Manual King Lear: Text and Performance

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  1. The King Lear Session - Hawk's Well Theatre Sligo
  2. Navigation menu
  3. Search Events
  4. Stage History

And if there were ever any doubt that a woman could effectively embody the aged male monarch and his descent into madness, Jackson allays that concern with a ferocious performance that sets a new standard for Lear. Her emotions then turn on a dime, with Lear cursing and condemning, disinheriting and banishing his youngest and favorite, Cordelia, with the rashness and fire of a dragon and the look of authority in his countenance.

Throughout the unfolding of the tragic tale, Jackson though diminutive in size continues to command the stage with her towering presence and soaring talent. Elizabeth Marvel turns in a compelling portrayal of the adulterous and treasonous Goneril, who displays every thought, deceit, and concern — at first subdued, then increasingly cruel and mocking — on her expressive face. The engaging Pascal is consummately skilled in the Shakespearean style, with a fluid and flawless delivery of the text, as he addresses the audience directly, transitioning from a more sarcastic, winking, and rib-poking definition of his character to one that is fiercely diabolical and menacing, then ultimately repentant — but, as with Lear, sadly too late.

Other noteworthy players include the masterful John Douglas Thompson, who brings the proper sense of honor and loyalty to the Earl of Kent; he renders his eloquence and intelligence clearly in the clever stream of insults that issue from his mouth and in his recognition of both the injustices perpetrated by Lear and the decline of his mental faculties.

The new Broadway production of King Lear is a gripping presentation of a classic, with stellar performances by a formidable star and cast and assertive immediacy in its direction and design. It is must-see theater that speaks to the recurrent abuse of power, presence of hubris, and their dire consequences throughout history.

Shakespeare uses metaphors, similes, and other figures of speech to compare Regan, Goneril, and other characters to animals. This imagery shows that human greed and lust for power, as well as other negative qualities, turn people into rapacious or poisonous beasts.

It also demonstrates that the dilemmas people create for themselves can lower them to the status of beasts. Among the animals to which characters are compared are rats, wolves, sheep, goats, horses, dogs including a mastiff, a greyhound, a spaniel, and a mongrel , cats, mice, owls, wild geese, bears, monkeys, crabs, snails, an ass, a hedge-sparrow, a cuckoo, and each of the following:.

King Lear is a storehouse of insults. Here are examples.

The King Lear Session - Hawk's Well Theatre Sligo

Among examples of figures of speech in the play are the following. Alliteration : Repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words or syllables. D eath, d earth, d issolutions of ancient amities; d ivisions in state; m enaces and m ale d ictions against king and nobles 1.

W hat! Peace, Kent! Come not between the dragon and his wrath. Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend 1. But since Lear has fathered only females, he has decided to parcel out his kingdom before his death to his three daughters, granting the largest part of his property to the daughter who loves him most. Ironically, he ends up repudiating the only daughter who truly loves him, Cordelia, in the mistaken belief that her refusal to vie with her two sisters for his affections is a sign that she loves him least.

Swearing oaths, he disowns Cordelia, telling her that. Study Questions and Essay Topics. Home: Shakespeare Index. Table of Contents. Great Buys on the Following Items at Amazon. O sir, to willful men The injuries that they themselves procure Must be their schoolmasters.

You are happier because I am wretched. I hope the heavens continue to deal out justice in that way. We wish that we could pass this play over, and say nothing about it. All that we can say must fall far short of the subject; or even of what we ourselves conceive of it. To attempt to give a description of the play itself or of its effect upon the mind, is mere impertinence: yet we must say something. He was here fairly caught in the web of his own imagination. The passion which he has taken as his subject is that which strikes its root deepest into the human heart; of which the bond is the hardest to be unloosed; and the cancelling and tearing to pieces of which gives the greatest revulsion to the frame.

This depth of nature, this force of passion, this tug and war of the elements of our being, this firm faith in filial piety, and the giddy anarchy and whirling tumult of the thoughts at finding this prop failing it, the contrast between the fixed, immoveable basis of natural affection, and the rapid, irregular starts of imagination, suddenly wrenched from all its accustomed holds and resting-places in the soul, this is what Shakespear has given, and what nobody else but he could give.


