King Lear

Content Group

Overview
King Lear, Henry Irving as Lear

As Reginald Foakes has argued, King Lear has probably replaced Hamlet as Shakespeare's most admired play because of its recognition of the broadest range of human relationships. Nevertheless, the play has usually been mutilated in performance. Shakespeare's downbeat ending of the plot with the deaths of Lear and Cordelia (in contrast to his sources) has oppressed so many that it was often played with Nahum Tate's happy ending: with Edgar marrying Cordelia and Lear restored; the Fool eliminated and Arante added as confidant for Cordelia. This version was acted by Thomas Betterton, David Garrick, and Edmund Kean, and preferred by Samuel Johnson. The play was even suppressed for a time when George III was suffering mental impairment. Macready's production of 1838 restored the original text. However, distortions remain customary in stage and film productions. The famous 1962 film production by Peter Brook, with Paul Scofield as Lear and Alan McCowan as the Fool, pessimistically omits Edmund's repentance. In contrast, Kozintsev's film suppresses the attempted suicide of Gloucester and Lear's hint at the Fool's death. Actors and directors tend to see the ranting scenes and supposed madness as the play's core, rather than Lear's acquiring of wry humor in the face of disaster (yet significantly the Folio text cut Lear's most hallucinatory scene: the trial of Goneril and Regan). The contrastingly positive role of Edgar is often under-stressed—but it provided a hopeful conclusion to Kozintsev's film; and Branagh cast himself as Edgar in his staged version. (See The Tragicomedy of King Lear as well as Performing King Lear: Researching a Plot Sequence.)

Images
King Lear, Shakespeare Theatre Company, 1999
King Lear, American Repertory Theatre, 1991
King Lear, Covent Garden Theatre, 1838
King Lear, 1817-1866
King Lear, Drury Lane Theatre, 1774
Edgar, King of England, 959-975: King Lear sub-plot
King Edgar: Reigned, 1 October 1959 – 8 July 1975 (from All Souls College Chapel)
Norman BEL GEDDES, American Expressionist: Theatrical performance of 'King Lear', 1919.
King Lear, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1968
King Lear, George Edgar as King Lear, 1879
King Lear, Pavilion Theatre, 1906
King Lear, Robert Bruce Mantell as King Lear, 1908
King Lear, Dobrica Milutinovi as King Lear, 1924
King Lear, Louis Calhern as King Lear, 1956
King Lear: Michael Gambon as Lear, Antony Sher as Fool
King Lear: John Wood as Lear

Pages

Slideshows
Bibliography

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King Lear at Talkin' Broadway.

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Viguers, Susan. "The Storm in King Lear." CLA Journal 43 (1999-2000): 338-66.

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KING LEAR AT SHAKESPEARE'S GLOBE, 2008:

An affecting Lear at Shakespeare's Globe - Matt Wolf, New York Times

King Lear (Globe) - Maxwell Cooter, What's on Stage Review

King Lear at Shakespeare's Globe - Times Online

King Lear - Lizzie Loveridge, CurtainUp London

King Lear, Shakespeare's Globe, London - Paul Taylor, The Independent

King Lear, Shakespeare's Globe - The Sunday Times

King Lear: a mighty Lear in full-blooded glory - Charles Spencer, Telegraph

Reviews: King Lear - Lisa Childs, The Stage

Theatre: King Lear, Globe, London - Lyn Gardner, The Guardian

King Lear, Shakespeare's Globe (2008) - Philip Fisher, British Theatre Guide

King Lear @ Shakespeare's Globe, London - Clair Whitefield, musicOMH

Except where otherwise specified, all written commentary is © 2016, Hugh Macrae Richmond