Monday, June 4, 2012

Shakespeare Study: The Tragedy Of King Lear

This is the third year of my Shakespeare study. I read one play each month, and then watch as many film versions as I can get my hands on, and read as many books about the play as I'm able. May, 2012 was The Tragedy Of King Lear. This blog entry has reviews of the films, and little blurbs about the books. (Scroll down for the film reviews.)

Related Books:

- Critical Essays On King Lear  edited by Linda Cookson and Bryan Loughrey  -  This book of essays is aimed more at students, and actually includes stupid questions at the end of each essay like "Did you find any problems in accepting the first two scenes of King Lear?" (page 30).  And there is actually a section in the back titled "How To Plan An Essay."  But the essays themselves are fairly interesting, particularly the one written by Andrew Gurr about Albany.  Gurr writes, "Albany's second attempt to assert himself, after Lear dies, is even more uncomprehending. He addresses the other survivors, Kent and Edgar, an dinvites them to share the rule in his place... No doubt he too, like Lear, is weary of the struggle, and wishes to relinquish responsibility for the future.  But by doing so he is attempting to reproduce precisely the mistake Lear made at the outset of the play, and which has now finally killed him. Lear's 'darker purpose' involved several basic errors.  Above all of them, though, was his plan to give up his own authority, to abdicate in favour of 'younger strengths,' retaining he pleasures while giving up the burdens.  This abnegation of responsibility, the division of the kingdom, prompts all the troubles that follow.  Now Albany is proposing to repeat Lear's mistake, dividing the kingdom once again between two of nobels, Kent and Edgar" (page 117).  He also writes about the different endings in the Folio and Q1: "Edgar and Albany stand together at the end, the authorities of the future, and one or other of them makes the final statement. Here we return to the alternative versions. In the earlier text, the Quarto, Albany speaks the lines, finally acknowledging that in these circumstances we must 'Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.' He has twice tried to speak what he thought ought to be said, and presumably has now realised the foolishness of both attempts to assert normality. Now he accepts that speaking from the heart, what we feel, is better than speaking conventionally... In the revised text in the Folio, the words are Edgar's.  They must be spoken in reproof.  He tells Albany that the conventional words of authority are of no use here" (pages 117 - 118).  This book also contains essays on the opening scenes, the trial scenes, and the character of Edgar, among other topics.  Published in 1988.

- William Shakespeare's King Lear - New Edition  edited and with an introduction by Harold Bloom  -  This is a volume in the Modern Critical Interpretations series, and includes criticism by Northrop Frye, David Bevington, Ralph Berry and Millicent Bell, among others.  In relation to the storm scene, Northrop Frye writes, "Similarly, there are links, however mysterious and fitful, between natural and human events, at least on the top social level. Comets, earthquakes and other natural disturbances don't just happen: they happen at crucial times in human life, such as the death of a ruler.  Not necessarily a Christian ruler: there were, as we saw, such portents at the time of the murder of Julius Caesar. So Lear has some ground for expecting that the order of nature around him might take some notice of his plight and of his daughters' ingratitude, considering that he's a king" (page 19.)  This book also includes a lot of good stuff about that first scene in which Lear divides his kingdom.  In one of the footnotes to Paul A. Cantor's essay, he writes, "Briefly stated, Jaffa's thesis is that the intent of Lear's original plan was to give Cordelia the bulk of his kingdom (the middle portion), while giving Goneril the extreme northern and Regan the extreme southern portion, regions their husbands already controlled as feudal lords. Lear intends to marry Cordelia to the Duke of Burgundy, a foreign power strong enough to give her support but not strong enough to conquer and absorb Britain (as the King of France might). Jaffa is the only critic of the play to have articulated the strategy of Lear's original plan, but he was not the first to note that Lear enters act 1, scene 1 with a division of the kingdom already worked out (after all, maps have been drawn up and Lear's counselors Gloucester and Kent are evidently already aware of the details when the play opens)" (page 81).  About this same scene, Ralph Berry writes, "The opening ceremonial has its purpose, like all ceremonials. Elder Olson puts it well: 'if Lear is giving up his authority and still wants security and dignity, he can only trust to their love; and his insistence upon their public profession of it is an attempt to have it warranted and witnessed as a formal part of the compact of the delivery of property and power.' The public affirmation of love is an exercise that no power in the world disregards" (page 86).  Later in the same essay he writes, "This division is not really arbitrary.  Since the great dukes already possess their regional structures, Lear's planned settlement merely formalizes the present state of affairs with the addition of heartland areas.  It also maintains the present jealousies and rivalries of the inheritors, which are neatly contained within a triadic system. The map of Britain that Lear unfolds is a working diagram of a settlement that corresponds reasonably well to the current situation and its realities. The future will have to depend on the fertility of the three daughters, anyway - or their husbands" (page 91).  In Robert Lanier Reid's essay he writes about Edgar's speech, "Most readers have viewed this extraordinarily long and colorful catalogue of sins, like the pretense of demon-possession, as part of a tour-de-force performance, a disclosure purely theatrical, having nothing to do with Edgar's real life, his moral and psychological self.  But consider what a deeper dimension the play assumes if we take the list, at least in part, as Edgar's genuine confession. Has Edgar (like Prince Hal or, more to the point, like the promiscuous Gloucester) led a self-indulgent life of privilege? This reading would give considerably more weight to Edmund's resentment of his 'legitimate' half brother" (page 122).  Millicent Bell writes, regarding the laws about clothing, "In King Lear, Kent says of the upstart steward Oswald, 'nature disclaims in thee - a tailor made thee' - that is, made the person he has become by dressing up a person that 'nature' had no role in creating - though he had previously been no more than a 'three-suited...worsted-stocking knave,' limited by ordinance to three suits a year and plain woolen stockings instead of silk" (page 138).  She also writes, "A modern audience will miss the topicality of Lear's odd remark to Edgar in his beggar's rags, 'I do not like the fashion of your garments. You will say they are Persian attire, but let them be changed.' A Persian embassy had arrived in London early in the reign of James I; there was a 'fashion' for Persian silk fabrics and even costume, marking the beginning of the English assimilation of exotic identities" (page 138). Published in 2010.

- Shakespeare's Revision Of King Lear  by Steven Urkowitz  -  In this book, Steven Urkowitz takes the position that the King Lear of the Folio is Shakespeare's own careful revision of the Quarto.  He writes, "Now, however, although critics maintain considerable differences in particular details, they generally agree that the Quarto text is drawn in some way from Shakespeare's foul papers and the Folio text is derived in some way from a playhouse promptbook used by Shakespeare's company. Critics disagree on why there are differences between the Quarto and the Folio, and on which text to follow in specific instances" (page 6).  Later he writes, "The fair copy of a play was submitted to the Master of the Revels for censorship. (His endorsement was required 'at the latter end of the said booke they doe play.') McKerrow argues that since the fair copy served the double functions of license and promptbook, as a valuable asset the acting company would not release it to a printer if another copy of the play was also available. If the author's working draft was in the possession of the acting company, then that draft rather than the fair-copy promptbook would be given to the printer when the company approved publication" (page 10).  This book contains a chapter on the variations in entrances and exits.  In that chapter, Urkowitz writes, "One major anomaly introduced by 4.3 is Kent's description of Lear's 'soveraigne shame,' which, he says, keeps the king from meeting with Cordelia. But when Lear next appears onstage in 4.6 he is notably silent about Cordelia's presence in England. Though he as ample opportunity in this scene to express the 'shame' ascribed to him, he does not. Further, Lear's ingenuous surprise when he awakens to discover Cordelia before him in 4.7 argues against his having any prior knowledge of her arrival from France. And the clear, humble humanity Lear expresses sounds in no way like 'shame.' The 'news' supplied in 4.3 interferes with any direct or simple understanding of Lear's emotions at the moment of reunion" (page 53).  In the chapter on Albany, he writes, "Here and in the later instances Albany's pattern of delay seems to be a characteristic response to heightened emotional stress. Delayed response in a case when we would expect an immediate reaction is a typical Shakespearean device for showing a character under great psychological pressure" (page 113).  Later he writes, "Since the official promptbook was a legal enticement to perform only the words which were approved in it, it seems unlikely that the book would be so altered after it had been licensed. As a practical consideration, the most convenient and economical time to make changes in a play script is before the preparation of the promptbook.  After the book is made and approved, individual actors' parts must be copied out.  Changes such as those found in King Lear involve complex passages of dialogue and would necessitate a recall and a painstaking revision of actos' prts at least, if not also a new submission of the book for approval by the censor" (page 147). Published in 1980.

- William Shakespeare's King Lear  adapted by Brian Farrens; illustrated by Ben Dunn  -  This is a graphic novel adaptation of the play (part of the Graphic Shakespeare series).  At just under fifty pages, it's basically an outline of the play.  It begins with Lear dividing his kingdom, so the opening dialogue between Kent and Gloucester about Gloucester's sons is cut.  This book completely messes up the beginning of Act II.  It assigns Edmund's lines to Edgar and Edgar's lines to Edmund, so that Edgar asks Edmund, "Have you not spoken 'gainst the Duke of Cornwall?"  And then Edgar tells Edmund to fly because he hears Gloucester coming.  Of course, that makes no sense.  And Edmund remains to talk to Gloucester.  By the way, Gloucester looks much too young in the illustrations.  (I have found that Shakespeare books aimed at children seem to get more wrong than right.  While the idea of turning children onto Shakespeare is a noble one, it seems these books actually do more harm than good.)  It seems Cornwall kicks Gloucester in the head, and then the servant intervenes, before an eye is plucked out.  In fact, we don't see his eyes being plucked out at all.  In the drawings it looks merely as if Gloucester's eyes are closed when Cornwall (not Regan, for some reason) says, "Let him smell his way to Dover."  In this version, Edgar actually leads Gloucester to a sort of cliff, with just a small drop - maybe six feet - and lets him jump.  Published in 2009.

