FORGOTTEN BOOKS #411: KING LEAR By William Shakespeare

When Patti first proposed an FFB about “Children Gone Wrong” I immediately thought of Goneril and Regan, King Lear’s vicious daughters. King Lear, old and tired of ruling his kingdom, decided to divide it among his three daughters. But, Lear says he will give the biggest part to the daughter who loves him most. Goneril, the eldest, flatters the old man with sweet talk. Regan follows Goneril’s lead and praises her father lavishly. Only Cordelia, the daughter who truly loves Lear, declines to play this phony game. And, as a result, earns the anger of her father who thinks, falsely, that Cordelia doesn’t love him enough. Goneril and Regan slowly steal Lear’s kingdom and reduce him to a a madman. Then, not satisfied with the kingdoms they now rule, Goneril and Regan start a civil war which sends the kingdoms into misery. So there are my candidates for “Children Gone Wrong”: the greedy and violent Goneril and Regan.
King Lear by William Shakespeare at The National Theatre
Director Sam Mendes

30 thoughts on “FORGOTTEN BOOKS #411: KING LEAR By William Shakespeare

  1. Sergio (Tipping My Fedora)

    I did get to see that Mendes production at the National with Simon Russell Beale as Lear – it had much that I liked, though it did make some very odd decision, like having Lear murder the fool on stage, which I thought was a real mistake. Great choice George!

  2. Dan

    I’ve seen Welles and Olivier as Lear, but when Paul Scofield came on screen in Peter Brooks’ film, I felt like I was seeing King Lear.

    1. george Post author

      Deb, THE BAD SEED came to mind, but I decided to go with the wicked sisters in KING LEAR. They always seemed like the perfect “Children Gone Wrong.”

      1. Todd Mason

        I figured Patti had THE BAD SEED all set for herself, and I wanted to avoid anything Too well-known (such as LORD OF THE FLIES)…and, as I mention at Matt’s blog, didn’t think of elder teens such as those in LAST SUMMER or most jd fiction as Qualifying. But while LEAR certainly wins Least Forgotten this week, it certainly is bad kids…and I’ll have to Go Look to see who plays the daughters in that production…certainly the one is very striking.

      2. george Post author

        Todd, the Mendes production of KING LEAR is the stuff of legends. And you’re right about the striking actresses who play Goneril and Regan.

      1. Todd Mason

        Oh, CAESAR has its adherents, and the history plays, too, and MIDSUMMER and TEMPEST and at least one or two of the histories. TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA perhaps doesn’t get to many Best nods. The Scottish Play certain can have a strong case made for it…and VENICE and, I suppose, SHREW…and Olivia Hussey certainly didn’t hurt my appreciation of the R&J film when I was 14, nor did her fleeting nudity.

  3. Jeff Meyerson

    Nice choice! Goneril and Regan have their echoes in the Trump Presidency! Think of all the phonies pouring flattering words into his ear. I’m sure it will have the same disastrous end.

    Of course, I thought of THE BAD SEED, but like Patti it just creeps me out too much. LAST SUMMER would have been a good choice too, and I’ve certainly read it more recently than the other. I just didn’t have any of the relevant source material down here.

  4. Denny Lien

    Love KING LEAR. I even acted in it in grad school (small parts — Burgundy, a servant, Edmond’s captain). As noted, such humor as appears is very dark, but if one is determined to link up LEAR and a humorous take, there’s Christopher Moore’s FOOL, which struck me as amusing in places, at least.

    My candidate for “Shakespeare play that I love more than most people do” is ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA.

    1. george Post author

      Denny, there are some powerful lines in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA. I’ll have to check out Christopher Moore’s FOOL. Thanks for the heads up!

  5. wolfi

    I have to confess that I haven’t read most of the old Brard’s plays – but those which I’ve seen or read I enjoyed very much – he really was brilliant.

    A bit OT: I grew up in the “French Occupied Zone” of Germany – so we had to read Voltaire etc …

    And as a young man of course I read temporary stuff – only later did I come to enjoy the old stories – and mainly those “comedies” like the taming of the shrew, just brilliant!

    Somehow I missed King Lear, MacBeth and Hamlet were favourites in German theatres.

    Ain’t it strange how little things like that decide what you read and enjoy?

  6. Jeff Meyerson

    A favorite no one has mentioned (not that I am putting it with HAMLET or LEAR) is MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, which has received several wonderful stage and fim productions over the years.


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