stf Theatre | King Lear
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King Lear


King Lear

Directed by Andrew Hilton

09 Feb – 24 March


Production Photos © 2014 Graham Burke


John Shrapnel  King Lear
Julia Hills  Goneril 
Dorothea Myer-Bennett  Regan   
Eleanor Yates  Cordelia 
Alan Coveney  Albany     
Byron Mondahl  Cornwall
Simon Armstrong  Kent 
Trevor Cooper  Gloucester
Christopher Staines  Edgar
Jack  Whitam  Edmund
Christopher Bianchi  Lear’s Fool
Paul Brendan  Oswald 
Benjamin O’Mahony  2nd Knight
Piers Wehner  Curan
Danann McAleer   Attendant
Paul Currier   France/2nd Attendant
John Sandeman  Burgundy/2nd Captain (the Herald)


Director  Andrew Hilton
Associate Director  Dominic Power
Set & Costume Designer   Harriet de Winton
Composer   Elizabeth Purnell
Lighting Designer   Matthew Graham


★★★★ The Independent An old man sits on the ground, his feet clapped in stocks. But he doesn’t much want rescuing – in fact, he could do with the sit down.
Welcome to the bleak, comic world of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Andrew Hilton’s new production at Bristol’s Tobacco Factory takes a while to warm up, but once in its stride, this is a Lear that appals, shocks and saddens – just as it should.
John Shrapnel tackles the monumental central role, creating a Lear who morphs by slow degrees from a stout, swaggering patriarch to a crushed shell of a man. In an exquisite exchange with his fool (played perhaps a touch too wisely by Christopher Bianchi), this Lear is gently stripped of all majesty even before the end of Act One. As Lear begins to lose his mind, Shrapnel becomes unsteady on his feet: as if only recently aware of his body.
Wandering the moor during a fierce tempest, Lear and his fool meet, first, Kent – played brilliantly by Simon Armstrong – and then the newly blind Gloucester (Trevor Cooper), a poignant symbol of the twists of fortune. Scenes laden with subtext are deftly handled by Hilton and his ensemble.
Away from the biting wind, Lear’s daughters Goneril and Regan (Julia Hills and Dorothea Myer-Bennett) are wrapped in luxurious velvet. They are a terrifying team, goading each other on to ever more shocking deeds. Myer-Bennett’s Regan is a woman thrilled by violence: trembling and sneering as she watches her husband (the Duke of Cornwall played by Byron Mondahl) pluck out Gloucester’s eyes. The wronged, innocent daughter, Cordelia, meanwhile, is played persuasively by a doe-eyed Eleanor Yates.
This is a production that has confidence in the power of Shakespeare’s text. The only element that jars is Harriet de Winton’s design – the production begins in lavish Elizabethan costume, but as the play goes on, modern touches appear. The men wear combat trousers, Edmund (Jack Whitam) dons a leather jackets and, in the final act, Lear is brought on in a very modern wheelchair.
Still, there’s no arguing with Hilton’s staging of one of Shakespeare’s most affecting ending. Shrapnel’s Lear pads on to the stage carrying Cordelia’s body in a mockery of a pietà before letting out an animal howl of pain. This is a gruesome play but, as this production manages to demonstrate, King Lear’s true horrors go beyond its bloody acts.  Elizabeth Davis

