When I was just out of college and getting into Shakespeare independently, I got it into my head to watch the best. This was some time right around when Mel Gibson did Hamlet, so I think I wanted something to compare it to. So, naturally, I got a VHS tape of Laurence Olivier as King Lear.
Honestly, I never finished it. I’d never read the play at this point and I simply couldn’t follow it.
Funny how time changes us. Here is the end of the play where Lear, a ghostly shadow of his former self at this point, carries the lifeless body of his daughter back on stage …
(*Note attention to detail – they actually put a scar around Cordelia’s neck!)
I’m intrigued by the “howls”. Here, Olivier does manage to make near animalistic noises, but he’s still articulating the word “howl”. I always wondered if perhaps this was the equivalent of an “o-groan”, something to be taken more as a stage direction (“Enter howling”) than actual script?
I think the interaction between Kent and Lear is excellent, how he so conversationally gestures to him with that “what is your name? you look familiar…” as if it’s just a normal interaction, and yet how he does not make the Caius connection and thinks Caius dead.
Ok, need to stop, the “Cordelia, stay a little…what does thou say?” just brought tears to my eyes. Wow.