Skip to content
  • Video
  • 15 mins
  • Level 1: Introductory

Drama workshop: Act II, scene ii

Updated Monday 7th December 2009

In a clip from 1999 Tim Pigott-Smith assists a RADA student through Act II, Scene ii.

Watch

Copyright The Open University

Listen

Copyright The Open University

Read

Alex: Oh what a rogue and peasant slave am I?

Tim Pigott-Smith: Okay, rule one. My old movement teacher used to say, “Don’t look at the floor Ducky. The only thing you’ll see there is the play”.

[Laughter]

Tim Pigott-Smith: Okay, ha ha, but it is the most difficult thing about where you look during soliloquies?

Alex: Sure.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Yeah, so do, if you want to talk to the camera do, but I suspect that you will find that increasingly difficult with this speech.

Alex: Yes, because it’s …

Tim Pigott-Smith: Perhaps we could have done more of it with Jamie. It’s difficult, but with this speech, so. And I think a good rule is at the full stop change tone. That’s a Peter Hall rule, and it’s not a bad one.

Alex: Okay.

Tim Pigott-Smith: So, now I am alone is one thing, and oh what a rogue and peasant slave is clearly something very different, and you gave them the same brush there, so don’t, yeah.

Alex: Okay, okay. That pause in there is wrong then isn’t it?

Tim Pigott-Smith: The half line pause is, what’s the line, so God be with you, so say to the players, so God be with you now I am alone.

Alex: Yeah, okay.

Tim Pigott-Smith: But it’s onus is yours so you can, you can take your time with it.

Alex: Okay.

Tim Pigott-Smith:
But always, I think at this stage in the play the audience will know that when you’re left alone you’re going to talk to them.

Alex: Sure.

Tim Pigott-Smith: So we want to get on.

Alex: Right, okay.

Tim Pigott-Smith: How do we get into it, quickly.

Alex: Okay, right, okay, okay. Speed, I’m good at that.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Off they go, do the goodbye, without looking, do the goodbye, say God be with you all.

Alex: I say goodbye, God, goodbye to you, now I am alone. Oh what a rogue and peasant slave am I? Is it not monstrous that this player here, nothing but fiction and a dream of passion could force his soul so to his own conceit. That from her working all his visage waned.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Visage wann’d.

Alex: That all his visage wann’d.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Tears in his eyes. Take the speed down, okay. So you’re tending, unlike Jamie who tended to go a little bit, so you’re tending to rush a little bit. So when you get to a word like, um, oh what a rogue and peasant slave am I, should contain a feeling of what?

Alex: Sure, self.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Self disgust, yeah. And don’t forget the word rogue would have been specifically applied to players, to actors, rogues and vagabonds.

Alex: Okay.

Tim Pigott-Smith: What a bloody awful actor I am, you know? What a mess this all is. Oh what a rogue and peasant slave my, is it not monstrous that this player here but in a?

Alex: Fiction.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Yeah, but in a fiction and a dream of passion, and what I want to hear is, but in a fiction, in a dream of passion.

Alex: Okay, all right.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Think about the importance of that image of the dream, that all through shaped, life is a dream, you know, the whole thing has just become a miasma. So just go through it to hear this, but I think you’ve got to inform this with some feeling, it doesn’t have to be self disgust but that’s what the line …

Alex: Says?

Tim Pigott-Smith: Yeah, would suggest is what a mess.

Alex: Okay. You can tell I have left it for Tim?

Tim Pigott-Smith: Bit slower, more - what does Hamlet say to the players? In the very whirlwind of your passion you must beget a temperance that will give it smoothness.

Alex: Right.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Best bit of note about how to act Shakespeare ever written. And this is not something that you have to worry about but you should think about, because you’re tending to snatch a bit.

Alex: Okay.

Tim Pigott-Smith: So find a way if you can go through it that’s more even, so that you can pick out the words when you want them like that. Okay, try again.

Alex: Oh what a rogue and peasant slave am I? Is it not monstrous that this player here but in a fiction, in a dream of passion could force his soul so to his own conceit. That from her working, all his visage waned, tears in his eyes, distraction in his aspect. A broken voice and his whole function suiting with forms to his conceit? And all for nothing! For Hecuba! What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba, that he should weep for her? What would he do had he the motive and the cue for passion that I have? He would drown the stage with tears and cleave the general ear with horrid speech, make mad the guilty and appal the free, confound the ignorant …

Tim Pigott-Smith: And amaze indeed.

