You are not currently logged in. Please create an account or log in to view the full course.

English Literature   >   Shakespeare on Stage

Parts and Rehearsals

  • About
  • Transcript
  • Cite

Shakespeare on Stage

In this course, Professor Tiffany Stern (University of Oxford) explores how Shakespeare was originally rehearsed, acted and watched, and how this might change our understand of some of his plays. In the first module, we think about actors' roles and rehearsals, looking in particular at the tendency for actors to be given only their part to learn, rather than a copy of the entire play. In the second module, we discuss the parts of the theatre, including the "heaven" and "hell" for the areas above and below the stage, respectively. In the third module, we think about the props that Shakespeare's actors would have used, before turning in the fourth module to the vvarious indoor and outdoor theatres that Shakespeare and other actors of his time would have used. In the fifth module, we take a closer look at some of Shakespeare's actors, including Richard Burbage and William Kempe, before turning in the sixth module to the idea that Shakespeare's depiction of time in this plays may have been impacted by the timepieces that were available at the time.

Parts and Rehearsals

In this module, we explore the tendency for actors in the Elizabethan period to be given their parts only, with a few cue words to let them know when to speak. The fact that actors only had access to their own parts gave them some insight which is perhaps lost today, such as how their character developed over the course of the play, and the extent to which their character spoke in prose or verse. At the same time, however, there is much that they didn't know - such as who their character was speaking to (or who would be speaking to them), how long they had to wait between their lines (one line? or a whole scene?), and - beyond their own lines - how their character was portrayed in the play. The implications for how we understand character in Shakespeare are profound.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Stern, T. (2018, August 15). Shakespeare on Stage - Parts and Rehearsals [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Stern, T. "Shakespeare on Stage – Parts and Rehearsals." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,


lecturer placeholder image

Prof. Tiffany Stern

Royal Holloway, London