★★★★★ Whats On Stage The Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory seasons have been one of the glories of Bristol theatre for the past decade or more. Each show feels like an event: the 240-seat theatre is always packed, the audience contains more than its fair share of young people, and the plays are staged in the round with exemplary clarity and immediacy. Director Andrew Hilton has built up a real ensemble of excellent actors whose work together has become richer and deeper over the years; it is a real pleasure to see actors of the calibre of Simon Armstrong, Alan Coveney and Byron Mondahl return again and again. On occasion Hilton has brought in a leading actor from outside who has melded into the company with apparent ease. Last year John Heffernan was an impressive Richard II; this year John Shrapnel, possessor of one of the richest, most glorious basses in the business, tackles one of the pinnacles of Shakespearean drama.
Wisely Andrew Hilton is not too specific about the setting of the play (Shakespeare isn’t either): Harriet de Winton’s costumes initially indicate we are in the early 17th century; later on the greatcoats and wheelchair give an early 20th-century feel. King Lear doesn’t require historical detail; man’s place in the cosmic system and human nature are at the heart of the play, not politics and society. In this production Gloucester’s ‘As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; They kill us for their sport’ and Edgar’s ‘The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices, make instruments to plague us’ carry equal weight; the audience is free to decide itself what justice there is in this world.
Shrapnel is an outstanding Lear. He captures the vanity of a monarch whose every whim is indulged, the terrifying fury of a bully whom no one has ever dared counter when his beloved Cordelia ruins his opening charade, the movement from bitterness at his treatment at the hands of his elder daughters to anguish at his own folly and a humbled realisation of the wrongs he has done to others. Other actors give performances of equal distinction. Julia Hills’ Goneril and Dorothea Myer-Bennett’s Regan are more than mere malignity; in the opening scene their distress at what is clearly yet another of their father’s rages is palpable and their diminishing fear as they humiliate him and their own rivalry takes over are beautifully charted. Christopher Bianchi makes the Fool, which can be one of the most thankless roles in the canon, both funny and touching. Jack Whitam makes a suitably villainous Edmund, able to get a laugh from a simple adjustment of his collar. Simon Armstrong’s Kent is the moral heart of the evening. There is not a weak link in the cast.
The production is fluid and fleet. Time and again simple directorial decisions illuminate character and meaning. Regan’s slow backward walk as she suggests her father return to Goneril’s home and apologise to her is the action of one who is still fearful of her father’s reaction but a slyly provocative withdrawing from him too. Gloucester is more of a comic bumbler than is usual. The interval comes at the end of Act II, earlier than most, but it feels apt: the King of the first half is an outcast in the second, and his long progress towards reconciliation is uninterrupted. Lear’s tender hug of the Fool as they enter the hovel and of Gloucester when they recognise each other are moving gestures of compassion and stages on his path to understanding his folly.
Finally, this is the most moving Lear I have seen since Richard Eyre’s National Theatre production with Ian Holm in 1997. When Shrapnel’s gorgeous voice bids us ‘Howl, howl, howl!’ I felt like obeying him. My tears started then; Lear’s last moments and Kent’s and Edgar’s final words are devastating. John Campbell

★★★★ The Arts Desk: ‘The company, under the inspired artistic direction of Andrew Hilton, opened its 2012 season with a brand new production that displays all the qualities that have made this remarkable company unique in Britain.’ (Mark Kidel)

★★★ The Guardian:’What Shrapnel gives us is a Lear who, even if he learns through suffering, remains a king in his own mind.’ (MichaelBillington)

★★★★★ Venue Magazine: ‘Stripped down and fast-paced, but above all on the button, this is a version of ‘Lear’ which ranks amongst the best – and amongst the best productions that stf has brought to the Tob Fac stage. So far.’ (Tom Phillips)

