As a young thespian, the dean of the Actors Studio fell in love with a scene from Hamlet. It was Act 3, Scene 4, the so-called “arras” scene where Hamlet confronts his mother, and eventually slays Polonius, who is hiding behind an arras.
Question: What is your favorite passage in Shakespeare?
James Lipton: Well, I’ve played Hamlet when I was a student with Robert Lewis, he assigned me Hamlet. And I would say, I am – Mildred Dunnock, who was the original wife in “Death of a Salesman,” who was also a student in that class. And she agreed to play my mother, Gertrude. So, I would pick a scene. I won’t dare to recite any of it now, but it would be the arras scene, the scene with his mother, “Look here upon this portrait and on this” – that whole scene because it’s so exquisitely written. So perfectly written. The emotions are so accessible in the character, so clear. I would say that scene, the entire scene.
Recorded February 9, 2010 Interviewed by Austin Allen