Arts & Entertainment

Shakespeare, Part 2

Helen Mirren

Lesson time 13:56 min

Helen breaks down her favorite speech—“Our Revels” from The Tempest—giving you insight into her deeply personal relationship with the lines.

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Topics include: We Are All Caliban • Never Sing Shakespeare • Performing Shakespeare on Stage and on Camera • Develop a Personal Relationship With the Language


I love the character of Caliban, in The Tempest, because the idea of this earthbound, repressed creature, but who somehow knew that there was something more beautiful in the world out there, that he was kind of reaching for, but couldn't quite grasp. But he knew that it was there. I don't know. To me, it was a very poetic character. Allow yourself these feelings of hope, and reach-- like Caliban. Allow yourselves to be Caliban, actually. We are actually all Caliban, in the sense that we are creatures of this Earth, struggling in this earthly way. But we know that there this extraordinary world of imagination of poetry, of invention, of inspiration, out there. And we are all grasping and grasping towards it. And actors, above all. Painters. And one of my great inspirations-- that I'll talk later on-- is Francis Bacon, one of the great articulators of this incredible desire for something that is just out of our reach, but we're constantly reaching for. And this-- to me-- is the essence of what an actor is. Is that yearning for the unknown. A yearning to show that other world of imagination and inspiration, to the audience. And allow the audience to participate in that. That was my understandings of what theater was to me, for me. I think, maybe from this early imaginative journey into Caliban and this character who was reaching for something that was unknown, but somehow, he has a sense of it being out there, but he can't quite articulate it-- I think I carried that through into my attitude towards acting. A very good Shakespearean director taught me this. Never use the that-- I don't know if it's flat or sharp because I'm not musical-- but that tone that's kind of like that. Which is kind of poetic, but it is actually kind of wishy-washy and terrible. Because it's not actually how anybody talks like that. And use the positive tones. Absolutely, the direct notes-- I get it's notes. Don't use the flat or the sharp notes. Use the absolute, the notes right down the middle. That's also an important thing with Shakespeare. You don't have to sing it. He never sings, Shakespeare. Speak it. But speak it with thought, I guess, with thought. I've done two Shakespeare's on film. I've done many, many, many Shakespeare's in the theater, but I've only done two on film-- Midsummer Night's Dream, a long, long time ago. And then, Prospero in The Tempest, with the wonderful Julie Taymor, directing. Of course, again, the material is the same. The Impetus, as an actor, is the same. But on film, you do have that wonderful, wonderful advantage of not having to shout. Not having to project. Although, projection can be a fabulous tool in acting, and it's not to be rejected because there's something about a full voice, a full vocalized performance, that can be quite thrilling. And sometimes, I do take issue with the rea...

About the Instructor

In her first-ever online acting class, Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren shares the techniques she has learned through the course of her international career that has spanned stage, screen, and television. Her powerful and versatile performances have earned her numerous awards, including the Academy Award in 2007 for her performance in The Queen, a Tony Award in 2015 for her performance in The Audience, and four Emmy Awards.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Helen Mirren

In 28 lessons, the Oscar, Golden Globe, Tony, and Emmy winner teaches her process for acting on the stage and screen.

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