Exeunt Magazine  A few weeks into the new millennium, a theatre company made its debut at South Bristol’s Tobacco Factory with a production of King Lear which attracted audiences so small it almost closed within a few days of opening. Back then, the theatre itself was in its early days, and nobody had heard of newcomers Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory. Then the reviews started coming out – in The Independent, in local arts magazine Venue, amongst others – and word got round that something special was going on south of the river. By the end of the ambitiously lengthy run you had to fight to get a ticket.Since then, of course, stf has gone on to stage hugely popular seasons every year – well, almost every year: poor sales for 2006’s Titus Andronicus nearly bankrupted the company a second time – and become one of the success stories of Bristol theatre, with productions at London’s Barbican and co-productions with Bristol Old Vic. That’s largely due to a simple formula which is far more difficult to pull off than it looks: powerful, intimate productions without a gimmick in sight; meticulous attention to every nuance in the text; and strength-in- depth casting which means even minor roles spring to full three-dimensional life.  And so now, to open the company’s thirteenth season, director Andrew Hilton returns to where stf began, re-exploring what’s arguably Shakespeare’s greatest metaphysical tragedy and, as he does so, deploying all the strengths for which his company has become known.It begins straightforwardly enough, but almost immediately these familiar lines – ‘Nothing will come of nothing. Speak again’ et al – take on different shapes, different resonances. He might be dressed in fairly conventional Shakespearean garb, but John Shrapnel’s Lear is already sounding like one of those modern unctuous despots who (dis)grace press conferences with their talk of ‘tough decisions’. It makes the rage and then the madness – when it comes – all the more shocking, all the more effective as the flattering, game-playing world he’s constructed around himself rapidly crumbles and he’s left outdoors with the ‘nothings’ he’s previously been so anxious to condemn. Think Tony Blair or David Cameron suddenly finding themselves rinsing out coffee cups as part of a small-hours office cleaning franchise and you’re just about there. Never once playing the sympathy card, Shrapnel holds on to Lear’s shattering delusions for as long as possible, and consequently succeeds in twisting lines of the ‘a man more sinned against than sinning’ variety like a knife: is he really more sinned against? And what the hell does that say about me if I think that he isn’t? It might sound like a strange way to put it, but this is a profoundly ethical performance, one which doesn’t merely illuminate Lear’s moral crisis, it encourages – but, crucially, doesn’t force – the audience to weigh up the values they themselves bring to bear in judging both the old king’s actions and the savage tragedy those actions unleash.In precipitating that tragedy, Shrapnel’s more than aided and abetted by a cast whose similarly well-balanced, well-rounded performances extend from Paul Brendan’s brilliantly all-mouth-no-trousers Oswald and Byron Mondahl’s almost Jarman-esque Cornwall to Julia Hills’ waspishly ambitious Goneril, Dorothea Myer-Bennett’s only slightly more repressed but equally dangerous Regan and Jack Whittam’s casually cynical Edmund.If the play’s ‘gang of four’ are all sharply observed portraits of the many varieties of triumphalist inhumanity, then their opposite numbers eek out the foundations of some kind of alternative community, with Simon Armstrong’s bluff Kent, Eleanor Yates’ perplexed and honest Cordelia and Christopher Bianchi’s nicely underplayed Fool circling round Christopher Staines’ shivering Edgar and Trevor Cooper’s avuncular and bloodily blinded Gloucester.One of the great strength’s of Andrew Hilton’s direction, in fact, is its gathering of the entire Gloucester ‘sub-plot’ into the main sweep of the drama. Students and sixth-formers plagued with essay questions about the Lear and Gloucester double-plot would do well to see this production: any convenient symbolic parallels play second fiddle to the sheer dramatic impact of having two similar stories playing out in – and illuminating – such a thoroughly disjointed world.To be sure, there’s little clue as to where or when all this is taking place (Cordelia and her cohorts return from France into an otherwise Jacobean world, dressed – unaccountably – in First World War-style garb), but, in a way, that’s the point. To mangle Edgar’s famous line: timelessness is all here, and as an interpretation of Shakespeare’s densest, bleakest and yet most vulnerably human tragedy, stf’s production is more radical in its apparent conventionality than many a highly conceptual ‘re-working. Tom Phillips

ReviewsGate  Clarity and logic result in an exciting Lear.  A company producing Shakespeare in a former tobacco factory calls itself Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory. Such plain logic, alongside respect for verse structure, makes Andrew Hilton’s production gripping, without reducing the play’s dimensions.
Staged in the round with a table for the first part and little more furnishing, the good sense starts with the opening line, given context by the Earl of Kent poring over the map of England detailing the way Lear’s about to allocate his kingdom between his three daughters and their husbands.
It suggests Lear’s plans have been talked about at court, while Kent’s surprise the map’s boundaries don’t reflect Lear’s various affections reinforces the idea the king’s indulging his feelings, not making rational choices.
Illuminating moments run through this first scene. John Shrapnel’s Lear becomes angry at Cordelia only when she shows she’s serious in refusing to flatter him by giving reasons for her behaviour. Till then it’s been all smiles for the favourite daughter who runs on a little late.
Yet from the start she’s a match for her sisters and no dutiful Victorian-style daughter. Only when adversity requires love for Lear does she give it unreservedly.
Then there’s Lear’s mocking glance at her when picking-up her word “nothing”, his surprise at the King of France taking her without a dowry – and Gloucester’s upon returning to what he’d assumed would be a happy scene.
But it’s not just details though that makes this Lear involving. There’s clarity over Shakespeare’s repeated theme of people falsifying their thoughts. Dorothea Myer-Bennett’s Regan is at her softest, most pleading when most unkind, and Cornwall seems to find his own violence shocking. Christopher Staines’ Edgar, as Poor Tom, apparently shivers in insanity while actually curled-up in grief at his estranged father’s new understanding of him.
And Shrapnel’s Lear, moving from authoritatively-dressed ruler, through sweaty derangement in a string vest to eventual white-clothed serenity with Cordelia, inhabits the costume changes with a path from brisk orders through flashes of insight amid a turbulent mind to ultimate understanding. Rarely has a Lear, or a Lear, so cohered in its various stages. Timothy Ramsden