- King Lear: The 1608 Quarto And 1623 Folio Texts  edited by Stephen Orgel  -  As its title suggests, this book contains both the Q1 and Folio texts.  This is a great volume, because all modern editions (or most, anyway) of King Lear are conflations of the two versions, left to the editors' discretion as to which will be used for any given passage.  The book also contains an introduction, as well as an essay on the theatrical world of Shakespeare.  It is in that essay that he tackles the subject of those idiots who think someone else wrote Shakespeare's works: "The Baconions, the Oxfordians, and supporters of other candidates have one trait in common - they are snobs. Every pro-Bacon or pro-Oxford tract sooner or later claims that the historical William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon could not have written the plays because he could not have had the training, the university education, the experience, and indeed the imagination or background their author supposedly possessed.  Only a learned genius like Bacon or an aristocrat like Oxford could have written such fine plays" (page xxii).  In the introduction he writes, about the daughters' different responses to Lear's request, "From Goneril and Regan's perspective, these performances are noble ceremonies, hyperbolic and therefore appropriate responses to their royal father; from Cordelia's, they are merely specious shows, cheapening the king because they are inherently dishonest.  If we look at the scene this way, it constitutes a debate between rhetoricians and plain-speakers, and it includes a good deal of the Elizabethan distrust of the theater as well - the fear that its representations will be taken for, and will thereby undermine or subvert, reality. Significantly here, it is the villains who are the performers" (page xxxiv).  A little later he writes, "Lear dividing the kingdom among his three daughters, moreover, is following the dictates of English law: primogeniture applied exclusively to male heirs. If there were only daughters, they inherited equally - Lear's willfulness in the matter is manifested merely in his determination to give Cordelia a better portion than her sisters" (pages xl - xli).  In a footnote to Q1 (by the way, titled The History Of King Lear), he writes, "Nothing can come of nothing (quoting a famous scholastic maxim derived from Aristotle, nihil ex nihilo fit)" (page 6).  The same note is given for the Folio (The Tragedy Of King Lear): "Nothing will come of nothing (quoting a famous scholastic maxim derived from Aristotle, nihil ex nihilo fit)" (page 144).  Notice the difference in the two readings.  Published in 2000.

- King Lear: Shakespeare In Performance  by Alexander Leggatt  -  This book focuses on a few specific productions of King Lear, both on the stage and in film and television.  In the chapter on John Gielgud and Harley Granville Barker, Alexander Leggatt writes, "Barker told him, 'The prevailing note must be kingly dignity; always, when in doubt, return to that'" (page 20).  Later in that same chapter he writes, "Cathleen Nesbitt recalls a moment Barker spent with the actor who confirms Lear's report that he has killed Cordelia's hangman: 'You must let the audience feel you have seen a miracle - you have - you are not accustomed to miracles - you are a rough soldier...your heart must beat faster when you say, "'Tis true, my lord, he did"'" (page 22).  In the chapter on Peter Brook and Paul Scofield, Leggatt writes, "On the day of the opening the actors were told to do an 'easy, underplayed' run-through to save their energies for the evening.  According to Charles Marowitz, 'The result was astounding. Actors who had been belting out the verse since the first readings were suddenly giving scaled-down, unfussingly true performances. Basic relationships, so long obscured during erratic rehearsals, suddenly became crystal clear'" (page 40).  On that same page he writes, "He told the company in rehearsal that 'In verse which is properly spoken, each character plays his own rhythm - as personal as his own handwriting, but what often happens in Shakespeare is that everyone shares a generalised rhythm that passes impersonally from one to the other.'"  In the chapter on Adrian Noble, Michael Gambon and Antony Sher, he writes, "The Fool (in a scene we shall return to later) died hanging out of a barrel" (page 71).  That's interesting.  It would seem then that when Lear later says his poor fool hang'd, he's actually referring to his Fool in this production, rather than to Cordelia.  Later in that chapter Leggatt writes, "The production opened with a tableau in which the Fool and Cordelia were seen stretched out on the throne, their necks connected by a rope; it turned out to be a game they were playing - though of course the joke would become earnest in Lear's 'And my poor fool is hang'd'" (page 77).  And then, "Trying to anatomise Regan, the mad Lear stabbed the Fool, who was sitting in a barrel. Dying, he hung out of the barrel, a grotesque jack-in-the-box" (page 77).  An odd choice, as Shakespeare wrote no death scene for the Fool.  Published in 1991.

- Playing Lear  by Oliver Ford Davies  -  This book describes in detail an actor's journey through a production of King Lear, focusing on the rehearsal period and creating (or finding) the character.  In an early chapter titled "First Reading," Oliver Ford Davies writes, "In Kent and Gloucester's opening speeches there's immediately something I'd never realized.  They seem to know that Lear is going to divide his kingdom, and divide it evenly between Albany and Cornwall - not, I note, between Goneril and Regan. They assume men are going to rule, and as Cordelia as yet has no husband she's presumably counted out in their eyes" (page 14).  About the Fool, he writes, "Playing him young or female never seems to me to work well.  The text suggests to me an experienced man who's seen it all. I think it much more likely that the part was written for the 'quick, dwarfish, and charmingly ugly' Robert Armin, the regular 'clown' in Shakespeare's later company, than for a boy who doubled it with Cordelia" (page 48).  About soliloquies (or rather the lack of them for the part), he writes, "Had Shakespeare followed his usual path and given Lear soliloquies, we might know why he's dividing up his kingdom, what he thinks of his children, and how he reacts to his growing madness. One reason for this absence of soliloquy must be that Shakespeare conceived his Lear as fatally lacking in self-awareness. Lear doesn't tell us who he is, not because he won't, but because he can't. His discovering of self comes only through madness" (page 59). Later he writes, "James Frain has been talking to me about problems he's finding with Edmund's soliloquies. I pass on the best advice I've been given: assume that the audience not only understand your position but are sympathetic to it. In other words, don't defy, or wheedle the audience; talk as if they're on your side. Thus when Edmund says 'A credulous father and a brother noble' (I.2.177), he assumes this should be the judgement of any rational human. By denying Lear soliloquies, Shakespeare is cutting off the character's chance of explanation and empathy" (page 126).  About the passage when Lear talks about the injustices, Oliver Ford Davies writes, "I'm struck by an unexpected parallel with our own monarch. Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned for fifty years, must have seen myriad examples of injustice, naked ambition, hypocrisy and double-dealing. She will presumably go to the grave with her secrets undisclosed. So might Lear, but instead he goes mad and out it all tumbles. Lear hasn't 'learned' about injustice, he knew it all the time. It was just repressed, screened off" (page 138).  Later he writes about the part of Lear, "It's a brave piece of writing, but it's not easy to play. It confounds all the actor's craving for sympathy, variety, comedy, ironic detachment, and intelligent overview" (page 171). The book is well written, apart from Oliver Ford Davies' penchant for assigning singular nouns plural verbs.  For example, he always takes the word "audience" as a plural noun.  But the most ridiculous case is when he writes "Chicago are particularly interested as they have a summer Shakespeare festival" (page 116).  How did the editor not catch that?  Published in 2003.

- Understanding King Lear: A Student Casebook To Issues, Sources, And Historical Documents  by Donna Woodford  -  This book is not all that well written, but what makes it useful is the inclusion of portions of related historical documents, such as Holinshed, speeches of King James, and Nahum Tate's version of King Lear.  A large portion of the book is dedicated to Alzheimer's Disease, including a lengthy interview with two people who cared for one's mother while she suffered from the disease.  This is a recent interview, and the two subjects aren't that intelligent, so its inclusion in this volume is questionable.  But there are some interesting bits.  Woodford writes, "The Paracelsians, or those physicians who practiced the theories of Paracelsus, an early-sixteenth-century Swiss physician, believed that there was a close relationship and interaction between the microcosm, or small world, of man, and the macrocosm, or large world, of the universe.  That is, they believed that people contained the same essential elements that were found in the rest of the universe: sulfur, salt, and mercury; and, therefore, events in the universe could affect people's physical or mental health. The same disturbance of elements that caused an earthquake or thunderstorm might well cause a physical or mental problem in a person" (page 33).  Later she writes, "St. Mary of Bethlehm hospital, more commonly known by its corrupted name, Bedlam, was establed in 1247 and became the first hospital devoted exclusively to the care and housing of the insane. But while the inmates were provided with food and shelter, curing their madness was not always the only activity or even the first priority of the hospital. During the early modern period, visits to Bedlam to see the made people were a popular form of entertainment" (page 50).  In the chapter on kingship, Woodford writes, "He also gives Lear a fool, and James I was the first English king since Henry VIII to have an official court fool; Shakespeare even gives Lear's two sons-in-law the titles of James's (sic) two songs.  James's (sic) eldest song, Henry, was the Duke of Cornwall, and his younger son, Charles, was the Duke of Albany" (page 59).  In the chapter on family Woodford writes, "Legally Edmund is not his son, but his 'breeding' has been at Gloucester's 'charge' in two senses: he fathered him, and he has paid for his upbringing. Gloucester has supported him, admitting that 'the whoreson must be acknowledged' (1.1.20), and though Edmund is both illegitimate and younger than Edgar, Gloucester claims that his eldest, legitimate son is 'no dearer in my account' (1/1/19), another phrase that can suggest both an emotional and a financial tie. Edmund is just as dear, or just as beloved, as Edgar, but he is also just as dear, or just as pexpensive, in Gloucester's financial accounts" (page 89).  Because this book is aimed at students, there are questions at the end of each chapter.  Unfortunately for students, most of these questions are awful.  Published in 2004.

