Wednesday, May 20, 2009

King Lear, by William Shakespeare

Somehow, I made it through school without reading King Lear. I don't know how I managed it. I read R&J, Hamlet, Macbeth, but never King Lear. So, I just listened to it - what a strange play...


First of all, let me just discuss the recording I heard. I listened to the Librivox recording of the play, made in 2006 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first performance of the play (trivia note - this year is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's Sonnets being published...). It was... a mixed bag. Andy Minter as King Lear was magnificient, and Simon Taylor and John Gonzalez did a great job as the two sons of Gloucester - while the fifth act had it's weaknesses for Taylor, his playing of the feigned madness parts was wonderfully believable. There were other roles that I cringed at (I won't name names, so as not to offend). So, it was a strange way to experience the play for the first time, listening as I washed the dishes, ran errands, etc.


The play itself... well I can see why people say it's Shakespeare's best - it's certainly extremely deep, and takes a pretty straightforward story and uses it to tackle some really deep themes. Lear is a truly fascinating character, and I really find it fascinating, the way Shakespeare contrasts him with himself throughout. All in all, a worthwhile play to read. It would be wonderful to see it performed now. And, now I've experienced the reasoning behind my old friend Sarah Kortemeier popping out with "Blow winds, and crack your cheeks!" in terrible Scotch brogue :). Good times...

7 comments:

Rebecca Reid said...

I've never read this one either. When I recently read a biography of Shakespeare, it was talking about how this was one of his last plays and it was dealing with Shakespeare's own issues: growing old, leaving a legacy.

It sounds like you found it worthwhile. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Amanda said...

Sad to say, the only thing I remember about this book is that there was a cliff involved at one point. I don't even know how.

Lula O said...

This is a great play to watch. If he who plays King Lear is a good enough actor, it's a very emotional, intense experience. I felt sucked dry afterward.

Amanda said...

I liked the idea of the librivox audio play.

Nymeth said...

I made it through school without reading this too (but then again, we're only taught so much English lit here). But just the other day someone was telling me about this play and they made me really want to read it. Sounds like an excellent one.

hamilcar barca said...

"Somehow, I made it through school without reading King Lear. I don't know how I managed it. I read R&J, Hamlet, Macbeth, but never King Lear."was a yearly Shakespeare reading a requirement at your HS? we had that. Merchant of Venice, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, and finishing with Macbeth.

lots of forced memorization of soliloquies, looking up vocabulary, etc. they sure knew how to make Shakespeare unpalatable for high-schoolers.

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