Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 3

This is Penny's second blog entry for the 2005 production of The Winter's Tale in which she talks about some of Paulina's key scenes, learning lines and rehearsal exercises, amongst other things.

Transcript of Podcast


We had a really good look at the jailer scene a couple of days ago. The story there is coming along nicely. Paulina wants to see the queen; as she knows she's not supposed to, her challenge is to get everybody on her side. She's got to come up with something that will persuade the jailer to let her see Hermione. When the jailer refuses, I’ve decided that it's Emilia whom Paulina really wants to see, because she knows Emilia will be game for anything to help Hermione. Haley-Jane [Emilia] and I had a chat and we decided that Emilia was a bit of a drama queen, up for anything and ready to take the whole situation to another level. Emilia is wonderfully dynamic, a bit like a young Paulina, and together we give the jailer a hard time! Having gradually made him agree to do all these things that he knows could get him into terrible trouble, Paulina brushes his concerns aside ‘Do not you fear. Upon mine honor, I will stand betwixt you and danger.’ [II.ii]. There's humour in her absolute confidence; the humour of the play is something that John [Dove, Master of Play] is keen to bring out.

Getting Her Own Way

What's interesting from my point of view is how Paulina achieves her objectives: she's constantly adapting to the situation. First of all she wants to see the queen, then one of the ladies-in-waiting (Emilia). When she learns that the baby has been born, her objective is to do something that will get the queen out of prison: she thinks the newborn baby might just do it – if she takes the baby to Leontes and makes him acknowledge the likeness. Paulina thinks the baby will open up a chink in his armour; he’ll want the baby to be his. Unfortunately it doesn’t work out like that, but in the jailor scene you can really see how her mind works and how she pursues her objectives through a situation.

A combination of quick-wittedness and commonsense makes Paulina very difficult to argue with; for instance, as she's about to take the baby, she tells the Jailer not to worry about the consequences:

You need not fear it, sir.
This child was prisoner to the womb, and is
By law and process of great Nature thence
Freed and enfranchis’d, not a party to
The anger of the King, nor guilty of
(If any be) the trespass of the Queen.

Basically she's saying ‘Look, you don’t need to worry: the baby was just a prisoner to the womb.’ She even uses legal jargon to make her case all the more impenetrable – like a lawyer arguing a Defence. I do feel sorry for the poor jailer because he's in a terrible fix. Faced with this woman's wonderful arguments but under the King's command, he's stuck between a rock and a hard place. Paulina's faith is very strong. There are so many things stacked against her, but she behaves as if everything is going to be alright in end. She's one of the sources of good in the play.

Whose logic? [II.iii]

Paulina tries to use logical arguments with the King in the next scene, when she brings him baby Perdita. That's the scene we did yesterday. I try to be quite reasonable during the first part of the scene, because I have a baby in my arms and I don’t want to frighten her. When the lords challenge me, I’m calm and firm: ‘You should be supporting me – are you really more worried about the King's tantrum than the life of the Queen?’ I’m bringing him peace; everything I’m doing is to put him at peace with himself – ‘I do come with words as medicinal as true’ – so I’m not going to burst in all fired up.

Of course, Leontes is not very pleased, to say the least. Again, Paulina has to manoeuvre to deal with his anger. The first thing she does is position herself as his loyal servant and obedient subject: she's telling him ‘I’m on your side’. At that point, she thinks she's in with a chance because Leontes is a normal, rational human being… but he just won’t listen. When he tries to force her out of his presence, it hits her in the face that he's not rational at all – it's as if he's gone mad.

It's terrifying when you come across a person with whom you can’t connect with on any level: no matter what you say or do, your logic is not their logic. I think that's what happens with the king and Paulina, because he simply cannot conceive that he's wrong. He cannot and he will not see. She says that it's a ‘curse’ he cannot be compelled to remove ‘the root of his opinion, which is rotten/ As ever oak or stone was sound.’ So his opinion is unsound, diseased, and he cannot even allow for a second that Hermione might be innocent. That's the source of all the unhappiness.

When Paulina goes into that room she thinks she's going to come out with some sort of result. Not only does she get pushed out, she also has to make the decision to leave the baby with Leontes. I don’t know what would happen if she tried to take the baby out… I don’t know if he’d stop her. We did the beginning of the trial scene just before lunch today, and at the moment I feel a huge weight about Antigonus, my husband: I must know by now that my husband has gone with the baby and hasn’t come back. Maybe I still think he’ll return, but perhaps I also think it's somehow my fault? Maybe I shouldn’t have left the baby. I don’t know. Questions, questions, questions!