- The Dresser  by Ronald Harwood  -  In this play an old man tries to get through a production of King Lear during World War II. We hear parts of the play, but what the audience sees is what's going on backstage, particularly the relationship between the actor and his dresser.  At the beginning we learn that the actor went a bit mad, throwing off his coat just as Lear does, and landed in the hospital.  After the play, Geoffrey (who played the Fool) says, "You give your all for almost an hour and a half, then vanish into thin air for the rest of the play. The next one hears of me is you saying that I'm hanged. But why?  By whom?"  Sir (the actor playing Lear) responds, "My theory is that, in William's day, Fool and Cordelia were played by one and the same person" (pages 76 - 77).  It's interesting that so many people take Lear's line about his poor fool being hanged to mean his actual fool.  Nothing yet has convinced me that he's not talking about Cordelia.  This play ends with Norman (the dresser) singing the Fool's song, "He that has a little tiny wit,/With hey, ho, the wind and the rain."  Published in 1980.

- A Thousand Acres  by Jane Smiley  -  This adaptation of King Lear is set on a farm in the midwest.  Larry (Lear) wants to divide his farm among his three daughters, Ginny (Goneril), Rose (Regan) and Caroline (Cordelia). Of course, Caroline gets cut out of the bargain. She leaves and marries Frank (France).  Harold (Gloucester), an old friend of Larry's, runs another farm, and has two sons - Loren (Edgar) and Jess (Edmund).  Jess has returned from the Pacific northwest, and gets involved with both Ginny and Rose (as in the play).  There are many details in this book that are taken directly from the play.  For example, Smiley makes a point of saying that Rose takes Ginny's hand, and Larry says, "That's right. Hold hands." Ginny replies, "Why shouldn't we?" (page 180). Compare that to Lear's line, "O Regan, will you take her by the hand," and Goneril's response, "Why not by th' hand, sir?" (from Act II Scene iv).  But there are many differences. For one thing, this book is told from the perspective of Ginny, and because of that, we don't follow Larry out into the storm.  And Larry is much more of a villain.  He beat and sexually abused Ginny and Rose when they were young.  Harold is blinded, but by an accident, not directly by another character, though later we learn that Peter (Cornwall) did have a hand in it, as he had emptied the water tank which might have saved Harold's eyes.  Pete dies, but is not killed by a servant.  Ginny tries to poison Rose, but fails. Larry dies of a heart attack. Caroline and Ginny are still alive at the end of the book.  The story has a nice, slow build, but then seems to cheat by suddenly have Ginny move away (her telling Ty that she needs a thousand dollars, and Ty responding that he happens to have that exact amount in his pocket is completely retarded).  And then time passes. And we just sort of learn of Larry's death, but it has no weight or importance. But maybe that's the point, that nothing is resolved.  I don't know; I had basically stopped caring about the characters. By the way, there is also a reference to The Merchant Of Venice. Rose says to Ginny, "You think a breast weighs a pound? That's my pound of flesh" (page 303). Published in 1991.

Film Versions:

- King Lear (1982) with Michael Hordern, John Shrapnel, Norman Rodway, Michael Kitchen, Gillian Barge, Brenda Blethyn, Penelope Wilton, Anton Lesser, John Grillo; directed by Jonathan Miller. This production doesn't have much in the way of sets, but this play is all about the performances, and this production has some excellent performances.  Particularly good are Michael Hordern as King Lear, Michael Kitchen as Edmund, Norman Rodway as Gloucester, Anton Lesser as Edgar, John Grillo as Oswald, John Shrapnel as Kent, Penelope Wilton as Regan, John Bird as Albany.  Basically the entire cast is good.  The only performance that bothered me was Frank Middlemass as the Fool.  With the abrasive and loud way he speaks, he reminded me of an annoying character from The Benny Hill Show.  Plus, he's an older man, and it seems from the text that the Fool was intended to be a young man (especially if he doubled Cordelia, as seems to be the case).
Goneril doesn't look at King Lear when telling him how much she loves, which is an odd choice.  She's looking out, as if lost in thought. This production generally sticks to the Folio reading.  Lear says, "Although our last and least, to whose young love" as opposed to the Q1 reading, "Although the last, not the least in our dear love" when approaching Cordelia.  Likewise, Kent says "Reserve thy state" instead of Q1's "Reserve thy doom." King Lear and the Fool are shown in closeups during the storm scene.  Lear sings "For the rain it raineth every day" with the Fool.  In the storm, when Gloucester talks about Edgar, Edgar is off screen, which is a shame - we really should see his reaction. Though this production sticks mainly with the Folio, it does include the fake trial of Goneril and Regan in Act III Scene vi, which is not in the Folio. When Regan and Cornwall question Gloucester, we see it from behind the chair where Gloucester is bound.  We don't see Gloucester at all throughout the scene (until the very end), and it's totally intense.  Julian Curry (as Cornwall) and Penelope Wilton are particularly good in that scene.
I'm a bit confused by Edgar's whole Jesus thing - when playing the mad beggar Tom, he wears a crown of thorns and has wounds in his hands.  A strange anacronism, as this play takes place before the Jesus tale.  In Act IV Scene ii, Goneril says "I must change arms at home," which is the Q1 reading (it's "must change names at home" in the Folio). Act IV Scene iii is cut completely - and this may be because this production is generally sticking to the Folio.  This scene only appeared in the Quarto.  Edgar carries Gloucester to the "cliff."  Gloucester says "So should my thoughts be sever'd from griefs," which again is the Folio reading (it's "be fenced from griefs" in Q1).  The scene when Lear finally recognizes Cordelia is wonderful.  The doctor says "The great rage, you see, is kill'd in him," which is the Folio reading (as opposed to "cur'd in him" in Q1).
The last scene is excellent, and Michael Hordern really shines as he cradles Cordelia's body. And I love Albany's delivery of "That's but a trifle here."   After Lear says "my poor fool is hang'd" (referring to Cordelia), he lifts her arm, and lets it drop, then says, "No."  He lifts it again, and again it drops, and he says again, "No," and then "no life."  It's incredibly heartbreaking.  His repetition of "never" is also excellent.  And when he says "Pray you, undo this button," he grasps at his neck, as if his collar is too tight and he can't breathe, but there is no button clasped, and his neck is free. Kent and Edgar still make the pretense of undoing a button, for which Lear thanks them - another wonderful moment. And Lear dies thinking that perhaps Cordelia lives. (time: 185 minutes)

