Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 1

This is Tonia's first blog post. This week she discusses her return to the Globe, what the text reveals about Cordelia and how she responds to the major themes of the play.

Transcript of Podcast


It is three years since I last appeared in a play at the Globe. A lot has happened in three years, and I have done other things. It was strange on the first day. I had so much fun in the last production, it was really important to me; I loved it and the people who were involved in it. I am very happy to be here again.

I am enjoying the support we are getting from Giles (Block, Master of Verse) and Glynn (Macdonald, Master of Movement), who give us daily classes. What I find useful about Glynn is that she is very playful and as well as working on exercises about stretching, relaxing - trying to feel comfortable, she gets you to think about your body and the way you use it when performing.

Cordelia in the text

I have been trying to understand the world that Cordelia is comes from by asking some questions:

• Who are the people around her?
• What kind of world do they create?
• What kind of father is Lear?
• What kind of King is Lear?
• What kind of state is Lear's kingdom?

I have looked closely at the text to help me find the answers to these questions. On the first introduction of the daughters, Lear says Goneril ‘our eldest’, Regan ‘our dearest’ and about Cordelia ‘our joy’. What does that mean? It is obviously important to Cordelia's relationship with her father and therefore her character.

I am also working through the text, to see what people say about Cordelia, what Cordelia says about others and finally what she says about herself. I find it useful to think of the play as a painting or a piece of music. Each character has one particular instrument or sound or colour.

What is Cordelia's position in the play? What does she symbolise, compared to the other characters? Cordelia is particularly striking, as she is on her own. She does seem to hold a different position, from the very start of the play, a position that is created by her father.

Lear sets up a game of manipulation; his daughters have to make a public gesture to show how much they love him. Cordelia observes the actions of her sisters, and says " if for I want that glib and oily art to speak and purpose not, since what I well intend, I’ll do ‘t before I speak". This implies that those who speak are using their words as art, but they do not necessarily match their deeds with these words. Cordelia says that she can say nothing because love cannot be spoken about. When she leaves she tells her sisters, ‘I know what you are, and like a sister am most loth to call your faults as they are named.’

I have tried to look at the dynamics between the initial scenes and Cordelia's return. Maybe because Cordelia is absent for so long, she feels she has to justify her return. She says that she has come back for her father, not just to gain land. Her return is not for political reasons. She seems to need to say that, to make it very clear.


One theme that is very important in King Lear is the theme of families. Families are political, they are everything. Can you be cut off from your family? A parallel to Cordelia's story is the story of Edgar and Edmund. If you are outcast from the family, it is like cutting a piece of yourself off (both Edgar and Edmund literally cut themselves).

Cordelia is known as a good character, but it is difficult to play goodness. I think that the only thing you can work on, in order to create a three-dimensional character, are her intentions and her reactions to the events of the play and the actions of others.

In the first scene, when she replies to Lear, Cordelia could have said "nothing my lord…I cannot heave my heart into my mouth: I love your Majesty according to my bond; no more no less." She could have stopped there and it would have been enough. However, Cordelia goes on to say that she does not understand her sisters, and their husbands. I’m trying to work out why she does this and what this tells us about her character. I think that King Lear is more than just a play about love. It is like the storm that breaks out; the character's emotions are like a storm. The play moves very fast, to extremes. What kind of people would be caught up in such an extreme situation?

The theme of the family in the play relates clearly to our everyday life. It is not difficult to feel sympathy for Goneril when she tell her father that he cannot stay with her any longer, as she starts very reasonably. Lear's men come to her house, they drink, are loud, and they ruin her house. Goneril has had enough. It can’t be worked through. Her action comes from necessity initially, it is only later that her character's actions become evil.

Finally, I’m thinking a great deal about Cordelia's position after her first scene. Lear literally says that he has no daughter. What would that be like? How does it effect her later actions.

These comments are the actor's thoughts or ideas about the part as s/he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his/her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsal process progresses.

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