Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 2

In her second blog post Pippa discusses further her interpretation of Jessica: how does she feel performing the elopement scene? How did Jessica's mother die? And will her relationship with Lorenzo last?

Transcript of Podcast


In the second week we are still sitting down at the table and focusing on the text. We discuss Rebecca’s [Gatwood, Director] interpretations and our own interpretations of where we think the characters are coming from. At the end of week two we did another read through but with a difference. There was a big circle of chairs where, if we wanted to, we were encouraged to stand, get up, move and talk with the people we’re talking with so we could all get a sense of what we’ve been working on for the last couple of weeks. We’re now on our feet going through the play again starting at Act 1 Scene 1 and charting it all the way through.

Music & Act 2 Scene 5

We’ve had lots of music sessions with the composer Adrian Lees. Some of the score is heavily influenced by traditional Jewish music. We’ve got a singer in the company and she is going to sing a Jewish song in my first scene (Act 2 Scene 5) when I say goodbye to Lancelot. I think Jessica has this moment thinking – ‘what am I doing? Can I really do this? What is this awful sin within me to be ashamed to be the child of my father?’ We and going to have a Jewish song in the middle of the scene to highlight and spark off that thought.

Jessica’s Mother

We have talked about Jessica’s mother Leah who does not appear, but is mentioned in the play. We’re trying to work out whether Leah died in childbirth and, if so, does Shylock blame Jessica for this? I’m not sure how much a firm back story really helps me as an actor but, in terms of our production and the interpretation, I think it might be helpful because we’re thinking that there is not that much love lost between Shylock and Jessica and this may help us to discover the reasons e.g. – why does she describe this house as ‘hellish’? Why does she steal all his jewels? Obviously she’s really shameful about running away from her father, but there’s only one scene where you see them together.

Jessica & Lorenzo

We are still getting the idea that Jessica and Lorenzo might not last the distance. Obviously they are infatuated with each other, and we are playing that strand, but in my talks with the Director, we have decided that Jessica’s first major obstacle and objective is getting out of her house. Then Lorenzo comes along and she falls in love and is infatuated with him and he becomes the answer to her problem of helping her escape from home.

Act 5 Scene 1

In this scene Jessica and Lorenzo discuss the plights of famous pairs of lovers. They are all star-crossed lovers but what is interesting is that the female lovers Jessica talks about – Thisbe and Medea – both betrayed their fathers in some way. Interestingly Lorenzo talks about Cressida and Dido who were unfaithful lovers. By using these women as examples, it’s almost as if Shakespeare is asking, is this going to work? Is this going to last?

We’ve also talked about when Lorenzo says:

In such a night
Did Jessica steal from the wealthy Jew

He is kind of teasing her but we think that they have consummated their marriage before they got married suggested by Jessica’s reply:

In such a night
Did young Lorenzo swear he loved her well,
Stealing her soul with many vows of faith,
And ne’er a true one.

I think this refers to the sex and passion that they have had and the fact that Lorenzo may be suggesting that they have not done things the way they ought to have. I think Jessica starts to see the cracks appearing in their relationship at that point - it’s a bit playful but then it gets a bit feisty – so there’s something else going on.

Jessica and Lancelot

In our production, Lancelot is in love with Jessica but he knows that he can’t have her. This may explain his charged and aggressive language towards her in Act 3 Scene 5. We are still exploring the relationship between them. Although in terms of words Jessica is not a massive part, I’m finding that the sub-stories and relationships she forms in the plot are massive – there’s a lot of avenues to explore.

Changing my Mind about Jessica

In rehearsals there have been one or two moments where I’ve discovered things that have changed my thought about my character. A good example of this is when we looked at Act 2 Scene 6 - the elopement and the capture of Jessica. The language suggests that the situation is really exciting for Lorenzo and Jessica – they are both very much in love I when I read it I thought that she would be really happy. The way we’ve started to interpret it is that Lorenzo comes on with his friends and they’re all giggling and laughing and are quite drunk. Jessica and Lorenzo can’t see each other because Jessica is quite obviously in the dark and feeling embarrassed because she’s dressed as a boy and they’ve all got masks on and I think she believes that she’s only told Lorenzo and this is a secret between the two of them. He has brought all his mates along and there is a moment for Jessica of ‘who else have you told? And actually this is quite embarrassing – I’m dressed as this boy!’

We’re also bringing in a masked dance as soon as they elope. It will portray a quite grotesque image of the elopement. I said at the end of the rehearsal that I felt quite insecure and the Director agreed and highlighted the fact that this is a massive thing for Jessica. She is not eased into the situation. If she was being romantic about the situation I think she thinks that Lorenzo would have come to her balcony and serenaded her. Instead she just becomes part of the night’s entertainment. It was nice to feel really uncomfortable to feel those impulses coming through so that was a good discovery.


I know I’m going to have a hair piece so I’ve actually dyed my hair now a little bit darker to fit in with the hair piece. It’s going to be ‘full on’ renaissance style! I’m starting with this kind of folky very Jewish influenced outfit and then when I go into the Christian community I will have a different costume which will have an open neck and be a bit more free flowing and perhaps more modern in feeling.

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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