Monday, July 28, 2014

Truth to Power: Lear, Cordelia & the Cross

Since I first read King Lear as an undergraduate nearly 50 years ago, I have never doubted that it is the supreme achievement in English literature.  It would be difficult to name two 20th century writers more dissimilar than George Bernard Shaw and Malcolm Muggeridge, yet both reached this same conclusion.  According to a Shakespeare bibliography I consulted, about 2,000 books have been published on King Lear since I first read the play.  I first saw Lear acted on the stage at the Stratford Festival (with John Colicos as Lear) half a century ago.  I have seen it staged more than a dozen times since, one of the most memorable being a no-intermission version at the Old Vic in London, England, with a broken-down comedic actor, Donald Sinden, as Lear.  The most compelling stage Lear, I would say, is William Hutt, whom I was fortunate to see play the role as a young man, a middle-aged man, and an old man.  I also twice saw William Hutt play the Fool to Peter Ustinov's eccentric but unforgettable Lear.  So it is a pleasure and a challenge to discuss with the Wrinklings this towering work of genius.

The Wrinklings are a specifically Christian reading group; therefore, I will direct my comments to Christian themes, without definitively answering the oft-put question, is King Lear a Christian play?  The play, written between 1603 and 1605, is based on the legend of King Leir, a mythological Celtic king.  (more...)

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