Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 2

This is the second bulletin from the Friar (Rawiri Paratene). It covers Rawiri’s first week of rehearsals and his classes with textual adviser at the Globe.

Transcript of Podcast

First rehearsals: Table sessions

Dominic [Dromgoole, artistic director]’s process is that he starts in the first week with table sessions, where he insists that we need to understand every single word that we’re saying and that’s being said to us. So we sit around the table and we go through every word of the scene that we are in. To be fair, I was really struggling to begin with, so I bought the glossary Shakespeare’s Words, by David Crystal and the Oxford text of Romeo and Juliet, which had better notes than my edition. I made it a routine where I would translate the scenes word-by-word literally, so that I was able to start turning up the most prepared …. much to Dominic’s enjoyment!

I’m an actor and feel like I need to get a scene up and get it moving, but I know that this process feeds into that next stage, so we’ll be able to get it moving now. I can’t wait for that next week!

Research at the Globe

Working at the Globe, you have access to the Globe research team. So we had an initial lecture from Dr Farah Karim-Cooper, which was exceptional, about how the Friar marrying Romeo and Juliet without her father there would have been thought of as illegal. At that lecture, she also introduced us to the research team and to where the Library and Archive was. So I went there and knocked on their door the day after with lots of questions, and they have already dug up lots of stuff about herbs and Franciscans and lots more. I wanted to know all kinds of things and they came up with the answers. It’s a great system.

Text work with Giles Block

Alongside the table sessions, we also had a class with the Globe textual adviser, Giles Block. Giles’ process deals with splitting the speeches up into thoughts, and then we would look at the meaning. I love the way Giles works because he never says, “It means this”. He throws possibilities at you and invites you to find the meaning that works best for you. He will debate it with you, if need be, but he provides you with all kinds of possibilities.

He’s also great at asking questions about why the language is the way it is. So for example, in the Friar’s first scene, it’s the only scene where he speaks entirely in rhyming couplets:

The grey-eyed morn smiles on the frowning night,
Chequering the eastern clouds with streaks of light,
And flecked darkness like a drunkard reels
From forth day's path and Titan's fiery wheels:
Now, ere the sun advance his burning eye,
The day to cheer and night's dank dew to dry,
I must up-fill this osier cage of ours
With baleful weeds and precious-juiced flowers.
The earth that's nature's mother is her tomb;
What is her burying grave that is her womb,
And from her womb children of divers kind
We sucking on her natural bosom find,
Many for many virtues excellent,
None but for some and yet all different.
O, mickle is the powerful grace that lies
In herbs, plants, stones, and their true qualities:
For nought so vile that on the earth doth live
But to the earth some special good doth give,
Nor aught so good but strain'd from that fair use
Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse:
Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied;
And vice sometimes by action dignified.
Within the infant rind of this small flower
Poison hath residence and medicine power:
For this, being smelt, with that part cheers each part;
Being tasted, slays all senses with the heart.
Two such opposed kings encamp them still
In man as well as herbs, grace and rude will;
And where the worser is predominant,
Full soon the canker death eats up that plant.


And Giles, of course, asked me the burning question: “Why? Why is he speaking in rhyming couplets?”. There are lots of reasons why Shakespeare used rhyming verse. It sets up a playful relationship between Romeo and Friar. It’s also a way of putting across received information as it organises your thoughts as you speak into sections. It demands of you a kind of a rhythm; and not just a rhythm within yourself, but a rhythm between you and the other actor. Sometimes Romeo and I share lines, sometimes we share couplets, which makes it playful and light. It also displays that the Friar has got a wit. It’s a lovely scene.


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

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