Shakespeare’s characters are described as being a stark contrast to each other, they are simple but represent good and evil as many productions put across such as Cinderella, with the two evil twin sisters, and Cinderella, the good, pretty one of the sisters. They have been described as “two malign” and “one benign.” Shakespeare’s characters in the play King Lear have also been described as two dimensional, just “good” or “evil,” this is very deliberate by Shakespeare. This division between very good and very evil is very important to Shakespeare’s cause.
There are many things that hint upon the actual natures of the three daughters, for instance, their names, Gonerill and Regan are harsh sounding, but Cordelia is softer and more gentle in sound. Cordelia is said to have a religious quality about her because when Lear and Cordelia are about to re-unite, the gentleman describes her grief in language that suggests a religious dimension to her presence.
…There she shook, the holy water from her heavenly eyes, and clamour moistened… She represents good, and forgiveness like most religious people would.
Also the things that they do, like when Regan gouges Gloucester’s eyes out, this indicates at a sense of evil. Physical appearance and costume are also a very good thing to see their different natures. In the 1983 Michael Elliot TV production, Regan and gonerill were conscious of their positions and wore all black, but Cordelia was humble and wore white. Cordellia’s asides indicate how shocked she is at how much her sisters can falsely flatter their father to get their allotment of the land. She can’t use words, and can’t find even find the words, she attempts to prove a point by not saying anything, but Lear doesn’t hear what he wants to, so gets angry.
There are other characters who are either very good or very bad, Kent is the only other person present to put truth and loyalty first, whatever the cost. Edmond is the other very bad character, and his only offset to his evil was an attempt to not get Lear and Cordelia killed.
Gonerill and Regan’s concluding dialogue is so important because it dismisses any doubt that they actually did “love” their father. It proves to the audience that they don’t love their father, but Cordelia is the one that actually does. The three daughters don’t meet up again in the play because nothing good would come of a further confrontation between Cordelia and her two sisters, it doesn’t serve Shakespeare’s plots and there is no point to in Cordelia re-entering at this particular moment.
The BBC production of the play King Lear, has Michael Hordern as Lear. This is the video in the dark room with the three daughters and the rest of the people standing around Lear. It is very difficult to determine a time or a place for this production of the play as it is very dark with little clues. The costuming though does look rather old fashioned and are a very slight indication that this video could have been set in the past. It doesn’t seem to follow the interpretation that this is a domestic play, but more formal, because the daughters are presented to the King in a very formal manner. The lighting is very dark and the camera angling points out the nervousness of Gonerill while making her speech, and the confidence of Regan while making hers.
In the Richard Eyre version of the play, with Ian Holm as Lear, the daughters are all wearing grey and the background is all red, it is even more difficult to determine a time and setting for this version of the play because there are even fewer clues to give an indication of this. Richard Eyre supports the view of this play being a domestic play, he said he imagines it being set round a dinner table, because that is where most family matters are settled. In this version the “love test is a lot less formal, as it set round the dinner table as more of a family matter.
There are many similarities between the two videos, in both Gonerill looks very nervous while making her speech and Regan is full of confidence and really trying to make sure she gets her fair share of the land. In both videos Lear paces up and down in anger, this is after Cordelia’s speech when he would be mad anyway. Neither of the videos have any backing music, this could be because neither of the directors can imagine the play having backing music and maybe it wouldn’t be a good idea to use any. In both of the versions Lear gets very emotional when he is angry, I think the directors would have done this to animate Lear’s anger, it doesn’t have to be guessed then, it is clearly visible. These are all important similarities because this is what the directors can extrapolate from the text so they must have quite similar opinions.
There are also many differences between the two versions, the Richard Eyre version is set round a table because Richard Eyre described the play as being a domestic play, and his idea of family is a dinner table confrontation. The BBC version is a lot more formal and Lear stands up to divide the country. The BBC version is a lot darker, the actors are wearing old fashioned costumes, but the other video looks a bit more modern. Also in the Richard Eyre production all of the daughters are wearing the same colour, grey, but in the BBC version Gonerill and Regan are wearing all black, but Cordelia wears white as well as her black dress.
I see Lear as being a figure of power and authority. I think this because of the clues in the text.
LEAR: The bow is bent and drawn, make from the shaft. This indicates that he thinks a lot of himself and proves he is tyrannical. Another quote that backs up my opinion of Lear is:
LEAR: Out of my sight. This is short but to the point, this is how people usually speak when they are very angry and is why Lear speaks like this.
I see Cordelia as being a figure of honesty, loyalty and forgiveness. I think this because she is honest during the “love test”
Cordelia: Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave my heart into my mouth. This proves her honesty no matter what the cost. She is loyal because even after what her father had done to her, she still went back to find him. I think she is forgiving because she actually forgave her father.
I see Regan as being very evil and deceitful, this is because she gauged Gloucester’s eyes out and lied to get land from her father.
REGAN: I am made of that self-mettle as my sister, and prize me at her worth. In my true heart I find she names my very deed of love. Only she comes too short… it can be proved that she is being untrouthful here in the last lines of act one, scene one.
REGAN: ‘Tis the infirmity of his age: yet he hath ever but slenerly known himself.
I see Gonerill as being a little like Regan but she lacks the confidence that Regan has. This can be seen in the Richard Eyre production, she rings her hands as if she doesn’t know what to do with them.
I personally prefered the Richard Eyre production, this is because it was a little easier to understand and the emotions were put accross a lot more clearly. The BBC version was a little too dark and not as well acted.
In conclusion the last lines of the play sum the play up.
EDGAR: The weight of this sad time we must obey, speak what we feel, not what we ought to say. The oldest hath borne most: we what are young shall never see so much, nor live so long. This basically says that we should say what we think not what we think we should say. I agree with this, but it only works if everyone abides by this, as soon as someone doesn’t say what they think there is a problem. These lines also return the audiences attention to the genesis of the whole tragedy and defines the moral mesage of the play.