- King Lear  (1953) with Orson Welles, Natasha Parry, Bramwell Fletcher, David J. Stewart, Margaret Phillips, Beatrice Straight, Alan Badel, Micheal MacLiammoir; television director: Andrew McCullough; stage director: Peter Brook.  This was a live television broadcast of King Lear.  It features some good performances, but some terrible cuts.  Most of Edgar's scenes are cut.  Edmund is cut completely, and Oswald is given several of his lines.  This greatly changes the play.  This production begins with Lear's line, "Give me the map there."  Lear (Orson Welles) actually rips up the map and hands pieces to Albany (Arnold Moss) and Cornwall (Scott Forbes).  Cordelia (Natasha Parry) is seated between her two sisters.  Lear says, "five days," following the Folio reading.  The first scene ends with Regan's line "Next month with us," thus cutting the important dialogue between the two sisters.  Scene ii is completely cut (the scene with Gloucester, Edmund and Edgar).  Scene iv begins with Kent's line, "Now, banish'd Kent."  The Fool seems frightened at first.  He then crouches at Lear's feet, and Lear pets him like a beloved animal.  The Fool actually breaks an egg to demonstrate the two crowns.  Goneril kisses Oswald on the mouth at the end of the scene, hinting at a sexual relationship between the two, which is interesting.  The very beginning of Scene v is cut, the mention of Gloucester  The short scene ends with Lear's line, "I would not be mad."
Act II Scene i is cut completely.  Again, no Edmund, Edgar and Gloucester.  However, Gloucester does give his lines in Act II Scene ii, beseeching Cornwall to not put Kent in the stocks.  Scene iii is cut, and it goes right into Scene iv, as one continuous scene, when Lear enters.  The scene begins with Regan saying, "I am glad to see your highness."  Then it goes back to the beginning of the scene when Lear notices Kent in the stocks. And then Goneril enters.  The scene where Regan and Goneril ask him why he needs twenty-five or even one servant is great.  After Lear says, "the terrors of the earth," we hear a clash of thunder.  Kent is still left in the stocks at the end of the scene, which is odd.
Then at the beginning of Act III Kent is let out by the Gentleman.  Kent gives him the order to find Cordelia.  Act III Scene iii is cut.  The Fool goes into a windmill, where he discovers Edgar, who is disguised as Tom.  The huge problem, of course, is that we haven't been introduced to Edgar before this.  So we have no idea why he's disguised as Tom O'Bedlam.  Nor do we know his relation to Gloucester.  During Edgar's long speech in which he describes how he loves dice and so on, he is seen in closeup.  When the camera pulls back, Lear and the Fool get caught up in Edgar's speech, repeating some of his phrases back to him, such as "hog in sloth" and "fox in stealth."  Scene v is cut, and it goes right to the trial of Goneril from Scene vi.  Gloucester then enters, saying he's heard a plot of death against Lear.  Then Lear leaves and Fool says, "And I'll go to bed at noon."  And then Regan and Cornwall enter and grab Gloucester.  And we get the blinding of Gloucester, as well as the death of Cornwall and the servant.
Act IV Scene i is cut. Goneril, not Regan, has the line, "Let him smell his way to Dover," about Gloucester, leading Albany to say, "Goneril, you are not worth the dust which the rude wind blows in your face."  Regan then has her lines to Edmund, in which she asks about her sister and tells him not to be familiar with her (from Act V Scene i), but these lines are said to Oswald, which makes no sense at all.  Why would Regan be interested in Goneril's steward?  Then we go to Act IV scene iv.  Then we jump to the middle of Act IV Scene vi, with Lear's line, "they cannot touch me for coining," thus cutting all of the stuff with Gloucester and Edgar.  Lear is clutching a starfish, and has seaweed in his hair.  He speaks to himself, as Edgar is not there.  What happened to him?  But then Gloucester stumbles in, unaccompanied by Edgar.  And Lear pardons the adulterer, but since the lines about Edmund being a bastard have been cut, these lines don't matter so much.  Gloucester has not been established as an adulterer.  The actor playing Gloucester merely has his eyes closed, with some blood between the eyes and bridge of the nose - not very effective.  Because Edgar has mysteriously disappeared from this production, Gloucester says the final line of the scene: "Far off, methinks, I hear the beaten drum."  Act IV Scene vii begins with Cordelia's line, "How does the king?"  Orson Welles fucks up and says to Cordelia, "They have some cause, you do not," which completely screws up the scene.  The line, of course, is really, "You have some cause, they do not." 
After Lear says, "Do not abuse me," Oswald enters (in place of the cut Edmund) and says, "Some officers, take them away" (from Act V Scene iii).  Regina takes Oswald to be her lord and master, which again makes no sense.  Why does she want Goneril's steward to be her master?  Then Albany says, "Oswald, I arrest thee on capital treason."  Albany then reads the letter from Goneril that Edgar reads in Act IV Scene vi of the play, but in this production it begins, "Beloved Oswald, let our reciprocal vows be remembered."  And this is where it moves even farther from the play.  Regan grabs and strangles Goneril (apparently killing her, though it lasts like two seconds), and Oswald stabs Regan, then himself.  Then Oswald suddenly utters Edmund's lines about meaning to do some good before dying, and reveals his plan to have Lear and Cordelia killed.  None of this is in the least bit believable. Then Lear enters, dragging Cordelia instead of carrying her (a poor choice), but everyone is gone.  He seems to be saying "Howl" to himself, which doesn't make much sense.  But then people suddenly come back into frame.  As Lear says, "Never," he climbs back into his throne, leaving Cordelia on the floor at his feet.  Why return to the throne and leave Cordelia?  Is that really more important to Lear in his last moments?  Absolutely not.  But he dies without saying his last lines urging Kent to look at Cordelia's lips.  Albany says the last lines of the play as in Q1, though I don't think the choice was made to follow Q1 but rather because Edgar is not even in the scene.  He left a long while ago (off to some better production, I imagine).  After the production, Alistair Cooke thanks Peter Brook. By the way, Micheal MacLiammoir is credited as playing "Poor Tom," not Edgar, for the only scene in which he appears is one in which he's disguised as Tom.  (time: 82 minutes - and that includes the introduction)

- King Lear (1974) with Patrick Magee, Patrick Mower, Ann Lynn, Beth Harris, Ronald Radd, Robert Coleby, Ray Smith.  This production suffers from some terrible cuts. Though I do wonder if the DVD is somehow at fault, for the back of the DVD case says that the film is 156 minutes, and yet the DVD is actually only 120 minutes.  So am I missing 36 minutes?  There is one cut especially that makes me think so.  But more on that later.  There are some good performances, particularly by Beth Harris as Goneril and Ronald Radd as Gloucester.
In the first scene, after Gloucester's line "braze to it," it then skips to "Do you know this noble gentleman?"  A very odd cut, because it fails to mention Edgar and also fails to hit home the fact that Edmund is a bastard.  And because of this cut, some of Edmund's possible rationale for being villainous is gone.  The sting is gone from the opening speeches.  Also, Edmund is busy talking to two women, so he's not present for Gloucester's words about him.  A really terrible cut right at the beginning.  Lear seems a bit bored with the formality of dividing his kingdom.  Cordelia's asides are cut.  She is seated at Lear's feet.  Lear says "last and least," following the Folio reading.  France's first two speeches are cut, wherein he asks what Cordelia has done, and then asks Burgundy what his decision is.  The first thing he says is his acceptance of Cordelia. Lear (Patrick Magee) has a sort of nasal whine and a grating quality to his voice.  Much of Goneril and Regan's dialogue at the end of the scene is cut.  Goneril's last line "and i' th' heat" leads to a shot of a fire, before which Edmund sits.  But Edmund's speech comes out of nowhere since Gloucester's lines were cut from the first scene, and he didn't even hear the little that was spoken.  He says his soliloquy to himself rather than to us, to the camera.  And his second soliloquy just before Edgar's entrance is likewise said to himself, but sadly most of it is cut (and that's one of my favorite speeches in the play).  I really like Beth Harris as Goneril in the scene with Oswald (Act I Scene iii).  Kent's speech is to himself rather than to us, which seems wrong.  After all, he's telling us that he has disguised himself and will likewise attempt to disguise his voice.  Why would he tell himself that?  Most of the stuff with the Fool is cut, before Goneril's entrance.  Scene iv ends with Lear's line "the shape which thou dost think/I have cast off forever," thus cutting the exchange between Albany and Goneril, and the bit with Oswald.  In scene v, again a lot of the Fool's lines are cut.
In Act II, Edmund draws his sword and puts it against Edgar's neck before saying "Pardon me."  A nice moment.  Oddly, Act II Scene ii begins with Kent and Oswald fighting, having cut all of the dialogue that led to the fight.  Almost immediately Cornwall and Regan enter to stop the fight.  And more of Kent's following lines are cut.  A lot of the fun is cut from the play in this version.  When Lear speaks of Regan's eyes, we get an extreme closeup shot of her eyes, which is a bit silly.  Patrick Magee is really good as Lear during his "We'll no more meet, no more see one another" speech to Goneril.  After Cornwall tells Gloucester to come out of the storm, Gloucester lingers a moment, looking off, before turning and following the rest inside, is a nice touch.
Act III Scene i is cut entirely.  Act III Scene iii is also completely cut.  Edgar's great long speech wherein he speaks of his love of wine and dice is completely cut.  Also cut are Gloucester's lines about Edgar ("I had a son/Now outlawed from my blood") - how can you cut those?  It's important that Edgar hears Gloucester say that.  Act III Scene v is completely cut.  After Gloucester's exit from Scene vi, we hear the Fool off camera singing the song that should have been in Act III Scene ii ("hey ho the wind and the rain").  We do have the trial scene.  Ronald Radd is particularly good as Gloucester in Act III Scene vii.  The plucking out of Gloucester's first eye is done off camera.  We see the shadow of it.  The second is plucked out during a black screen.  The servants' lines are cut from the end of Act III.
In Act IV, Edgar's lines about the fiends are cut.  In Scene ii, Goneril kisses Edmund after she says "Welcome, my lord."  Goneril says, "I must change arms at home," following the Q1 reading.  She kisses Edmund again when the text indicates it.  When Albany enters, all he says is "What have you done? Tigers, not daughters, what have you performed?"  Then Goneril goes into her "Milk-livered man" speech.  So cut are all of Albany's great lines, like "You are not worth the dust which the rude wind/Blows in your face."  How can you cut that?  Oddly, this production does include Act IV Scene iii, but then - even more oddly - only includes the scene's first few lines and last couple of lines, thus cutting out everything about Cordelia.  It goes right into Scene iv, but only the last lines of that scene are retained, starting the messenger's line.  Act IV Scene v is completely cut (thus we lose Regan's jealousy of Goneril regarding Edmund, something we absolutely need for their actions in the last scene to make sense).  I like that the camera slowly pulls back so that we can see the ground in front of Gloucester when Edgar tells him he's within a foot of the cliff.  Oddly, Gloucester slowly falls to the ground after stepping "over the cliff."  Edgar has the lines about Tom looking like a fiend, an odd choice considering that the lines about the fiends being inside Tom were cut.  Gloucester kneels before Lear, so Lear's line about pardoning the man's life is given to Gloucester.  And the bit about adultery is directly related to Gloucester in this production.  Lear sits on the ground next to Gloucester for his line about pulling off his boots, and Gloucester reaches out as if to obey, but can't find them.  A nice moment.  After Lear runs off, there is a fade-out, then a fade-in, though we're still in the same scene.  Was footage deleted?  Because the next line is Gloucester's "Now good sir, what are you?"  So the exchange between Edgar and the Gentleman is cut.  Edgard unfolds the letter without breaking the seal - the wax was already broken - and his line, "Leave, gentle wax" is cut.  After reading the letter, Edgard dumps the coins onto Oswald's body.
Lear sleeps on a chair, and is carried out on it to Cordelia and Kent, rather than the two of them going in to see him.  An odd choice.  After Cordelia asks, "Sir, do you know me?" Lear says, "Be your tears wet?"  So lost are many of the scene's great moments.  Lear should answer, "You are a spirit, I know."  Also cut is his line "I am mightily abus'd," plus the lines about thinking he should know her and Kent.  And ridiculously cut is the line where he acknowledges her, "I think this lady/To be my fair child Cordelia."  And so cut is her response, "And so I am, I am."  But there is an odd cut there, and this is when I began to truly suspect that the DVD is somehow missing scenes.  After all, the box says the film is 36 minutes longer than it is.  Maybe that's it.  Because how can you cut what is the most emotional and important moment in the entire play?
In Act V, Edgar's speech about having sworn to love both sisters is cut.  Act V Scene ii is cut.  Albany's lines are cut. It goes from Kent's line "Your servant Kent" to Lear's "And my poor fool is hang'd."  He actually does undo the button at Lear's neck when Lear asks.  Edgar says the final lines.
One more note on the time: In the production notes of the DVD, the director says that he had to fit the play into five 25-minute segments.  That would put the total at 125 minutes.  So it seems the 156 minutes listed on the case is just wrong.  But are five minutes still missing, or were there more credits?  (time 120 minutes)