I get to a stage in rehearsals where I wonder ‘Am I ever going to be able to get every word out in the right order at the right time?’ And if I manage to do that, am I going to do it without trampling over someone else's lines?! Now I’ve learnt most of my lines, I have to go back now and find the ‘trigger’ moments in what other characters say to me – what it is that means I have to speak. Sometimes it's obvious, but every now and then I find I haven’t quite got the right trigger in lines of the character who speaks before I do. Finding those triggers will help me know exactly when to say what I need to say.

Paulina's Plan

One bit I’ve been finding difficult to remember is in the final scene. Paulina has four little bits to Leontes whilst they all look at the statue. The first one is:
No longer shall you gaze on’t, lest your fancy
May think anon it moves.
But Leontes continues to look, and she says:
My lord's so far transported that
He’ll think anon it lives.
Again Leontes carries on gazing at the statue. Paulina says:
I am sorry, sir, I have thus far stirr’d you;
But I could afflict you farther.

In my head I know those four interjections and I know the progression of the thoughts; first of all she plants the idea that somebody might think the statue could move, then that there are people who think it could live, then she drops the hint that there is more to this than meets the eye. Until recently, though, I couldn’t remember the lines because I saw them in isolation. Now I see them as a progression, and I can remember how they go because I’ve got a plan in my head. After learning lines, the next stage is to put together Paulina's plan. That gives me something to think about at all points; when anyone speaks on stage, I think about what my angle is on what they’re saying – how it fits into Paulina's plan: ‘Oh, he's just said that… it would be just the right moment to put this little bit of my plan into action.’

Thoughts and Actions

Paul [Leontes] told me about a great exercise where you break the text down into ‘actions’. You take each thought and give it an action – what you want the thought to do to the person you’re talking to. So you might want the thought in one line ‘to reassure’ or ‘to soothe’ or ‘to comfort’. That helps to clarify why your character is speaking. I find it very difficult when I’m not committed to a thought; whether other people agree with my interpretation doesn’t matter, in a way: if you’re absolutely committed to the thought then it's real. At the moment I’m trying to find the holes, the points where I’m not committed. In the final scene Paulina says ‘Come; I’ll fill your grave up’ to Leontes; I don’t think I’ve been fully committing to that line because I wasn’t quite sure what it meant. One idea was that Paulina is getting on a bit and she’ll probably die soon; she’ll fill up the grave. But now I really think she's saying ‘Let's stop thinking about the dead and start to think about the living.’ Now I think I have the right angle to be committed.

Paulina and Leontes

Paul [Leontes] and I have talked about the relationship between Paulina and Leontes. I feel that they know each other extremely well. She's certainly able to meet him on her terms and when she's so upset and angry with him in Act two, scene three, she makes no allowance for the fact that he's the king. After the trial scene [III.ii], they spend the next sixteen years… not exactly cooped up together, but in close contact. She does make sure that he's deeply, deeply repentant. Sixteen years! It's such a long time. When I’m angry with people close to me, it rarely lasts longer than a day! She has to fend off the courtiers’ suggestions of marriage too, so Leontes has probably had sixteen years of her reminding him: ‘Just remember what the oracle said, remember what you did – your child, my husband.’ We joke that Leontes must occasionally think that this is all beyond the pale. The scene would suggest that he has to keep being pulled back, at least. During the sixteen years, I think Paulina is just waiting until she feels he's ready to be reunited with Hermione. Once Perdita turns up, she knows it's the right moment – the Oracle's prophesy has been fulfilled; the heir has returned and she knows that Hermione needs to see her daughter as soon as possible. I think one of the most important things she says is in the last scene: ‘It is required that you do awake your faith’ – that's a key thing for Leontes, who has to believe in Hermione's innocence and the fact that she's come back to life.

Hermione's Statue

All the lines referring to the curtain in the final scene have been cut, so as things stand now there’ll be no curtain for Paulina to pull back and reveal the statue. Shakespeare must have envisaged a curtain (possibly across the discovery space in the tiring house) but we’ve decided to do it another way. The statue will stand on a plinth that will be pulled on stage at the right moment. In modern theatres you can have lighting and gauze to help stage that scene… you can even have a bit of dry ice if you fancy it! We don’t have any of that at the Globe, but what we do have is an audience with a slightly different perspective – I think they see things in a slightly different way, because they really do ‘awake their faith’ and stick with story. It's extraordinary.

Paulina says ‘It is requir’d/ You do awake your faith. Then all stand still./ Or; those that think it is unlawful business/ I am about let them depart’ in the last scene. At the moment I’m not playing that out to the audience as if they’re all in the chapel with us, but there's the sense that it does include them: they have to be part of this to make the miracle happen. That's one of the fantastic things about the Globe. They have to awake their faith too. I just hope there's not a rush for the exits!

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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