Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 3

This week, Patricia discusses Goneril's relationship with Oswald, how she approaches her research for Goneril and the process of exchanging lines!

Transcript of Podcast

Goneril and Oswald

This week we have been thinking about the type of relationship that Goneril and Oswald have. Is Goneril in a romantic relationship with him? Barry [Kyle, Master of Play] said that it was normal, at that time, for a person to become ‘involved’ with their servant. However, Jaq [Bessell, Head of Research] disagreed and said that it would not have been possible for Goneril and Oswald to have this kind of relationship. This is due to the fact that there was inequality between men and women. It might have been possible for a man to start a relationship with his servant, but a woman would not have had that freedom. If King Lear had mistresses people would have considered this to be normal and even ‘manly’, but a woman would lose her virtue and respect.

I have been trying to imagine the type of house that Goneril and Albany would have lived in. I think that it must have been huge if they were able to accommodate a king and 100 of his men.

Researching Goneril

Rather than beginning to research the expository elements of the world of the play, I have been trying to understand Goneril and her loneliness. This is interesting because every role that you play has a different starting point. If you are playing a character that has a particular profession then you must research that profession. If I were playing a seamstress then I would have to learn about sewing. With Goneril I do not feel that I have a particular point of research, my starting point is to look at the text and think about how I can develop her character and how I can relate this to my own experiences.

I have been looking at Act I Scene IV when Lear curses Goneril's womb and calls upon nature "dry up in her the organs of increase" so that she cannot have children. How does Goneril feel after her father says such a thing? It must change her feelings towards him. Maybe her pain from Lear's curses can justify her actions later on in the play.


I am currently trying to get a line reinstated into the text that is in the Folio (Arden edition), but not in the Quarto (Oxford edition) which is what we are using. This line is in Act I Scene IV after Lear exits and Goneril and Albany are having a conversation. Goneril is saying that it is dangerous and too political to have 100 of Lear's men in their house. Albany tells her that she fears "too far" and Goneril responds by saying "safer than trust too far". I think that this line is very revealing in relation to her character and relationships, and therefore I think that it is an essential statement. I would like to exchange it for another line.

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 change frequently as the rehearsal process progresses.

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