- King Lear (1998) with Ian Holm, Timothy West, Paul Rhys, Finbar Lynch, Victoria Hamilton, Barbara Flynn, Amanda Redman, David Burke; directed by Richard Eyre.  This production features some excellent performances, particularly Ian Holm as King Lear, Barbara Flynn as Goneril, Timothy West as Gloucester, and (for the most part) Victoria Hamilton as Cordelia.  There are, as usual, some annoying cuts, and the soliloquies are done poorly, and asides seem to be avoided altogether.  Also there is not much in the way of sets - a great deal of the action seems to take place in a big orange box.  The solar eclipse is shown during the opening credits, an interesting idea, and a good one.  For the Elizabethan crowd would have needed no reminder of that recent event.  But a modern audience might need some indication.
In Act I, we see Edgar and Edmund at the beginning.  Then Edmund exits just before Gloucester and Kent enter.  After Gloucester's line, "who is yet no dearer in my account," the production suddenly jumps to Edmund's soliloquy from the beginning of Scene ii, here done as voice over.  Hmm.  Then back to Scene i.  I love Edmund's look when Gloucester says, "and away he shall again," showing he didn't know he was to be once again sent away.  When Lear enters, everyone is seated around a table.  Lear laughs after saying "unburdened crawl toward death," showing he doesn't mean that at all.  Lear gets up and walks around the table so that he is behind Cordelia when he says "doth love us most" - and he kisses her head.  Cordelia's asides are cut.  Lear says "the last not least," following the Q1 reading. Cordelia is excellent in this first scene.  Lear gives Kent "five days," which is the Folio reading.  Interestingly, part of France's first speech is cut - the part that finds fault with Lear - "or your fore-vouched affection/Fall'n into taint."  Edmund watches the first scene, and makes himself visible to Goneril and Regan during their conversation at the end of the scene.  Scene ii begins with Gloucester's entrance, as we already had Edmund's soliloquy.  Gloucester is really good, but Edmund, by looks plays the villain a bit much.  Right after Gloucester exits, Edgar enters, thus cutting my favorite of Edmund's speeches.  Instead he goes right into "O these eclipses do portend these divisions."  In disguising himself, Kent puts on a wig.  And he does change his voice.  After the Knight reports that Oswald would not return, a lot of lines are cut, including Lear's response, "He would not!" A poor choice in cuts.  The Fool is old in this production; he should be younger.  We see some of Lear's followers, and Goneril certainly has a point in her complaints about them.  Goneril is really good; she is distraught at Lear's curse of sterility.  The words do affect her, as they should.  The beginning of Scene v, when Lear gives Kent the letter, is moved into Scene iv, just before Goneril says, "No, no, my lord/This milky gentleness..."
Act II begins with Edmund's line, "Brother, a word," thus cutting Curan.  We have a shot of Edgar running through the woods - and hurrah, it's the first time we're allowed out of the orange box.  But then we're right back inside it for the beginning of Act II Scene ii.  Kent's lines at the end of Scene ii are cut, so we lose Cordelia's letter.  The stocks used in this production would have kept him from getting at the letter anyway.  Oddly, Edgar's soliloquy to open Scene iii is also cut.  He only says the last line, "Edgar I nothing am," and then wipes dirt on his face.  We start to hear the sounds of the storm when Regan tells Lear to return to Goneril, dismissing half his train.  There is a wardrobe problem.  Regan's clothing is not gorgeous, and it does look fairly warm.
Act III Scene i is cut.  And we are, thankfully, out of the orange box for the storm.  The very beginning of Scene ii is done in a wide shot, which is unusual.  The storm is sometimes too loud, and it's hard to hear certain lines.  it doesn't seem that Edgar hears Gloucester's lines about him, which is a shame.  It's important that he hears those lines, and that we see his reaction.  But instead we get a two-shot of Gloucester and Kent.  The trial is scene is included.  Edgar's soliloquy at the end of Scene vi is done as voice over.  His last line ("Lurk, lurk") is cut.  The plucking out of Gloucester's eyes is intense.  When Cornwall says, "Give me your arm," Regan simply walks away.  The servants' lines are cut from the end of Act III.
Edgar's lines are cut from the beginning of Act IV.  And yet it is he whom we see while hearing the lines of Gloucester and the Old Man, until "I stumbled when I saw."  Oswald's lines are cut from the beginning of Scene ii.  We do get Scene iii, and while the Gentleman speaks of Cordelia, we see her, knelt before candles, armored.  In Scene v, when Regans says, about Edmund, "pray give him this," she kisses Oswald.  An interesting choice.  Oswald's last line is cut from the scene.  Oddly in Scene vi we hear a seagull, as if they really were by the ocean.  And they are standing on sand.  Gloucester puts hi hands down on it.  The scene begins with Edgar's line, "Come on, sir; here's the place."  So the lines when Edgar asks, "do you hear the sea?" and Gloucester responds, "No truly" are cut.  So in this production they really are by the ocean?  That's not right.  At least they're not on a cliff.  Also cut are the lines where Gloucester acknowledges a change in Edgar's voice.  That's a line that should not be lost.  Gloucester doesn't stand.  He falls from his kneeling position.  And most of the following dialogue is cut before Lear's entrance, including all the stuff about Tom being a demon. Weird cuts.  Lear lifts Gloucester's bandage before saying "I remember thine eyes well enough."  The fog machine got a bit too much work in this scene.  Everyone steps out of the fog.  When Oswald is slain, he quickly tells Edgar to take the letters to Edmund, skipping the bit about the purse.  Edgar takes and opens the letter before Gloucester asks, "Is he dead?"  After Scene vi, it skips to Edmund's speech about how he's sworn love to both sisters.  And the speech is done as voice over as he looks at Regan.  He then kisses her, and then Regan asks if he loves Goneril (from the beginning of Act V Scene i).  We see a section of that scene, up to Goneril's line "I will go."  Then we go back to Act IV Scene vii, but only for the dialogue between Cordelia and Kent.  Then it goes back to Act V Scene i, when Edgar gives Albany the letter.  Then back to Act IV Scene vii for the Cordelia/Lear dialogue.  Lear stands before "Where have I been?"  And he does actually kneel before Cordelia says "No sir you must not kneel."  And he stands again on "Remember not these garments."  The Doctor says "the great rage, you see, is kill'd," following the Folio reading.
Then we go to Act V Scene ii.  Edgar and Gloucester run in the sand, amid explosions.  Because it's the sand, Edgar's line about the bush is ccut.  He leaves Gloucester in the sand and says, "If ever I return to you again."  There is then a closeup of Gloucester as he screams.  Then Edgar returns.  During the dialogue between Lear and Cordelia at the beginning of Scene iii, there is a rope tying Lear's two hands together, so that when he puts his arms around Cordelia he has to put the rope over her head to hug her - an interesting bit of foreshadowing.  Goneril's aside about how she has poisoned Regan is cut.  Goneril kisses Edmund in front of Albany while the trumpet sounds.  But this scene is done indoors, without a lot of soldiers around, which is really odd.  Some of Albany's lines are cut, the ones that make him seem a bit of a dolt - "Great things of us we forgot!" and "Run, run! O run!"  Lear sets Cordelia down next to the covered bodies of Goneril and Regan.  He uncovers them, and that leads to his line, "This is a dull sight."  It is Edgar that undoes Lear's button.  A bit of religious action at the end - Lear is looking up when he says his lines about looking at Cordelia's lips, as if she's a spirit he sees.  Albany's lines at the end are oddly cut.  Edgar says the last line to the camera.  (time: 140 minutes) 

