Shakespeare was writing more than four hundred years ago. Many a modern actor – not to say his or her audience - may approach a play by Shakespeare with trepidation. There is a perceived raft of complexities: the old and apparently difficult language, the structure of that language (be it verse or prose), the thrust of a complicated story (often with a disregard for our literal notions of time, for example), the unfamiliar characters with their, yes, sometimes odd names.
Nowadays actors might feel they need all the rehearsal they can get. How do you 'find your character' amongst all else there is to discover? Shakespeare's actors didn't understand the concept of 'character' in the way we do. They hardly rehearsed, using the language and telling astory, arguing their case through skilled surfing of rhetorical devices. Their starting point may often have been the name they were given, followed by their imaginative response to the words they had to speak in the situation they found themselves. Not for them 'my character wouldn't do that’. Maybe his actors didn't so much ‘act’ in modern terms, as fly - with the language he gave them...
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Naming (3300 words)
Shakespeare's Acting (3680 words)
His Use of Names (including Thee and You) (1400 words)
Degrees in Society (5300 words)
The A to Z of NAMES (92,000 words; over 500 entries)