Queen始sMen Editions

About this text

  • Title: Performance Introduction
  • Author: Peter Cockett
  • General editors: Andrew Griffin, Helen Ostovich
  • Coordinating editor: Janelle Jenstad

  • Copyright Peter Cockett. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Peter Cockett
    Not Peer Reviewed

    Performance Introduction

    The Prince and the Fool

    Prince Edward is also a highly contradictory character [LINK to CritIntro] but in this case the type casting system adopted for the project made it easier to navigate. The prince was the third of the three leading male roles played by Paul Hopkins and his performance of Edward quickly developed into a fresh example of his line of charismatic and mischievous princes. The details of the play distinguished this character from his other princes but the pressure of the short rehearsal time (LINK TO INTRO) and the convention of playing a line of roles (LINK TO INTRO) encouraged the actor to embrace the similarities first and build from there. Like Prince Edward, the King of Gallia in King Leir has a mischievous quality and enjoys disguises, and as Prince Harry in Famous Victories, Hopkins had already learned to play a conversion scene (scene 6) that mirrored the dramaturgical structure of scene 7 in Friar Bacon. Harry begins his play committed to a wicked life of revelry but seeing his father始s tears repents his ways and, in an instant, becomes a model English king. In Friar Bacon, Edward始s illicit desire for Margaret drives his actions in the first half of the play but he is suddenly able to subdue “fancy始s passion” (TLN 1066) to “make a virtue of [his] fault” (TLN 1064) in scene 7. In Famous Victories the cause of the epiphany is explicitly Christian, Harry says expressly: “My conscience accuseth me” (TLN 614). The terms of the conversion have been secularized in Friar Bacon – the prince realizes his desires and threats are dishonorable not “princely” (TLN 1062) – but the structure of the dramaturgy is drawn from the sudden conversion scenes of morality drama and is founded on a Christian rather than psychological understanding of human nature. By this point of the process, Hopkins was familiar with this pattern of thought and action and could happily commit to the performance of a prince who within Christian ideology is not as contradictory a character as critical opinion has suggested.

    The prince始s desire for Margaret is illicit but in the SQM production it was represented, much like the magic in the play, not as dark and destructive evil, but as folly. The connection between love and folly that is apparent in the text was cemented by the close working relationship developed by Hopkins and Matthew Krist who played his father始s fool Rafe. Greene invites the comparison directly by having the two characters change clothes and dressing the prince, while under the influence of his illicit desires, in the fool始s coxcomb. In the SQM production, the connection emerged earlier. In the opening scene, as the prince describes Margaret to the audience, Matthew Krist (Rafe) performed a parodic dumbshow of his description behind his back.


    Krist始s choice here made a mockery of the Edward始s desire, and the prince, catching him out, delivered a swift boot to the fool始s backside in recompense. The kick was the beginning of the combative relationship developed between the two actors/characters on stage: the Fool who played the prince battling with the prince who was a fool in love. Following ideas developed through SQM始s Experiment in Elizabethan Comedy [Link to SQM Intro], I asked Krist to explore the possibility that Rafe might be a natural fool, or, at least, that part of his performance was to create the impression that his mind was simple, or slightly unbalanced. The fool's license was traditionally granted on the basis that his lack of reason meant any insults uttered were not intentional. Even clever, artificial fools would have used a performance of idiocy as a cover for their satirical intents (Cockett, "Performing"). Matthew took this idea on board and created a fool that seemed incapable of rational thought or action and yet was quite specifically targeting the folly of his master始s son. The depth of his folly varies as does our awareness of its intent as he shifts in and out of a crafty performance of mental simplicity. Hopkins始s prince, in contrast, is less aware of his folly, indeed he is blind about it until his moment of revelation in scene 7. The two performances combined to playfully open questions about the construction of social identities and the extent of the license that should be afforded both to fools and to princes.