- King Lear (2008) with Ian McKellen, Frances Barber, Monica Dolan, Romola Garai, William Gaunt, Philip Winchester, Jonathan Hyde, Ben Meyjes, Sylvester McCoy; directed by Trevor Nunn and Chris Hunt.  This is an incredible production by The Royal Shakespeare Company, with fantastic performances all round.  Seriously, this is a great cast.  As always, there are some cuts that annoy me, but far fewer than usual.  And there is the addition of a scene not written by Shakespeare (but not containing any newly written lines, thankfully).
Act I begins with a very formal entrance of King Lear, with everyone kneeling before him.  There is no dialogue, and this scene leads to Gloucester and Kent's dialogue.  It's a great idea, because it makes it so they're remarking on what they learned in that meeting.  Edmund is present for their dialogue.  Edmund takes his father's speech in good stride, with a certain amusement.  And I love his reaction to "away he shall again" - played to show he wasn't aware that he was to be sent off again.  Lear reads his speech from note cards, a strange choice.  He seems pretty happy.  Goneril seems honest in her profession of love for her father.  Cordelia's asides are cut.  Regan seems unsure at first what to say - this request has caught them by surprise.  I love Regan's reaction to her portion of the map, as if trying to see if Goneril got the better deal.  Cordelia nods her head yes after Lear says, "Speak again."  She seems incredulous at first, as if perhaps Lear can't mean this.  Lear says "five days," following the Folio reading.  France's lines after "So many folds of favor" are cut.  It goes right to Cordelia's "I yet beseech your majesty."  Lear bringing the crown over to Cordelia and then saying "Nothing" through it to her is a bit much.  But it's great that France and Burgundy are well fleshed out and distinct characters.  Interestingly, Goneril and Regan seem like good people, so when Cordelia chides them in her farewell, she seems out of line (an interesting choice).  Edmund's soliloquy is to us (except the first few lines), and he is clearly having a bit of fun, and is pleased with himself.  He is handsome, and isn't acting the villain, which is great.  This production includes Edmund's great speech about astrology.  Edgar needs spectacles to read, just as Gloucester does (and Edmund does not) - a nice touch.  Edmund gives Edgar a dagger.  I like that Oswald is made nervous by Goneril's instruction to serve Lear less well than usual.  But then he laughs with her over her words about Lear.  Lear's men are rowdy, firing guns and such.  The bit the Knight says about Oswald, "Sir, he answered me...he would not" and Lear's response "He would not!" are sadly cut.  The Fool sits on Lear's lap.  he then plays the spoons while giving his rhyme. He then sings his next bit, which as the text presents it.  The Fool is not young, but also not as old as Lear.  He's my favorite Fool so far.  He is actually funny.  Goneril has a good argument, and is kindly to Lear, at least at first. Goneril fights tears after Lear's curse of sterility.  Lear's line to Kent about him not being speedy is cut.
In Act II Curan is actually in this production, which is great.  Edmund draws his sword but does not tell Edgar to do likewise.  But he does take back the dagger that he gave him, and uses it to cut his own arm.  I love Cornwall's delivery of "Edmund, I hear that you have shown your father/A child-like office."  But I wish we could have seen Gloucester's reaction to "If he be taken he shall never more/Be fear'd of doing harm."  There is odd carnival music in the background during the Kent/Oswald scene.  And for once, you actually feel a bit for Oswald.  Cornwall is amused by some of Kent's insult to Oswald.  When Kent is stocked, Regan throws her glass of wine in his face.  The music then starts up again when everyone but Kent exits.  A strange choice, because it makes it seem that Regan's train is just as rowdy as Lear's.  Edgar removes his spectacles before putting dirt on his face.  Goneril holds out her hand - Regan hesitates, then goes to her and takes her hand.  Interesting.  When Lear says he shall not weep, Regan steps toward him, but Goneril stops her.  And it's then we hear the storm.
Act III Scene i is included, which is wonderful.  Lear removes his coat and tosses it, so the Fool removes his own coat to put over him. But Lear tosses that too.  Then when Kent arrives, he takes off his coat to cover Lear. In Scene iii, there is a strange change.  There is another man, and Gloucester hands him the letter and key, and tells Edmund, "He will lock the letter in my closet" (instead of "I have locked the letter in my closet").  Then, after Gloucester exits, the man returns and, seeing that Gloucester is gone, gives the key to Edmund.  Edmund's last few lines from the scene are cut.  Edgar does not hear Gloucester's words about him.  The trial is included.  Lear is clearly mad at this point.  Lear says, "You, sir, I entertain for one of my hundred" to Kent, not Edgar, an odd choice, as Lear has already added Kent to his men.  But the "Persian" line is still directed to Edgar. 
There are several changes to the end of this scene.  Edgar says "Lurk, lurk" before the others have exited (the rest of his speech is cut).  And nearly right after Kent and Lear have gone, a gun is put to Gloucester's back. It's Cornwall's men.  This is an odd choice, because it means they must have seen Lear exit, but did not stop him.  And then they confront the Fool, who says "This is a brave night to cool a courtesan," a line from the end of Act III Scene ii (and this is after he's given his final line - "And I'll go to bed at noon").  The men then hang him (thus this production decided that Lear's line at the end about his "poor fool is hang'd" is actually about his Fool rather than Cordelia).  While they're hanging him, the Fool says "I'll speak a prophesy as I go," which is the nxt line after the "courtesan" line.  He then gives his prophesy, and is hung.  All of that is different from the play.
Gloucester's line "You are my guests. Do me no foul play, friends" is cut.  Regan shows him the letter when she says "And false."  Regan does care for her husband when she realizes he's been hurt.  The servants' lines are included.  One of them is a woman.
It is the woman who has the lines of the Old Man in Act IV Scene i.  This scene begins with Edgar's line, "But who comes here," the rest of his speech being cut.  And she says, "We have been your tenants" rather than "I have been your tenant." It being a woman instead of an old man, the line "I'll bring him the best 'parel that I have" promises a cross-dressed Edgar (which of course doesn't happen).  As Tom leads Gloucester away at the end of the scene, he says his lines about "five fiends," which in the text comes just a bit earlier.  Goneril is in a sexy outfit when she kisses Edmund (with long black gloves), but her breasts seem uncomfortably squashed within the outfit.  That scene ends with her line "I'll read and answer," cutting the dialogue between Albany and the Messenger at the end.  Act IV Scene iii is cut completely.  Oswald's last lines from Scene v are cut. Gloucester says, "Here, friend, is a jewel" rather than "Here, friend, 's another purse; in it a jewel."  We see Edgar when Gloucester says "If Edgar live, o, bless him."  Lear enters after Edgar's line "This is above all strangeness," and so cut are Edgar's lines about Tom being a demon.  Lear delivers the "adultery" lines directly to Gloucester.  Lear is barefoot when telling Gloucester to pull off his boots.  Lear touches Gloucester's head when he says, "This is a good block."  Edgar opens the letter without saying his line about the wax and manners. Lear kneels before Cordelia tells him not to.  For some reason, they cut Lear's line, "If you have poison for me, I will drink it" (that's the worst cut of this production).  The Doctor says, "The great rage, you see, is kill'd in him," following the Folio reading.
In Act V, Edmund kisses Regan after "That thought abuses you."  Goneril says "I know the riddle" to Edmund.  When Albany starts to read the letter that Edgar gave him, Edmund returns, but does not hand him a paper.  His line about the "true strength and forces" is cut.  Also cut is Edmund's speech about having sworn love to both sisters - that's a shame.  After Edgar leaves Gloucester, it is suddenly night - and there are sounds of explosions - it's actually really well done.  Goneril kisses Edmund before the duel (as Albany watches).  And she screams when Edmund is slain.  Albany's line "Great thing of us forgot!" is cut.  Edmund says "to th' prison" instead of "to th' castle."  Albany's great response to Edmund's death is cut ("That's but a trifle here").  When Lear says his "poor fool is hang'd" he is speaking of the Fool, not Cordelia, which then changes his "No, no, no life" to seem to be a general statement rather than about Cordelia in particular.  Edgar undoes Lear's button. Kent pulls out a pistol on his final lines, and steps away to kill himself.  An oddly, Edgar's last lines (the final lines of the play) are done as voice over, the only voice over in the entire production.  (time: 156 minutes - though the box says 173 minutes)

