A Love Triangle

Understanding Actions

The final element in the process is to establish the characters’ actions: the things they do in their struggle to overcome their obstacles and achieve their objective? Remember: The notion of the character's action includes much more than their movement upon the stage. We need to understand what Edward is doing with his words.

Lacy, thou canst not shroud thy traitorous thoughts, Nor cover as did Cassius all his wiles,
For Edward hath an eye that looks as far
As Lynceus from the shores of Grecia.

Edward's Lines

Let's look at Edward's first sentence. Edward compares Lacy to Cassius, who betrayed Julius Caesar, and himself to Lynceus the grandson of Perseus who had preternaturally keen eyesight. His point is that the Lacy cannot hide his guilt. This is what the line means, but what is Edward doing?

Using Verbs to Define Action

One common technique used by actors to make their words as active as possible is to select appropriate verbs that describe what their characters are doing. An actor might decide his character his “seducing,” “scaring” or “persuading” the other character with his words. What verb would you choose to define Edward's action here?

What verb would you use to describe Edward's action in the first four lines?

Instructions: Click on the multiple choice answers below. Comments will appear. Click on the answer again to hide comments.

A. Boast
wrongThe prince does brag about his power, so this is a valid choice but the best verbs are ones that describe the effect of an action on another person. How does his boasting effect Lacy? Furthermore, to be most useful to the actor, the verb needs to describe the action from the character's perspective. Would the prince describe his action as boasting? Probably not. B. Mock
wrongThis is a good action as it would have a clear effect on Lacy, but is the prince in the mood to have fun here? C. Intimidate
correct Intimidate best describes the Prince's action. His classical references assert his power over Lacy. D. Warn
wrong The Prince is warning Lacy not to try to hide his treachery, but warning can have positive connotations whereas the prince's action here is clearly aggressive.

Using Verbs to Define Action

The selection of an appropriate verb helps define the specific action that the character is taking in pursuit of its objective. There are actors and acting teachers that insist that each sentence the character speaks should be given an appropriate verb. Let's look at the next section of text...

To Accuse or Challenge?

Script (continued from above)
Did not I sit in Oxford by the Friar,
And see thee court the maid of Fressingfield,
Sealing thy flattering fancies with a kiss?

Did not proud Bungay draw his portace forth,
And joining hand in hand had married you,
If Friar Bacon had not struck him dumb,
And mounted him upon a spirit's back
That we might chat at Oxford with the friar?

Traitor what answerst, is not all this true?
The first two highlighted questions describe the crimes that Lacy has committed. We might say that Edward is performing the action "to accuse" in this sentence. This is a good active word that encourages the actor to make the words work directly on his acting partner. Edward is accusing Lacy. This will help set up a causal pattern of action and reaction, but what about the next sentence? Do we need a different verb here?

We might say he is presenting evidence, but he was also doing that in his last sentence. Is there any valuable distinction to be made here based on the text alone? I would argue that there is no unequivocal textual evidence for a new action here. The benefit of choosing an action for each sentence is that the selection of relevant verbs can be used to give a specific active quality to the character's words which adds texture and variety to the performance. In this instance, an actor might feel that it is not necessary to distinguish between these two questions but that he should back the last sentence with the verb to challenge. These are the kind of interpretive choices that are made by modern actors in the rehearsal process sometimes independently and sometimes working closely with the director.