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So we believe. The character of Lear itself is very finely conceived for the purpose. It is the only ground on which such a story could be built with the greatest truth and effect.

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It is his rash haste, his violent impetuosity, his blindness to every thing but the dictates of his passions or affections, that produces all his misfortunes, that aggravates his impatience of them, that enforces our pity for him. The part which Cordelia bears in the scene is extremely beautiful: the story is almost told in the first words she utters.

We see at once the precipice on which the poor old king stands from his own extravagant and credulous importunity, the indiscreet simplicity of her love which, to be sure, has a little of her father's obstinacy in it and the hollowness of her sisters' pretensions. Almost the first burst of that noble tide of passion, which runs through the play, is in the remonstrance of Kent to his royal master on the injustice of his sentence against his youngest daughter--"Be Kent unmannerly, when Lear is mad!

The true character of the two eldest daughters, Regan and Gonerill they are so thoroughly hateful that we do not even like to repeat their names breaks out in their answer to Cordelia who desires them to treat their father well--"Prescribe not us our duties"--their hatred of advice being in proportion to their determination to do wrong, and to their hypocritical pretensions to do right.

Their deliberate hypocrisy adds the last finishing to the odiousness of their characters. It is the absence of' this detestable quality that is the only relief in the character of Edmund the Bastard, and that at times reconciles us to him. We are not tempted to exaggerate the guilt of his conduct, when he himself gives it up as a bad business, and writes himself down "plain villain. His religious honesty in this respect is admirable. One speech of his is worth a million. His father, Gloster, whom he has just deluded with a forged story of his brother Edgar's designs against his life, accounts for his unnatural behaviour and the strange depravity of the times from the late eclipses in the sun and moon.

Edmund, who is in the secret, says when he is gone--"This is the excellent coppery of the world, that when we are sick in fortune often the surfeits of our own behaviour we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and stars: as if we were villains on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treacherous by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on.

An admirable evasion of whore-master man, to lay his goatish disposition on the charge of a star! My father compounded with my mother under the Dragon's tail, and my nativity was under Ursa Major: so that it follows, I am rough and lecherous.


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  • I should have been what I am, had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing. King Lear A Study Guide. Publication Quarto editions of King Lear were published in and Characters Lear : King of England and the main character, or protagonist. He is a headstrong old man who is blind to his weaknesses and misjudges his three daughters, believing that the two evil daughters have his best interests at heart and that his good and selfless daughter opposes him.

    He undergoes great suffering that opens his eyes and ennobles his character. Whether there was a historical Lear is uncertain. Goneril, Regan : Selfish, greedy daughters of Lear who pretend to love him when he announces that he will gives them shares of his kingdom. Later, they treat him cruelly. Cordelia : Loyal and unselfish daughter of Lear.

    He disowns her after confusing her honesty with insolence. She continues to love her father in spite of his rejection of her. Duke of Burgundy : Suitor of Cordelia. He decides to reject her after Lear disowns her. King of France : Suitor of Cordelia. He marries her even though Lear has disowned her.

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    Duke of Cornwall : Regan's husband, who is just as cruel as she is. Duke of Albany : Goneril's husband. He turns against her when he realizes that she is an evil schemer. Earl of Kent : True and honest friend of Lear who remains loyal even after the king banishes him. Like Lear, he is old and self-important; like Lear, he misjudges his children and undergoes suffering that makes him a better man. However, Gloucester is less forceful and demanding than Lear and more given to compromise. Such qualities make him a foil of Lear.

    Edgar : Gloucester's loyal son and heir. He resembles Cordelia in his loyalty to his father.

    Stage History

    Edmund : Gloucester's evil bastard son. He resembles Goneril and Regan in his disloyalty to his father. Fool : Jester loyal to Lear and Cordelia. The fool is a walking paradox—that is, he is the wisest character in play in that he is the only character who understands the motivations of Lear, his daughters, and other characters.

    KING LEAR

    Curan : Courtier. Old Man : Tenant of Gloucester.