- King Of Texas  (2002) with Patrick Stewart, Marcia Gay Harden, Lauren Holly, Colm Meaney, David Alan Grier, Julie Cox, Roy Scheider; screenplay by Stephen Harrigan; directed by Uli Edel.  This adaptation sets King Lear in Texas during the days of the wild west.  It's an interesting setting, and it actually works well, at least for a while.  Where the film goes wrong is when it strays from the play.  Patrick Stewart plays John Lear, a man who owns a large ranch and 200,000 acres of land in Texas.  He has many men who work for him, and is respected.  He is introduced seated at his desk, a large map of his land on the wall behind him.  His daughter Claudia leads him out to a celebration.  Menchaca arrives on horseback, angry at Lear because Lear has hung two of his men.  Lear explains that they were cattle thieves. There are hints of some relationship between Claudia and Menchaca. We are also introduced to Henry Westover (Roy Scheider in the Gloucester role), and his two sons, Thomas (Liam Waite in the Edgar role) and Emmett (Matt Letscher in the Edmund role).  Thomas is drunk and dishonors himself in front of Lear.  Emmett suggests he take off for a while until their father cools down.
Lear soon tells his three daughters - Susannah (Marcia Gay Harden in the Goneril role), Rebecca (Lauren Holly in the Regan role) and Claudia (Julie Cox in the Cordelia role) - that he is dividing up his land and giving it to them. This scene is not done before a large crowd, but involves only Lear, his three daughters, and the two husbands. Lear says, "I wanna get all this settled now so there won't be fighting amongst you after I'm gone" (in the play Lear says "that future strife/May be prevented now").  Susanna asks who gets which part.  Lear responds that it depends "on who loves their father the most."  Susanna, caught off guard, is told to speak first.  We get a reaction shot of her husband, which is great.  Her husband is named Tumlinson, and is played by Colm Meaney.  Lear says he'll spend half of the year with Susanna and half at Rebecca's house.  This is interesting, because this is before Claudia has answered and upset him.  So in this version he was never planning on living with her (it seems indicated by the text that perhaps Lear was originally planning on living with her). And where is Claudia to live? Claudia says, "I have nothing to say."  Lear says, "Nothing can come of nothing," which is actually the Q1 reading.  Tumlinson stands up for Claudia (so for the moment taking on the role of Kent as well as Albany - though of course he's not banished).  In this production there is no France/Burgundy scene (Menchaca is basically the France character).  Also, this production gives Lear a son, who was killed a while back (Lear had intended to leave everything to him). 
Looking at the map, Highsmith (Patrick Bergin in the Cornwall role) says he wants the disputed land that belongs to Menchaca.  Susannah says that would start another war, that her husband wouldn't stand for it.  So we see the division between the two husbands right away.  Claudia rides off to Menchaca.
Westover and Emmett are riding back to their own ranch.  And we learn that Westover promised Thomas' mother that he would leave all his land to Thomas.  Emmett says, "I learned to live with being a bastard a long time ago."  When they arrive home, they find that all their horses are gone.  A man named Williams arrives shortly to see if they might sell him some more of their horses, and it's hinted that Thomas sold him the others.
The Fool character in this production is a black named named Rip (Davd Alan Grier), who is the only one who seems allowed to talk back to Lear.  Lear takes him on the round-up because he's the only man who can make him laugh.  Rip even sings for him.  Warnell, one of Susannah's men, whips Rip, and then is beaten by Lear.  It's not clear how Rip got separated from the other men.  (And I guess Warnell is as close to an Oswald as we get in this production.)  Susannah is upset because Lear beat this man up; she says she would have dealt with the matter herself. 
Susannah and Highsmith make a pact to get that land from Menchaca.  Rebecca says they should get Mr. Westover on board. Meanwhile Thomas arrives home, and asks Emmett where the horses are, which is the first indication that perhaps he's innocent.  Westover turns Thomas out. (By the way, Thomas is an interesting choice of names for the character - because of course in the play he takes on the disguise of Poor Tom O'Bedlam.  In this adaptation, he never takes on a disguise.)
Lear's men are rowdy, taking target practice at a bell at night.  Susannah, with a rifle, orders Lear to leave.  Lear tells her, "I gave you everything."  But then oddly she says that it came at a price, her having to say she loved him when all she ever felt for him was hate.  This is a departure from the play.  She calls him an old tyrant, then says, "You worked our mother to death" (an interesting mention of a woman not spoken of in the play).  Lear says, "I'll do something - I don't know what.  You'll be sorry you lived to see it."  (In the play, these lines are "I will do such things,/What they are, yet I know not; but they shall be/The terrors of the earth.")  Susannah says the men are now her men, a way of explaining how Lear and the Fool come to be alone - though it happens earlier than in the play; after all, he hasn't yet gone to Rebecca.  Lear is a bit disoriented, forgetting which way is Rebecca's house.  And it's the first mention of madness.  "Don't let me go mad, Rip. You shoot me first."
Rebecca and Highsmith are at Westover's place, trying to convince him to join them to go to war against Menchaca.  Emmett hits on Rebecca, and they kiss.  Lear and Rip arrive.  Lear says, "I went to your house, looking for you. They told me you were here," an explanation lacking in the play.  It comes out quickly that Highsmith is planning to attack Menchaca.  Westover realizes Highsmith was lying about Lear being in on this plan.  Highsmith nearly attacks Lear, and Lear tries to take Rebecca away, but she determines to stay with her husband.
And then we get the storm scene.  Menchaca and Claudia are at Menchaca's home, talking about a storm from their childhood (this is something that obviously is not in the play).  Westover arrives to warn Claudia (after Rip told him that Claudia was there).  Claudia asks Westover to find Lear and bring him to her.  Patrick Stewart is great as Lear in the storm, yelling at the elements, "Blow! You bastard wind, blow!"  But the storm ends without Westover appearing to give him shelter.  And of course Thomas does not appear.  The storm scene is much too brief.  Next we see Lear without his shirt, playing with sticks.  And it's then that Westover appears, and Lear doesn't recognize him (so this would be Act IV Scene v, though Westover has not yet been blinded). Westover tells Lear who he is, rather than Lear suddenly recognizing him (thus ruining one of the best moments of the play).  Rip shows up; at this point in the play, the Fool has left.  From here on out, Rip is basically the Kent character.
Highsmith, Rebecca and a few men arrive at Westover's home, asking where he's been.  But at this point, why would they care about that?  After all, they're not going to get help from him, so shouldn't they be organizing their attack?  Emmett and Susannah are shown outside at a slight distance, and she kisses him.  Susannah then enters the house for the blinding of Westover, which is odd. And really, why bother blinding him?  What's the point?  He hasn't disobeyed orders as in the play. It's done with a hot poker.  Susannah, not Regan, helps.  And a servant does kill Highsmith, and it's Susannah who then shoots the servant.  Rebecca cries over her husband.  Then when Westover says he'll burn in hell, Rebecca puts out his other eye.
The film then goes to the Lear/Claudia recognition scene.  Rip is there too (again, he's Kent at this point).  This scene is done well, mostly because Patrick Stewart is an excellent actor.
We return to Westover at home, blind and alone.  But at this point, it doesn't make sense, because his character has already done everything he needed to do except reconcile with Thomas.  Westover tries to kill himself, not by jumping off a cliff but by shooting himself.  But Thomas suddenly shows up, stopping him.  He immediately tells him, "Pa, it's me, Thomas."  So there was no disguise at all in this one.  Westover realizes on his own that Emmett was responsible. In the play, Regan tells him, and it comes as a shock, which of course is much more powerful.  (Everything between Westover and Thomas is weak in this production, but not because of the acting. It just doesn't have the emotional impact that it does in the play, because it's not allowed to develop.)
Tumlinson arrives back at the main house, where Susannah and Rebecca are alone.  He quickly figures out what is happening and rides off to Menchaca's place.  He's less a part of it than in the play.  In the play, he is convinced to help in the war.  We see the battle, something that is done quickly and off stage in the play.  Emmett is killed in the battle rather than in a duel with Thomas, so his death is less momentous.  Lear wanders outside to tell everyone to stop fighting.  Claudia follows him out to stop him and is shot.  So her death was not ordered by Emmett.  This is a much weaker death.  When Tumlinson arrives, Lear walks out carrying Claudia's body (followed by Rip).  Tumlinson orders the shooting to stop, and it is stopped.  Everyone looks at Lear. Lear does actually hold a feather in front of Claudia's nose, and thinks she's alive.  Rip says it's the wind. Lear dies. There are a lot of changes here.  In addition to Emmett not having a sudden change of heart and attempting to save Lear and Claudia, Susannah and Rebecca are alive and back at the house.  Westover is still alive too.  The men bring the bodies of Lear and Claudia back to Lear's house.  Tumlinson says to Susannah, "You did this."  She looks at the bodies and says, "It needed doing."  That doesn't seem at all believable.  Rebecca asks, "Where's Emmett," so Tumlinson shows her his body too.  Tumlinson tells Susannah, "I'll see you hang for this and what you did to Westover."  Susannah rides off and then shoots herself.  But Rebecca is not poisoned, and so is still alive.  And then we see Westover and Thomas together at the end.
So this film has quite a bit after Lear's death, but doesn't have Rip say anything about doing to die (as Kent does).  And no one has any final words, as Edgar does (or Albany in the Quarto).  Shakespeare was correct in not showing us the battle. The battle is unimportant.  It's what happens to these characters that has meaning.  (time: 95 minutes)

Related Films:
- The King Is Alive (2001) with Bruce Davison, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Janet McTeer, Chris Walker; directed by Kristian Levring.  In this Dogme 95 film, a tour bus becomes lost in the desert due to the driver's faulty compass.  They have no gas and are stuck.  One man, Jack, decides he will risk walking to the nearest village for help.  Henry (David Bradley), a man who initially separates himself from the group and watches them as they try to busy themselves, says, "Is man no more than this?" He laughs to himself, then says, "It's good old Lear again."  And he begins to write what he can remember of King Lear.  As he writes quotes Edmund from Act I Scene ii: "death, dearth, menaces and maledictions against king and nobles" (he forgot a few words).  Catherine comes into his room and asks to read a book.  Henry hands her a rolled paper, and she reads from it, "I cannot heave my heart into my mouth. I love your majesty."  He tells her, "That's Cordelia."  He tells her to imagine putting on King Lear out here, and that he was thinking that she could play Cordelia.  She turns him down.  But others do not.  And they start to rehearse the first scene, in which Lear's daughters profess their love.  The guy playing Lear collapses.  Henry is now unsure whether it will work.  He says, "Poor old Lear's got the DTs. We haven't got a Gloucester."  Charles, the guy they'd like to have play Gloucester, actually says to Gina (Jennifer Jason Leigh),  "Do you think I'm blind?"  He says he'll do the play as long as she'll let him fuck her.  Henry himself takes on the part of Lear.  And of course the desert and their predicament (as well as possibly the play) begin to affect them.  Liz, the woman playing Goneril, makes out with the man playing Edmund.  She tells him she's doing it to piss off her husband, Ray (Bruce Davison).  Ray later wanders out into the desert, saying Kent's last lines: "I have a journey, sir, shortly to go. My master calls me. I must not say no."  He collapses and says the last line again.  Gina dies and Henry cries over her body.  He drags her out (rather than carry her).  Charles has hanged himself.  Around the fire, they'll all a bit mad, and the begin doing lines from the play.  It's a great scene. (time: 106 minutes)