Alex: And amaze indeed the very faculties of eyes and ears. Yet I …

Tim Pigott-Smith: Now, good, good. It’s immensely difficult and you’re doing really well with it, but see you reach your first point of this, and all for nothing, for Hecuba, what’s Hecuba to him or he to Hecuba that he should weep for her? Next thought, what would he do had the motive and the cue for passion that I have? Bloody hell, what a …

Alex: That’s a huge, that’s a huge, yeah, fine. From the …

Tim Pigott-Smith: How does the middle bit go? Share that thought, that’s the platform, what would he do had he the motive and cue?

Alex: Okay. What would he do had he the motive and the cue for passion that I have? He would drown the stage with tears and cleave the general ear with horrid speech, make mad the guilty and appal the free, confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed the very faculties of eyes and ears. Yet I, a dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak, like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause, and can say nothing. No, not even for a king, upon whose property and most dear life a damned defeat was made.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Good, good.

Alex: Am I a coward? Who calls me villain and breaks my pate across? Plucks off my beard, and blows it in my face? Tweaks me by the nose and gives me the lie of the throat, as deep as to the lungs? Who does me this, ha! 'Swounds, I should take it, for it cannot be but I am pigeon-liver’d and lack gall to make oppression bitter, or ere this I should have fatted all the region kites with this slave's offal. Bloody, bawdy villain! Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain! O, vengeance! Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave, that I, the son of dear father murdered, prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell, must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words …

Tim Pigott-Smith: And fall a cursing …

Alex: And fall a cursing like a very drab, a scullion, fie upon it! Foh! About, brains!

Tim Pigott-Smith: Okay, let’s look at that bit. That bit, I think, you know, you’ve got something going inside you now, you know.

Alex: Yeah.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Which is good, and I think, absolutely, there are two, you know, just as it’s structured on the page, there are two climaxes that you need to build to and, you know, and this is the first time you’ve said all of this out so you’re doing well with it. You can build these absolutely on the line, who does me this, ha? S’wounds, I should take it for it cannot be, but I am pigeon-liver’d and lack gall to make oppression bitter, or ere this I should have fatted all the region kites with this slave's offal. Bloody, bawdy villain! Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain! And O, you know there. And then, absolutely, I thought you did that next bit really well, my God I’m such a prick, this is most brave. This is terrific isn’t it? This kind of acting’s really good.

Alex: Right.

Tim Pigott-Smith:
You know, as opposed to that kind, you know, this is most brave. And then I thought you got onto something really inside absolutely right that I am the son of a dear father murdered, you lost a bit, you’ve got to go for smoothness.

Alex: Yeah, I lost out …

Tim Pigott-Smith:
You go prompted my revenge by heaven and hell, and that, just that, you know, if you’re playing Regents Park that don’t get anywhere.

Alex: No, no.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell.

Alex: Okay.

Tim Pigott-Smith: It’s not much different …

Alex: I mean afterwards, because the thought finishes all the way down there, whereas I run it, I thought oh, I was sort of dry.

Tim Pigott-Smith:
But this again it’s written on the line for you. Line it, prompted that I the son of a dear father murdered, prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell. Must like a whore unpack my heart with words and fall a cursing like a very drab, a scullion, fie upon foh! O! Get yourself together, about my brain. And then a different tone isn’t it? And then perhaps you could do this to the camera …[unclear].

Alex: Right, okay, lovely.

Tim Pigott-Smith: And be very cunning.

Alex: Lovely.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Yeah, take it from the top. Let’s, let’s try and use something here, let’s imagine that for example that the players have left the throne on the stage.

Alex: Right.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Have we got anything that could act as a sword here?

Female: I’ve got an ice pick.

Tim Pigott-Smith: You’ve got an ice pick? [laughs]

Alex: That’s a very good ice pick.

Tim Pigott-Smith:
We’ll Trotsky them to death.

Alex: That’s rather nice.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Okay. So I mean imagine this is your, stick it in your back pocket, and when you get to - what are the lines that build up to, what an ass? Is it, bloody, bawdy, villain?

Alex: Yeah. Bloody, bawdy, villain, lecherous, treacherous, kindles villain.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Okay. Just for the sake of giving it some kind of focus to help you, as opposed to just flailing around, let’s imagine that the throne is here, that the players have left the crown on the throne. So this can become an image of Brian! Fucking, you know.

Alex: Right.

Tim Pigott-Smith: So direct it at him, you know, kick it over, you know, go as far as you want in the middle bit before you go, O, what an ass.

Alex: Okay.

Tim Pigott-Smith: This is just dopey, you know. Okay, we’re just going to go from the middle of the speech, what would he do, and this is after Hecuba, and all for nothing. So you’re very big, you’re biggish on Hecuba.

Alex: Okay. What would he do that …

Tim Pigott-Smith: Start again, smooth, what would he do?

