Brian Blessed's King Lear - a Critical Study

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  • Topic: Virtue, Royal Shakespeare Company, King Lear
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  • Published : October 17, 2008
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CRITICAL STUDY OF A CHRISTIAN TEXT – BLESSED:

The Brian Blessed production of King Lear most closely resembles a Christian tragedy approach to the text in that it shows suffering as meaningful and links it with redemption. This view of the play accepts the disproportion between fault and punishment and sees death as a release from the world’s cares.

The opening of the play clearly delineates he players in the conflict between good and evil. We are shown, for example, that Goneril’s speech seems rehearsed and the close-ups of the faces of Goneril and Regan demonstrate a lack of sincerity behind their words. Their self-satisfied smiles after delivering their professions of love indicate their calculating natures. By giving Cordelia’s reaction to her sisters as a voiceover, Blessed leaves us in no doubt as to her sincerity. The conflict between good and evil is highlighted by Blessed’s dramatisation of the battle scene in Act 5. tight close-ups of Goneril’s face as she venomously insults Albany and the deliberate, strongly evoked sadism of Regan in the scene when Gloucester’s eyes are put out are used to represent the extreme side of evil. Blessed contrasts these with tight close-ups of Edgar’s face after the “suicide” scene at Dover, showing the love and pity of son for father and the gentle persistence of Kent’s behaviour towards Lear in the mad scene on the beach.

Although significant amounts of text have been cut, Blessed retains speeches that have either biblical overtones or allude to redemption/transcendence. In particular, the “Come let’s away to prison” speech shows the meaning of Lear’s suffering – to become a better person, able to know the nature the love and able to renounce earthly power in return for reunion with his daughter. Moments before his death, Lear exclaims “Look there, look there!” as he focuses his gaze on the middle distance. Blessed is implying that Cordelia’s spirit lives on and that Lear will shortly be joyfully...
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