Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 3

In her third blog post, Tonia discusses her rehearsals, the difficulties of Cordelia's character, and how a run-through has helped her understand more of these complexities.

Transcript of Podcast


At the moment I have been having many voice and movement sessions, but I have not had specific rehearsals on my character. This is because we have been working through the play in scene order and I appear at the beginning of the play and end of the play (scenes 1, 18, 21, 22 and 23), so I have not been present in all of the rehearsals. Due to this, I do not feel as fully informed about my character as some of the other actors. This is strange as Cordelia is an important character in the play, but she does not appear in many scenes.


I think that there are many clichés attached to Cordelia's character. She is always considered to be the good sister, who represents love, and is the ‘heart’ of the play. These elements that traditionally surround Cordelia are impossible to play, because you can only play actions and intentions. If I am ever going to be able to play these aspects of Cordelia's character, then I will also have to create a dimension that does not traditionally belong to her. As an actor the difficulty is finding the humanity in her, and not too play her as ‘too’ pure. I want to ‘shake up’ Cordelia's character with a bit of poison, hatred and anger. This will give her more life and humanity, making her like a real person. Cordelia could simply be stubborn or mad, however I do not think that this idea is very strong in relation to the rest of the play.

Goneril and Regan possibly find Cordelia's ‘goodness’ annoying. Cordelia is the person who ‘rocks the boat’, the one person who does not do as the others do. In a sense, this should not happen in a family. Her sisters may hate her for it. However, in all of Shakespeare's work, there is a sense of characters who tell the truth and those who do not. The Fool and Cordelia are examples of such characters in King Lear. In a family each character has his or her specific role. The two families in the play are quite similar. I think that Edgar and I have a similar role in the dynamics of the two families, as Edgar represents compassion, wisdom and restoration.

There are two ways in which I can approach the development of Cordelia's character. Firstly, I could approach it as if I was in Shakespeare's ‘universe’, which would portray Cordelia as the virtue, truth and heart of the play. Conversely, I could look at it from a contemporary perspective. In this sense, Cordelia is a character who fights, is in a war and goes back to a country to restore an old regime. Cordelia's actions also set up a world that shows people being unable to talk openly about their feelings.


The company did an informal run-through of the play (simply walking and talking our way through it, rather than having to work through it at the right rhythm). This was very useful, as our work has now developed from being words on a page to being physical work on the stage. This run-through also helped me to understand Cordelia's relation to the play as a whole and has informed me of what the world of the play is like. I want Cordelia to be a part of this world, despite her character being made an outsider.

I have been thinking about the relationship between Cordelia and the Fool. We talk about similar things, but the Fool gets away with saying these things and Cordelia does not. What would happen if the Fool said my lines at the beginning? In what other ways are we similar?


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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