Films With References To King Lear
- An Education  (2009) with Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Olivia Williams; directed by Lone Scherfig.  Several scenes take place in a school, so of course sooner or later we're going to get a Shakespeare reference.  In one scene, the students take turns reading from King Lear.  They're reading from Act I Scene iv.  The first student, as the Fool, says, "May not an ass know when the cart draws the horse? Sings. Whoop, Jug!  I love thee."  The teacher, Mrs. Stubbs (Olivia Williams), says, "When it says 'sings,' it means you sing the line.  Never mind. Lear."  Another student, as Lear, continues the scene: "Does any here know me?  This is not Lear./Does Lear walk thus? Speak thus?  Where are his eyes?/Ha!  Waking? Who is it that can tell me who I am?" Jenny (Carey Mulligan) interrupts, raising her hand.  "Oh, Miss!  Me.  I can."  The teacher, seeing Jenny's engagement ring, is disappointed in her, knowing this means she won't go to Oxford.  The edition of King Lear that I have does not indicate that Fool sings the "Whoop, Jug! I love thee" line.  And Lear's lines are, "Does any here know me? This is not Lear./Does Lear walk thus? speak thus? Where are his eyes?/Either his notion weakens, or his discernings/Are lethargied. Ha! waking? 'tis not so./Who is it that can tell me who I am?"  By the way, the Fool's answer is "Lear's shadow."  (time: 100 minutes)
- Husbands And Wives  (1992) with Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Judy Davis, Sydney Pollack; written directed by Woody Allen.  In this, one of Woody Allen's many excellent films, Jack (Sydney Pollack) and Sam (Lysette Anthony) come out of a movie theatre that has posted on its marquis "Ran," the Kurosawa adaptation of King Lear.  Jack says, "Trust me on this, will ya? It's Lear.  King Lear.  Shakespeare never wrote about a King Leo."  Sam replies, "Well, Mr. Intellectual, Shakespeare wrote in English, not Japanese."
- Monty Python's Life Of Brian  (1979) with Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam; directed by Terry Jones.  At the end of the film Brian is crucified.  Another person being crucified cheers him up with the song, "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life."  Toward the end of the song he says, "You come from nothing. You go back to nothing. What have you lost? Nothing!  Nothing will come from nothing. You know what they say? Cheer up, you old bugger."  "Nothing will come from nothing" is Lear's response to Cordelia's answer of "Nothing" in Act I Scene i.  (By the way, that's the Folio reading. The Quarto reading is "Nothing can come of nothing.")
- My Own Private Idaho  (1991) with River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves; directed by Gus Van Sant.  This film is steeped in Shakespeare.  While being a loose adaptation of The First Part Of King Henry The Fourth (with bits from The Second Part Of King Henry The Fourth), it also contains a funny reference to King Lear.  In the scene where the coverboys on the magazines come to life, the magazine titled Torso has an article titled "King Leer."  That magazine cover also contains references to Romeo And Juliet, Two Gentlemen Of Verona and Measure For Measure.
- Theater Of Blood  (1973)  with Vincent Price, Diana Rigg; directed by Douglas Hickox. In this movie, an actor kills his critics by methods from Shakespeare's plays.  There are references to Julius Caesar, Troilus And Cressidea, Cymbeline, The Merchant Of Venice - in his version, Shylock does indeed get his bond - Richard III, Romeo & Juliet, Othello, Henry VI Part I, Titus Andronicus, King Lear and Hamlet)

Television Programs With References To King Lear
- The Black Adder  (1983)  with Rowan Atkinson, Tim McInnerny, Robert East, Brian Blessed, Tony Robinson.  This series has a lot of Shakespeare references.  As for King Lear, in the first season, the first episode (titled "The Foretelling") includes the three witches from Macbeth, but in the end credits they're listed as Goneril, Regan and Cordelia.  Also in the closing credits is this: "With additional dialogue by William Shakespeare."
In the second episode, titled "Born To Be King," Edmund (Rowan Atkinson) wants to prove that his older brother Harry is a bastard so that he himself would be next in line for the crown.  He acquires letters written by the Queen to another man, who Edmund believes to be Harry's father.  But it turns out that the other man is Edmund's father. So Edmund is a bastard, just like the Edmund of King Lear.  (Note: though this was the second episode, a mistake was made and was listed as the fourth episode.)
- Blackadder II  (1986) with Rowan Atkinson, Tim McInnerny, Tony Robinson, Miranda Richardson.  Like the first series, this one has a lot of Shakespeare references.  In the fourth episode, titled "Money," there are several references including one to King Lear.  Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson) owes a large sum of money, and a bishop comes to collect it.  He takes Blackadder to a graveyard to show him what became of the last person who failed to pay back his loan.  There is a mad person in the graveyard who says to Blackadder, after the bishop has left, "Poor Tom's a-cold. Pity Poor Tom, for his nose is frozen, and he does shiver, and he's mad."  (Earlier in the scene he called Blackadder "Nuncle.")
- Slings & Arrows  (2003 - 2006)  with Paul Gross, Martha Burns, Stephen Ouimette, Mark McKinney, Susan Coyne.  Obviously the show's very title comes from Hamlet's most famous soliloquy.  Slings & Arrows is a show about a theatre company, and each season it focuses on one of Shakespeare's plays.  The third season is King Lear.  (There are, however, references to several other Shakespeare plays, including A Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth and Henry The Fifth.)
In the first episode, titled "Divided Kingdom," Geoffrey (Paul Gross) is disturbed late at night by a voice calling "Tom's a cold" (a reference to Edgar when disguised as Tom O'Bedlam). He sees Oliver in the rain.  (This turns out to be a nightmare.)  During a phone interview, the interviewer mentions that his next production is King Lear, and he asks Geoffrey how he plans to top himself.  There is a meeting to discuss how to do the plucking out of Gloucester's eyes (someone suggests using spoons, but thumbs trump spoons).  Then they discuss the storm special effects - how real to make it.  The theatre has access to some new expensive equipment that can essentially create a storm on stage.  Richard (Mark McKinney) asks Geoffrey if William Shatner will play Lear.  But Geoffrey goes to see Charles Kingman (whose last name is a bit on the nose, eh?) about the role.
In the season's second episode, titled "Vex Not His Ghost" (the title itself a reference to Kent's line at the end of King Lear), the cast is assembled for the production of King Lear.  Sarah Polley plays Sophie, who will be playing Cordelia.  When Charles meets her, he asks her how much she weighs, then says that carrying her will be a challenge.  He later tells Geoffrey that he has cancer, but still needs to play Lear.  Charles says, "I know the part. I've been studying it all my life, and now I'm living it."
In the third episode, titled "That Way Madness Lies" (the title from Lear's speech in Act III Scene iv), they players rehears Act I Scene i, and Charles becomes disoriented.  On the night of the opening of the inane musical (in the smaller theatre) there is a storm.  Geoffrey asks Oliver where Charles is, and Oliver replies, "Geoffrey, Charles just went raving into the storm. The irony is heartbreaking."
In the fourth episode, titled "Every Inch A King" (the title coming from Lear's line in Act IV Scene v, when he responds to Gloucester's question, "Is't not the king?"), it is the night of the preview for King Lear, and Charlies is having trouble with his lines.  Again, we see the storm scene, and he calls for lines from the stage manager, who is keeping track of his dropped lines on a pad.  So far: forty (and this is only Act III).  During intermission, Geoffrey helps Charles, who quotes Lear, "Here I stand your slave,/A poor, infirm, weak and despised old man" (from Act III Scene ii).  Ellen tells Geoffrey she's concerned.  Ellen says, "He's not playing Lear. He's living Lear. That's the problem." Charles doesn't shop up, and they cancel opening night.  Meanwhile the inane musical is a success.
The fifth episode is titled "All Blessed Secrets."  Things get worse, when the stupid musical moves to the larger theatre, and Lear moves to the smaller theatre.  A sad view of aging, how the world becomes smaller, and the younger, much stupider crowd takes over.  They rehearse Act II Scene iv, and Charles gets so into it, he pushes Ellen, who is playing Regan.  Ellen quits.  Charles is unable to go on again, and the play is canceled.
In the sixth and final episode of the show, titled "The Promised End," Geoffrey is forced to resign as artistic director.  He tells the cast King Lear is canceled. Charles takes Geoffrey bowling, and quotes Lear: "'Shake all cares and business from our age,'Conferring them on younger strengths, while we/Unburdened crawl toward death.' But he doesn't mean it. Of course. He doesn't really think he's going to die. No one does. I don't.  That's the real insanity of it."  And he realizes in that moment how he will do Lear.  So Geoffrey finds a new venue for the play - the church where he's been getting counseling.  And he ends up having to play Kent.  And they put on King Lear, and it's fucking great.  The performance had me in tears, with just the few bits we're shown.

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