I love Michelle Dockery in Downton Abbey, and she was quite good in the recent Henry IV films.
She said something interesting in the Guardian Shakespeare and Me piece:
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"Anyone who's ever played Ophelia should all get together for a big group hug. I played Ophelia with John Simm at Sheffield and I suffered terrible insomnia in the same way that Hamlet does. It's such a tough part and Ophelia is a huge leap, especially in the end, when she descends into her madness."
I find this interesting because I am sure that many actresses have suffered playing Ophelia, and it must be a role that changes them as an actress and as a person. It is one thing to read her lines, another thing to speak them aloud, but to have to speak them in a performance and represent the character for an audience -- feeling Ophelia's emotions -- is something entirely different.
I have a great respect for actors and it must be quite a challenge to perform this particular play.
But what I find odd is that I never hear of an actor discussing why Hamlet was written in the first place. Why did Shakespeare write this play? Who was Hamlet? Who is Ophelia? Were they based on real people?
Of course Shakespeare wrote this play for a reason, and he did indeed model Hamlet, Ophelia, Laertes, and all the rest on real people -- many of whom he knew personally. I wrote about this in my adaptation of Hamlet, which not only recreates the play but also tells the story behind the play.
One of the real people whom Shakespeare used as inspiration for Ophelia was Elizabeth Vernon. She had the misfortune of falling in love with the Earl of Southampton and they married without the Queen's permission. For their transgression they were imprisoned, and she miscarried her first child.
If actors started to explore these kinds of stories I think it would enrich the experience for them and for their audience.
I also love that Michelle says that if Shakespeare were alive today, she would ask him out to dinner! Very funny.
Shakespeare did not write his plays for us. He wrote them for his audience.
My new versions of these plays transport us back in time to see the plays as they were first performed.
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