Sunday, August 31, 2008

King Lear and Job

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2007.

Shakespeare never merely allegorizes biblical figures or passages, but, occasionally, a passage from the Bible and a passage from Shakespeare seem to deeply related. This passage from Job seems to have been transmuted into one of Lear's more famous scenes, if not to any specific speech.

Here's Job 23:5-8:
Behold, like wild donkeys in the desert
the poor go out to their toil, seeking game;
the wasteland yields food for their children.
They gather their fodder in the field,
and they glean the vineyard of the wicked man.
They lie all night naked, without clothing,
and have no covering in the cold.
They are wet with the rain of the mountains
and cling to the rock for lack of shelter.
And here's part of Lear III.iv that seems to point toward that.
Why, thou wert better in thy grave than to answer with thy uncovered body this extremity of the skies. Is man no more than this? Consider him well. Thou owest the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume. Ha! here's three on's are sophisticated! Thou art the thing itself: unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor bare, forked animal as thou art. Off, off, you lendings! Come, unbutton here.
It's impossible to calculate the exact degree to which Shakespeare was indebted to the Bible (if "indebted" is even the right term), but it's clear that he had imbibed vast portions of the Bible over a vast range of time.  If you read enough of both of them, you start to get a sense of how much reading either gives you more of the other.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Quick Link: Anthony Hopkins as Lear

Ryan, Dermot.  "Hollywood Heavyweights Fly in for a Reel Taste of Shakespeare." 1 July 2008.
I've been at the State Fair all day, which hasn't left much time for posting. However, I remembered this article on a forthcoming film version of Lear. Although I loved Sir Ian McKellen's Lear, I think Anthony Hopkins will do marvelously well, thanks!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Brief Lear Reference in Season One of Slings and Arrows

“A Mirror up to Nature.” Deleted Scene. By Susan Coyne. Dir. Peter Wellington. Perf. Martha Burns, Paul Gross, Don McKellar, Mark McKinney, Oliver Dennis, Susan Coyne, Stephen Ouimette, Catherine Fitch, Rachel McAdams, and Luke Kirby. Slings and Arrows. Season 1, episode 5. Movie Central: Canada. 1 December 2003. DVD. Acorn Media, 2006-2007.

You know that I can't say enough good things about Slings and Arrows. This clip takes a lighthearted look (you didn't think it was possible, did you?) at the "Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks" speech from III.ii. 

The character playing the character playing Hamlet has been refusing to use the exact words of the speeches, preferring, instead, to paraphrase the lines until he's able to internalize him. In this scene, deleted from the broadcast but included on the DVD, he finally starts using Shakespeare's words. Later in the scene, in something of an epiphany, he break out in Lear—showing that he's actually perfectly capable of using the language. Check it out:

Do you wonder what the guy in the car is doing, phoning someone after witnessing that performance? Well, get the series and watch it! Enjoy!

Links: Wikipedia Entry on the Series.

Click below to purchase the show from
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Thursday, August 28, 2008

King Lear as Marketing Device?

“Showpiece: Wanton.” Straighty 180. 27 August 2008.

One of the most devastating speeches in Lear is Gloucester's to Edgar at IV.i.28-39:
As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods.
They kill us for their sport.
You wouldn't think that those lines would easily lend themselves to commodification. But the people of Straighty 180 alter these lines slightly and use them to market . . . marketing itself. Or, at least, to market themselves. See the startling, distrubing ad below:

[Like] flies to wanton [girls] are we to the gods.
They kill us for their sport.

Links: Straighty 180.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"Good nuncle, in, and ask thy daughters' blessing": Brian Blessed as King Lear

King Lear. Dir. Brian Blessed. Perf. Brian Blessed, Hildegard Neil, Jason Riddington, and Phillippa Peak. 1999. DVD. Storm Bird, 2006.

Note: "Good nuncle, in, and ask thy daughters' blessing" is a line delivered by the Fool in King Lear (III.i.12-13).

Today is the first day of class, and I'm feeling a bit like Lear in the storm. I thought it would be wise, therefore, to take a look at one version of that scene on the blasted heath.

When they asked who could play Lear, one of the producers' nephews answered, "Good nuncle, in, and ask for Brian Blessed."

Blessed plays Lear and directs the play. He makes an interesting decision about the storm scene. Like Welles' Macbeth, Blessed's Lear has some soliloquies in voiceover. Observe:

I'm not entirely sure I like it . . . but it is interesting. And Brian Blessed has a marvelous presence.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from
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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Regan to Chill the Bone

King Lear. Dir. Michael Elliott. Perf. Laurence Olivier, Colin Blakely, John Hurt, Diana Rigg, and Leo McKern. 1983. DVD. Kultur Video, 2000.

One of the many, many-and-manifold reasons the Olivier Lear is so astounding is Diana Rigg. She can give a single look that embodies violence, death, and destruction. And she can do it right after a look that expresses the deepest empathy.

The clip below is from the end of Act III. That point in the play gives us one of the many, many-and-manifold decisions that a director must make that can change the timbre of the entire play. In blinding Gloucester, Cornwall has been injured; he asks Regan to help him. Take a look at how this Regan helps her husband:

Links: The film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from
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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2039 (and into perpetuity thereafter) by Keith Jones.

The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest