Actress Maxine Peake explains that in preparation for playing Hamlet onstage at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, she created a character profile from a detailed reading of the play, showing the relationships and feelings of Prince Hamlet. This helped her to get inside the character’s head. She then goes on to provide tips about how to show the intentions of the character by saying lines in different ways, using an acting technique called ‘actioning’ which involves matching each line with a transitive verb to give a sense of dynamic action to her line delivery. Finally, she demonstrates how important movement and body language are to actors when creating characters.

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Pupils could create profiles for a Shakespearean character, showing relationships and feelings. In drama lessons pupils could try moving as archetypal characters. Teachers could call out words such as: King, Villain, Clown, Hero, Mother, Trickster and pupils could move as they imagine that type of character might move. Pupils could take a line of Shakespeare dialogue, or a Shakespearean insult, and try ‘actioning’ it like Maxine Peake. Pupils could try saying the line in a secretive way, or saying it with anger or sadness.