In sooth

Bill

Here’s a page on How to Improvise Shakespeare.

It’s mostly a glossary of common words, but tucked away at the bottom was this little nugget.

Try not having Kings in your scenes. Kings have the highest status in society in the 1500’s, and as a result they have the tendency to kill improv scenes. They either have so much status that they make it really hard to get stuff done in scenes, or they don’t get a enough respect and they end up not being believable as Kings. I suggest using Dukes or Earls instead. That way they can be a King-like character, and you can save the King role for when you really need it, like bailing out your scene if it starts floundering. Just look at the story of Robin Hood. The story needed an ending, so the King came in and pulled it all together. That’s a great technique to have under your belt when improvising Shakespeare. Also, by not having your characters be at the top of the food chain, it gives you some place to go. You can attack their status without the fear of death, and the option is always there to bring in a character above them too change the entire social dynamic. I’m not saying you can’t do Shakespeare scenes with Kings, I’m just saying that scenes without them have a tendency to be more fun and are easier to do well.

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7 Responses to “In sooth”

  1. Javier Says:

    Yes yes yes. I like this idea of benching the King so you can pull him out as the “power sub” when the scene needs it. “Goddammit… alright King, start warming up. We need you in there” sorta styles.

  2. improbable Says:

    There was certainly a tendency, back in my day, to always have a king. And then once you have a King, well you need someone plotting to overthrow the king…

  3. Matt Says:

    They always seem to be about a king and his noble but embittered brother when we do them. Good times.

    Earls and dukes sound much more exotic and clever than kings.

  4. Daniel Allan Says:

    Yes BUT!
    Shakespeare is actually about kings. I think rather that benching the King we need to find the domesticity in the King. If one character is the King another can be his wife, and another his brother-prince. Suddenly you have a love triangle! (if you want) This rather nullifies the problem of always getting into a status upset. For examples, watch Elizabeth with Cate Blanchett, The Queen with Helen Mirren or… any Shakespeare!

  5. improbable Says:

    That’s a bit of an exaggeration;
    Romeo and Juliet and Othello both get by without a king. As do many of the comedies.

  6. Daniel Allan Says:

    Okay, okay. But if we can’t make sweeping generalisations then where’s the fun?

    I’m just saying that there are many king characters in Shakespeare. I am more interested in dealing with a problem (playing a good king character) than avoiding a problem (not having a king character, or marginalising them)

    P.S Of course when I say “king” I mean king/queen/president/duke etc…

    P.P.S How ya doing? I’ve missed these chats!

  7. improbable Says:

    I’m not saying ban Kings entirely (in fact I wasn’t saying anything, just quoting some dude).
    BUT, Kings are different from Dukes in that Kings have a kind of absolute high status.

    Let’s just say that having a King in a Shakespeare is kind of like doing a transaction scene or a teaching scene. But you’re giving yourself a bit of a handicap coming in.

    P.S. I just e-mailed you.

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