Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 2

In his second blog post, Bruce discusses how discussing the text has helped him develop his character, what effect Kent's disguise has and how the cast will create the storm on stage.

Transcript of Podcast

The text 

The company has been sitting together and discussing what individual lines in the text mean and how they fit into the play as a whole. I have been exploring Kent's function in the play. Discussions with the entire company are not specific to a particular character; therefore this focus on Kent has been quite general.

In my research, I have found that the portrayal of Kent in the Quarto (which is what we are using) is different from his portrayal in the Folio. I think that this is because the language and phrases in each are slightly different. In the Folio, the character of Kent begins to diminish; however in the Quarto he appears to maintain a greater presence.

We received the ‘cut’ version of the play before rehearsals began. Since then, a few pieces of the text have been reinstated. As we continue with the rehearsal process, other cuts may be suggested or other ‘swaps’ made. I recently suggested a swap of lines for Act II Scene II, when Kent and Oswald have been parted. After Oswald says, "I am scarce in breath, my Lord" my line was "No marvel, you have so bestirr’d your valour" and the following line, "You cowardly Rascal", had been cut. However, I thought that the point would be clearer if the line was changed to, "No marvel, you cowardly rascal."

Discussing the text

There are many different ways in which we rehearse. Currently, the actors who are part of a particular scene sit together and read the scene through and then do a line-by-line analysis. We ask questions about the scene such as:

• What is the meaning behind the scene?

• What do the lines mean?

• What is the aim and the function of the actor/character in that particular scene?

We have been exploring one of the ‘storm’ scenes in this way. I am in four of the storm scenes. This particular ‘storm’ scene (Act III Scene IV) is when Kent first takes Lear to the hovel. Kent has been solicitous towards Lear, and is trying his hardest to get him to enter the hovel. It is at this point that Edgar appears disguised as a madman. Lear blames Edgar's madness on the way that his daughters have treated him, alluding to his own situation. Kent says that Edgar has no daughters. After saying this, Kent does not have any lines for about three pages.

I do not understand why Kent suddenly becomes quiet and so we have been discussing this. We have speculated that the reason for his silence is that Lear is so outraged at Kent's response (that he has no daughters) that Lear says "Death, traitor! Nothing could have subdu’d nature, To such a lowness but his unkind daughters", and he hits Kent, knocking him out. It is when Kent comes to that he asks Lear, "How fares your Grace?" This is the first time that Kent calls Lear "your Grace" while he is in disguise (he always calls Lear "my Lord"). I think that he says these words in his own voice, rather than any voice assumed as a disguise.

Discovering Kent

Kent is a good man. However, the audience cannot simply be told this, they must discover it for themselves as the play progresses. There are other dimensions to Kent's character. He is independent and brave. This is displayed in Act I Scene V, when he asks Lear to employ him. I think that Kent is also a ‘military’ man. He is brusque and so perhaps he could be disguised as a NCO. Barry [Kyle, Master of Play] however does not particularly like this idea!

An interesting point emerged from the discussion work. Kent is the only character, in the play, who does not have family. There are two main families in King Lear: Lear, his three daughters, and their husbands, and Gloucester and his two sons. Oswald and the Fool are the only other characters who do not have families. However, they are both members of a household, or are closely aligned to a household. In the play, there is no mention of Kent having a wife or children. Thus, to an extent, Kent has nothing to lose when he is exiled; yet he still returns through his loyalty and his love for Lear.

Kent has a dual role when he returns. The first is as a carer for Lear, the importance of this role increases as Lear's health degenerates. The second is a political role as he helps France and Cordelia.

Kent in disguise

I have been exploring the nature of Kent's disguise. What costume does he wear? What voice and accent does he assume? Before Kent leaves, his costume is similar to Gloucester's costume. This is because they are of equal status as they are both Earls. When he returns, he is disguised as someone of a ‘lower’ social status and he calls himself Cius.

What effect does the nature of Kent's disguise have on his character? This is a complicated issue in the plot, which I have related to certain events in the play. Lear sends Kent to Gloucester's house with the letter to Regan. When Kent is in the stocks he explains that he went to see Regan, and delivered the letter (as the King's messenger) and was elbowed out of the way by someone delivering Regan a letter from Goneril. Regan is happier to receive Goneril's letter then her father’s. As soon as Regan reads her Goneril's letter she and her husband go to see Gloucester, telling Kent to follow on. I think that Kent is angry to be treated in this manner, but because of his disguise cannot express this.

I would like the students to consider the following points: Why does Kent let his emotions over-ride his political sense? Why did Kent get into a fight with Oswald? I think that one of the answers to these two questions is - the element of disguise. When you wear a mask, you become a different person and therefore you can act out of character. A disguise can extend or limit certain parts of your personality. Kent may also act this way because he has a sense of security and safety due to his disguise.

Masks and disguises effect everyone. This can in seen with clowns. They have a particular persona, but you are aware that they are different in reality. I read about an article Graham Norton in the newspaper. To me he seems very bubbly and outrageous, however the article said that he was actually a very quiet and restrained man. Kent, like Graham Norton, becomes a different person when he is required to present an image of himself to others.

Creating the storm

The company has been considering the staging of the storm. In other ‘regular’ theatres, there is always an amazing soundtrack (of thunder, rain) and so the staging purely becomes about turning knobs on the sound-system so that the actors can be heard. In the Globe this cannot be done we often perform in broad daylight, on a sunny afternoon. Barry had a wonderful idea of the company creating the storm with our voices. We have to ‘act’ the storm, rather then rely on effects. We have to think about what would happen to our bodies in a storm. What would we do if there were high winds or hard rain? A picture and a feel of a storm must be created.


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

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