OK, I’ve mentioned in the past my love for a Canadian TV series, Slings and Arrows, that follows a fictional(ized version of the Stratford Festival) theater group and its serio-comic trials and tribulations over the course of three seasons. The first deals with a production of Hamlet, the second with Macbeth, and the third? You guessed it, King Lear.
Previously in King Lear:
Act One was filled with mistakes made (Lear exiling both his youngest daughter Cordelia and his adviser Kent for speaking truth–or at least what Lear didn’t want to hear–and Gloucester believing his bastard son Edmund’s story that legitimate son Edgar was plotting against the old man’s life) and bad behavior (of Lear’s knights [offstage], the Fool, Lear himself, Kent, Oswald and most definitely Goneril who demands that Lear release half of his knights, prompting Lear to leave for Regan).
Previously, in King Lear:
Lear announces his plans to retire from rule, to split his kingdom between this three daughters. The king, unhappy with his youngest daughter Cordelia–for failing to proclaim her love for him (as the older sisters had)–disowns her, sends her off dowry-less to marriage with the French prince; Lear also exiles his trusted adviser Kent, when he attempts to reconcile the two. Lear isn’t alone in his rash decisions, though: the Earl of Gloucester is convinced by his bastard son Edmund that the legitimate son Edgar is plotting against his life.
King Lear begins with an epic first act (only Richard III’s 1000+ line behemoth is longer). Epic first act, but quiet opening moment. A discussion between two lords (Earls, really), Kent and Gloucester, about current political events.
It seems the dukes of Albany and Cornwall are equal in the king’s love (“so weighed” [I.i.5]). We don’t know it yet, but these dukes are the husbands of Lear’s older two daughters–Goneril and Regan, respectively. The two dukes are equally loved, so there’s no (current) conflict; and the subject changes from domestic politics to matters of domesticity.
So, it’s been a long time since I’ve read King Lear. Probably a quarter-century.
I just cringed at that. Man, I’m old.
But not as old as Lear…
Well, helllloooo March!
March. King Lear. Begins.
Last Thursday, my wife Lisa and I hit the road to the University of California at Santa Barbara to catch the touring Shakespeare’s Globe production of King Lear, as its tour of the US is winding down. To call the production lean-and-mean would be insulting and would give the false impression that it seems to lack something.
This stripped-down production wants for very, VERY little.