Chapter 7 of 28 from Helen Mirren

Shakespeare, Part 2


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

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

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

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

Helen Mirren

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.

Learn More


Find freedom in your roles

Oscar, Golden Globe, Emmy, and Tony winner Helen Mirren is one of the greatest actresses of our time. In her first online class, she discusses the dualism that is core to her method: the necessity for mastering technique (craft) and then letting go so that your imagination can take over (art). Learn how to break down a script, research characters, and master techniques so you can transcend them to find freedom in every role.

Helen brings you behind the scenes to show you the secrets of her acting technique.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Helen will also critique select student work.


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

Loved this and learned so much! Helen is the best!

Helen is delightful, uncensored, and wonderfully gracious with her opinions and experiences. As a very successful actress who never attended drama school, she is in a unique position to talk about the industry purely from the perspective of gigs she's booked. She doesn't hold back and she doesn't sugar coat - excellent Masterclass!

I'm not actually an actor. I'm a writer. I found Helen's class fascinating, however, and I couldn't pass it up. I suppose it makes me feel as though I could act. I mean, I've written an opera and I might need to play one of the roles myself. Perhaps this class will encourage me. Thanks to Helen. Thanks to masterclass staff for putting this on!

I've learned more with Helen Mirren in these hours then in 3 years. Or at least it refreshed my knowledge. Great advises all around especially regarding the work of the actor with the different departments.



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?

Jackson M.

not really how music works, but alright i think the term she's looking for is "sing-song"

Ann B.

And this is why I love Shakespeare so much. A student once told me that I was never as alive with lessons as I was in reciting .Shakespeare. What a compliment that was! This is what draws to me acting -- the idea of a personal relationship with language -- the idea of bringing ourselves to the part. I absolutely loved Mirren's passion as she spoke of Shakespeare.

Jessica C.

Again, she shows us that we must allow ourselves to explore our own hearts and the ways in which we see and feel the world, in order to connect with the text. Its another sure reminder that we are each such different actors and no two monologues would be delivered exactly the same.


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...