Alex: What would he do, had he the motive and the cue for passion that I have? And drown the stage with tears and cleave the general, and cleave the general ear with horrid speech, make mad the guilty and appal the free, confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed the very faculties of eyes and ears.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Okay.

Alex: I just go all in one?

Tim Pigott-Smith:
Yeah, absolutely, but now you’re on top of the words, and do it with a move and say what would he do had he, he would drown the stage with tears, cleave the general up the middle, cleave - split it in two, the general ear with horrid speech, make mad the guilty and appal the free, confound and indeed amaze the faculties of eyes and ears, huh-uh, okay.

Alex: Okay.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Just free it up a bit.

Alex: Okay, yeah, sure, sure.

Tim Pigott-Smith: And then on very good. What would he do? Pose the intellectual question for us, what would he do?

Alex: What would he do, had he the motive and the cue for passion that I have? He would drown the stage with tears and cleave the general ear with horrid speech, make mad the guilty and appal the free, confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed the very faculties of eyes and ears. Yet I, a dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak, like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause, and can say nothing. No, not even for a king, upon whose property and most dear life a damned defeat was made. Am I a coward? Who calls me villain and breaks my pate across? Plucks off my beard, and blows it in my face? Tweaks me by the nose and gives me the lie of the throat, as deep as to the lungs? Who does me this? Ha! 'Swounds, I should take it, for it cannot be but I am pigeon-liver’d and lack the gall to make oppression bitter …

Tim Pigott-Smith: Or ere this.

Alex: Or ere this.

Tim Pigott-Smith: I should have fatted all the region …

Alex:
Or ere this.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Let’s go back. Um, I think you can work this up but you’re being a bit modern.

Alex: I am.

Tim Pigott-Smith: He’s not, you know, he’s a prince. I know them, he’s not come on you Reds. Come on you Reds!

Alex: That’s normal.

Tim Pigott-Smith: That’s a sort of different character so keep the attitude. But, you know, if somebody, but take it inside, it’s not here. Is somebody accusing me of not being up to this? Am I inadequate? Is that what you’re saying?

Alex: Okay.

Tim Pigott-Smith: I think I am actually who’s exactly the …

Alex: And interestingly enough as I have gone to a sort of finding a new place I blanked because this is a new person, it’s a new voice, it’s a new.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Oh yeah, but it’s also less you.

Alex: No, no, fine, which is good.

Tim Pigott-Smith:
And this is you.

Alex: No, no, fine.

Tim Pigott-Smith:
You know, it’s deeply, okay. Let’s go from, just from the middle, yet a damned defeat, am I a coward? Just go there. Why don’t you end up, so that when you have to say that you have to turn, am I a coward? So you have to turn into it. We’ll ignore it for the moment how you get there. Just go in on am I a coward?

Alex: Am I a coward? Who calls me villain and breaks my pate across? Plucks off my beard, and blows it in my face? Tweaks me by the nose and gives me the lie of the throat, as deep as to the lungs? Who does me this? Ha! 'Swounds, I should take it. For it cannot be but I am pigeon-liver’d and lack gall to make oppression bitter, or ere this I should have fatted all the region kites with this slave's offal. Bloody, bawdy villain! Lecherous, treacherous, kindless villain! O, vengeance! Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave that I the son of dear father murdered, prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words and fall a-cursing like a very drab, a scullion! Fie upon it! Foh! About brains! I have heard that guilty creatures sitting at a play have by the very cunning of their scene been struck so to the soul that presently they have proclaimed their malefactions. For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak with most miraculous organ. I'll have these players play something like the murder of my father before mine uncle. I'll observe his looks, I'll tent him to the quick, if he but blench I’ll know my course. This spirit that I have seen may be a devil, and the devil hath strange power to assume a pleasing shape, yea, yea, and perhaps out of my melancholy, out of my weakness and my melancholy …

Tim Pigott-Smith: He is very potent with such spirits, abuses me - don’t worry. What occurred to me there was, you know, that you’ve done this stuff with, and what was really interesting there was you did the, you know, the remorseless, treacherous and kindless villain! O vengeance! Blah! And it was kind of easier to get into what an ass am I. From that, you know, God, God, what a complete fool I’m making myself by O vengeance being just completely against the air, very good. Then bring this, this next bit could come back. I have heard that guilty creatures sitting at a play, that’s the guilty creature sitting at a play, have by their very cunning of their scene been struck so to the soul that presently they have proclaimed, I’ll have these, you know, and build the whole notion of it, but around watching this, and then you’ll be in a position to do this other stuff, you know, because I have to justify this.

Alex: Of course, yeah.

Tim Pigott-Smith:
And you’re really on course there. But I’ve a feeling that you personally don’t like the ‘who does?’

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?