Film & TV

Shakespeare, Part 2

Helen Mirren

Lesson time 13:55 min

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

Helen Mirren
Teaches Acting
In 28 lessons, the Oscar, Golden Globe, Tony, and Emmy winner teaches her process for acting on the stage and screen.
Get Started


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...

Find freedom in your roles

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.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

The MasterClass helped me gain more confidence in trusting my instincts. I don't have a lot of formal training, so I tend to "feel" my way through roles (after doing the work to build/connect with characters). Helen has a great balance between humility and confidence, and that is the kind of actor I want to be.

You get a lot of inspiration watching this masterclass. Helen Mirren seems to really know what she is talking about and you can only be amazed by all the small thoughts she puts into all her work. It was the masterclass I have watched so far.

Brilliant! I loved every part of this course and incorporated much of the knowledge shared even in my talks or my teaching. I will assuredly continue to reference this course. Thank you. I absolutely enjoyed every moment of it.

Would have cordless inspiration in her look in her speech and her Talent... She is timeless classic and just phenomenal!!!! Cheers to this incredible woman who has had a strong and tremendously successful career for generations!!! Thank you so much for all of your inside and inspiration...loved every word!!!


A fellow student

Great demonstration and interpretation of this speech. Never thought of the point of the personal understanding you must have with the words you say. Very good


Never thought the Shakespeare portion of the class would be my favorite. This speech reminded me of Carl Sagan's when he referred to earth as the "pale blue dot" after Voyager I sent back photos of Earth as it left our planetary neighborhood. Existentially beautiful.

GraceAnne E.

Beautiful intensity. It's so much more captivating to watch/listen to someone who has really taken time to allow the words to relate to them in a real way. I can tell you have. Thank you for this lesson & the reading/demonstration!


thank you Helen. It is good to remind myself that with the many meanings and personal interpretations of Shakespeare, bearing in mind all the punctuation and grammatical notes, to also speak and deliver the meaning, not be airy-fairy in note delivery, almost like whimsical singing.


Some people don't know how to project without over acting or shouting. An explanation to successful projection might be quite helpful? I completely understand Helen's instruction not to "sing" Shakespeare but this is also good advice for any dialogue. Great lesson. Thanks Helen.

A fellow student

I love your accent Helen! It's beautiful. You truly have a voice for acting. does Orlando Bloom. LOL. Have you considered doing an audiobook? You are right, just as writers/author/readers, no two actors will interpret the script the same. Each one will have a different vision as to how to approach a character, scene, etc. That is the beauty of art/creativity (whether it's music, writing, painting, acting, etc) is that there is no right or wrong answer to anything. It can be intrepeted in many ways by different people. What one person likes/ 'gets' another could be completely put off or not get and vice versa. It's simply just doing it, hoping that your efforts are acknowledged (and you gain a lucrative career out of it).

David C.

Funny: I relearned and truly MASTER'd "Our Revels" before watching these segments, then with their guidance (months ago, when I first watch'd} began working on "O ye elves", the speech that leads up to his announced intention to break his staff, "bury it certain fathoms in the earth", then "drown my book!" before returning to Milan, "where every third thought will be of the grave." Really being with Prospero as if I were going to play him, and also returning yet again to the other deposed ruler, also the father of a beloved daughter —his polar opposite in circumstance though in some ways his twin in situation— Lear, of course, who stands as the other greatly-loved if sickeningly FEARED, really, character in the Shakespearean canon whom my whole life has been prep for, even if I NEVER get to play him with others! It's been enough in a way, though of course, no where near enough, to have Gielgud as a kind of later in life guide into Prospero, and of course, for decades, Olivier as one of the greatest of Lears, especially because of his having played him for the camera when he'd have been really unable to carry his Cordelia for that final entrance, just like Sir in "The Dresser" whether brilliantly rendered by Albert Finney or by Sir Anthony! There's another part I'd play in a New York minute, though anywhere really, doesn't have to be in New York! lol

R.G. R.

Acting at its best is engaging with the word, the script, yourself . . . She is a master


I can see why Helen Mirren is a master of her craft. She truly understands what she is doing. When performing Shakespeare, while she is entertaining people in a theatre, the full purpose is to engage them, to make them think, and to dig a little deeper into the messages within Shakespeare's work. Thanks Helen - lovely class. I have not studied acting, but I have studied Shakespeare at university and I think that the type of analysis that English students undertake in writing about Shakespeare's plays would be highly valuable to anyone pursing acting as a career.

A fellow student

i just want to be like Shakespeare here but a little more spiritual. The earth is millions of years old and our lifetime on it is about 80 years. How can e claim another destiny than to seek the Divine while alive here?