James Lipton
Creator and Host,“Inside the Actors Studio”

James Lipton’s Favorite Shakespeare Scene

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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.

James Lipton

James Lipton is an American writer, composer, actor, and the founding Dean Emeritus of the Actors Studio Drama School in New York City. He is the executive producer, writer, and host of the Bravo cable television series "Inside the Actors Studio," which debuted in 1994. His credits as an actor include a ten-year role as Dr. Dick Grant on CBS's "Guiding Light" and recurring guest appearances as Warden Stefan Gentles on Fox's "Arrested Development." Lipton is also a licensed pilot and a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.


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