Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 4

In her fourth blog post, Patricia discusses how the different choices that she and the rest of the team make affect and change Goneril's journey as a character.

Transcript of Podcast


I have quite a strong sense of my journey through the play now. I am trying out different ways of playing Goneril to make sure that the choices I have made are the right ones. I have been paying particular attention to the opening scene of the play. To an outside eye it seems that the scene is about showing the difference between Goneril, Regan and Cordelia and their relationships with their father. People tend to be very judgmental about the characters. They think that Goneril and Regan are hypocritical and say what they think their father wants them to say and that Cordelia shows great strength of character by not resorting to that. But these are just judgements, which are impossible to play. I have been trying many different approaches to the scene in order to find one that works.

We have decided that it is a surprise to Goneril, Regan and Cordelia that they have to stand up and make speeches. We have also decided that they do not know that the land is going to be divided into three. We do know that it is going to be divided, but I have good reason to think that it might be all given to me because I am the eldest. I am shocked that it will be divided into three. Goneril is unfortunate enough to have to speak first, so she does not get the time that Regan has to think about what to say. I have tried to play the speech in the more conventional manner, where Goneril is planning how to get as much land as possible. This way, I cry because I think that I am not getting anywhere. I have decided that Goneril does love her father but that she has been overlooked and bullied all her life and has no confidence that he loves her. She has to stand in front of people knowing that she is the least favourite child. So, it is very hard and humiliating for her to make her speech.

She does love Lear. ‘A love that makes breath poor and speech unable’ that line seems to say that she is telling the truth –it seems very heartfelt. Her breath is becoming a bit shallow and she is finding it difficult to speak. I tried to play this speech as if Goneril was crying and lying but have discarded that idea. Now I see her as a grown up woman who is put in the position of a 5 year old when she is asked to public.


If I play Goneril as schemer in the first scene then it gives me a much less of an interesting journey. I haven’t solved the problem of how to play bit at the end of the scene between Regan and Goneril – I think they are negotiating. Verse changes to prose at the end of the scene, which is always a clue that something is changing. According to Giles, when you go into prose it means that quite often you are hiding something. It can mean that you are upset and don’t want to appear so. I think that in this case it is a clue that the relationship between Regan and Goneril is not very intimate. The language is careful and a little formal.

Scene 3 has become the scene where you see Goneril begins to change. She knows that she has to put a stop to this humiliating behaviour. Lear has given his power away and she knows that if she and Regan do not do something about it they will never have a chance to rule. He will always interfere and undermine. That is when she sees what she has to do in order to change her father. She doesn’t come into the scene having thought this out before hand.

Goneril tries to reason with Lear but he is not a reasonable man and that I think that Goneril is terrified. I show that she is scared even if she is shouting. Lear does terrible things to her, he puts her curse on her womb. Julian does it so that it is just horrific. She gets very upset. Hopefully, in this scene the audience will see where she gets her potential to be selfish and cruel from - like father like daughter.

The scene between Goneril and Edmund is being played as if we have just left and have come straight from Regan's house. We have our shoes off and I have a blindfold. It is a very free, innocent and childlike. She has found her soul mate. Her emotional life has been so baron and lonely that Edmund is offering her something.

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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