folger), more useful when studying Shakespeare. The MFFE can be used: in production; for play-readings (in a class or private group); and for individual readings:

  • In productions:

    • The script can be provided in MS-Word format for editing by the director / script-editor.
    • ‘Parts and Cues’ can be provided of all parts in a play for players to learn their lines from. Alternatively,  for those who prefer it, a complete text can be printed with the player’s part(s) highlit in a different colour.
    • A number of directors use ‘Parts and Cues’ for many of their rehearsals
  • In play-readings:

    • Each player in a play-reading can have the script in their preferred format (standard script; highlit text; or parts and cues).
    • Playreading castings are provided so that each player can read a principal role (and some minor roles). If the number of players attending the reading changes, most players can still read their roles.
    • A ‘play-reading conductor’ can participate in the reading, and have their own part(s) to read by having the script in highlit text format.
    • For those who so desire, parts in the play can be pre-allocated, so that players can study their part in parts and cue format before the play-reading.
  • Reading a play on one’s own:

    • Of course, one can read the whole play on one’s own as a standard script, or as a highlit text.
    • Perhaps of more interest is to read a part in a play in Parts and Cues format.
      As we edited plays in MFFE V5 format, it became clear that, because the player didn’t have the whole play, and because there were no rehearsals, the player’s part in the play needed to be clearly defined in his early speeches so that the player could quickly develop characterization. Perhaps this will become clearer with an example below:
  • And for the Academics….

    • There’s a version of the play in pdf format with line nos so an academic reference can be made.

An example of Parts and Cues from Henry IV Part I:

Now imagine  that you are the player first playing the role of Hotspur in Henry IV Part IYou’ve heard rumour of a great amusing play, but nothing much about it. You may have heard one readthrough of the play, but that was a few weeks ago, and you’d had a few glasses of wine that evening. Now you’ve been handed the part, and you’re playing it tomorrow night.

You get up early the next morning (to have some light to read with), take out your part and cues, and try and glean as much as you can from your part. What do you learn from the first scene? (Read the pdf  below using ‘Next’ and ‘Previous’ to scroll through the pages). Well, I’m not going to tell you, but there’s some questions after the reading:


So, what did you make of that?

  • What does Hotspur think of courtiers, and how would that influence your playing of the part?
  • What does his speech about ‘revolted Mortimer’ tell us about his relationships with King and family?
  • Does (and how  does) Hotspur’s behaviour change after the King leaves the stage?

If you think this is fun and fancy writing three two thousand word essays on the topics, have a look at Act Two Scene three, where the character of Hotspur develops yet more, in response to a letter, and to his wife:

Henry IV Part I Act Two Scene Three.

Well maybe the answers to these questions are obvious if you know the play well, but for someone coming to it for the first time , it’s a helpful way into the play. And besides, I find these sort of puzzles fun.

That fun is added to significantly if we’ve all looked at different parts in a play and then come together and those characters meet in a play-reading.

Of course we don’t have to go so far. We can all meet and read the play in separate parts and cues with no preparation. You do need to have a ‘conductor of the play-reading’ in case the play falls apart, but provided they have a ‘highlit text’ of the play  they can keep things together.

So that’s what you can do with the MFFE, and we’ve already started doing that in Edinburgh, and encourage you all to have a go.

But for some of you, you may want to know what the MFFE is, exactly.

So from here on is a bit of a dry definition:

What is MFFE Version 5?

The First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays was published in 1623, prepared by  John Heminges and Henry Condell, two players of The King’s Men, the playing company for which William Shakespeare wrote. The First Folio is the only reliable source for twenty of Shakespeare’s plays and a valuable source text for the others.

Four hundred years later, for the modern player, the First Folio suffers from a number of disadvantages:

  • The punctuation, spelling, and capitalization is difficult for the modern reader to understand

  • A host of editors from the four intervening centuries have edited (i.e. changed) the texts to coincide with their understanding of the plays. Perhaps there’s some value in ‘going back to the source’ and starting the editing process afresh.

  • Although electronic versions of the plays do exist, they have not, in the main, taken advantage of the technology to display the texts at their best.

  • We have become used as reader and performers to reading ‘the whole play’. This differs from the practice of The Chamberlain’s Men / The King’s Men. Then, each player was not given the whole script, but his ‘Part and Cues’. i.e. his speeches, and the cues for each speech + stage directions.  It is also worth noting, that the original players did not really have rehearsals (except perhaps for complicated business – e.g. a fight scene): they put on perhaps 20 different plays a month; each play ran only one or two times; so the players got their Part and Cues, learnt their lines; and then performed their part, aided only by an on-stage ‘conductor’ who made sure the play didn’t fall apart; and a “Platt” (or plot) hung up back stage which outlined the main entrances; exits; and stage directions for the play.

The MFFE V5 tries to address these disadvantages:

  • Punctuation and spellings have, in the main, been modernised.

  • The First Folio is used as the primary source for the text of the MFFE, with only occasional ‘obvious errors’, being corrected by references (notably the Arden edition, and the Applause edition).

  • The text is available on a number of major e-reader platforms, notatable: Apple iBooks; Android Google Play; Kindle (hardware and software); and Adobe pdf format.

  • The e-reader definition (epub) has been extended to help clarify the play text in a number of ways:

    • The text can be seen in three different formats: as a standard script; as a highlit text, where the player’s part(s) are  highlit in a different colour; and in ‘Parts and Cues’ where only the player’s part(s) are shown, together with the cue for each speech.
    • A ‘platt’ is provided, showing the exits, entrances, and major stage directions for each scene in the play.
    • Colour, text attributes, and positioning are used to identify stage directions, cues, shared lines, etc.
    • A variety of different castings (the original and standard castings; play-reading castings for a variable number of players) are embedded into the play.
  • We have embedded different castings into the play. Mostly these are used to help with play-readings, but they go further than that. We provide:
    • The original casting (from T.J. King’s Casting Shakespeare Plays).
    • A standard casting (one part per role)
    • A set of (usually four) play-reading castings, where each player gets at least one principal role to play, and some minor roles. The number of readers required depends on the play, but is usually in the range of 7 to 11 players.

To give you an example, there follows the original casting of Henry IV Part I:
(If you have a largish screen, click on the pic below to see a larger version of the table.)

Casting99 Original Casting

 Is there anything interesting here? I think so:

  • Hotspur is the largest part – 30 lines more than Falstaff! You could knock me down with a feather!
  • Poins and Vernon were doubled, as were Mortimer and Douglas (the two Celts).
  • 22 or 23 players (including minor roles) – big casts by modern day standards.

Well, all of this is interesting stuff, so you’ll be getting more of this before the launch of MFFE Version 5 in 4Q15. We’re getting excited. We hope you’re getting interested.

 The Director,

Find out what’s new at Players-Shakespeare.com at our home page.

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