Dates & Sources

 King Lear was written in either 1605 or 1606 and first published in a quarto version in 1608. The Folio Edition of 1623 introduces new material and makes many small revisions, as well as cutting significant amounts of the quarto. The version we use tonight represents our own choices between these two primary texts.
In the background to the play is a folk tale about a king or rich man with two, three or more daughters. Known as the ‘Love like Salt’ story, it concerns a love test that the man puts to his daughters and his rage when one of them declares that she loves him as meat loves salt. Versions of the tale are found across Europe and the Far East.
The specifically British story of King Leir and the division of his kingdom – set in pre-Roman Britian – is mythical, but enjoys the authority of the British History of Geoffrey of Monmouth (c.1135) and Holinshed’s sixteenth centuryChronicles. John Higgins retold the tale in The Mirror for Magistrates (1574), as did Edmund Spenser in The Faerie Queene (1580-94). There was also an anonymous play, The True Chronicle History of King Leir, performed in London in 1594 and published in 1605.
With some variations – particularly in the Chronicle History play – these works, in prose, verse and drama, present much the same story: Leir puts the love test to his daughters; Cordelia refuses to flatter him and is disinherited, but married to the King of France; the two other daughters and their husbands reduce Leir from regal glory to destitution; Leir flees to France to seek help from Cordelia; he is welcomed there, and restored to dignity; Cordelia’s army wins back Britain for Leir who resumes the throne. On his death Cordelia succeeds him as Queen, but is eventually usurped by the sons of Goneril and Regan and put in prison; unable to bear her fate, she hangs herself (or, in Higgins’ version, stabs herself with the knife which Dido used to kill herself).
This is the story – or history – that Shakespeare’s audience knew; and he first titled his own play a ‘chronicle history’ rather than a ‘tragedy’, perhaps to avoid alerting his first audiences to the radical reinvention they were about to witness.
   See excerpts from ‘Love Like Salt’, and the Leir story retold in passages from Spenser, Geoffrey of Monmouth and Holinshed below. 
   Contemporary gossip may also have influenced the play. In 1603 Grace, the daughter of Brian Annesley, a servant to Queen Elizabeth, tried to have her father certified lunatic and “altogether unfit to govern himself or his estate”. Annesley was defended by his other daughter, Cordell, who refused to allow her greedy sister access to her father’s house.
   King Lear is now widely accepted as one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces, but it was possibly not among the most popular of his plays during his lifetime, and after the restoration of the monarchy (and the theatres) in 1660, it was considered too painful to produce at all. So much so that a version prepared for the actor-manager Thomas Betterton by the Irish poet, Nahum Tate, ended with Lear happily restored to power and Cordelia married to Edgar. It is hard to credit now that this sentimentalised and emasculated version provided the standard performance text until well into the nineteenth century, when Shakespeare’s play was rescued by Kean and Macready.

The Rule of One Man

We know that King Lear was performed, perhaps premièred, before King James I in the Banqueting Hall, Whitehall, on Boxing Day 1606. Sitting with the King were his two sons, Henry and Charles. Henry, heir apparent until he died of typhoid in 1612, enjoyed the title of Duke of Cornwall, his younger brother that of the Duke of Albany. Shakespeare cannot have been ignorant of such consonances with his play, nor that he was presenting a story that begins with a fictitious king’s decision to divide the British realm, before a real king whose greatest ambition was to unite it.
The political frisson of such parallels and contrasts is now largely lost on us and – despite Alex Salmond’s best efforts – the first mention of the ‘division of the kingdom’ in the second speech of the play no longer resounds as shockingly as it might have done on that day in 1606. Fortunately, the life of this immense and challenging play doesn’t depend on merely topical political relevance, though it is particularly apposite to our time in one respect: around the world totalitarian regimes are threatened from within by an unquenchable thirst for self-empowerment. Revolution in the Middle East is not only in response to the cruelty and corruption of autocratic rule, but also to the humiliation people feel (“I want my dignity!” shouted a man in Benghazi) at being in thrall to the power and mystique of one man; of being, as it were, the President’s children.
English men and women alive in the 1590s were all too conscious of the mystique of one all-powerful woman, the vast majority of them having known nothing other than the England of Elizabeth I and her carefully constructed myth of wisdom and magnificence; and though her era was over by the time King Lear was written, the dual memory of her extraordinary dominance, and the fear that the void it would leave when she died would be filled by civil war, still lived vividly in the memory.
No doubt these memories fed into Shakespeare’s new version of the Leir story – into the reconceived dénouement, darker but more convincing than any of the source-versions, and into the writing of Goneril, Regan, Cornwall and Edmund, who must at least provoke our understanding if they cannot evoke our sympathy.


In the present case the publick has decided. Cordelia, from the time of [Nahum] Tate, has always retired with victory and felicity. And, if my sensations could add any thing to the general suffrage, I might relate, that I was many years ago so shocked by Cordelia’s death, that I know not whether I ever endured to read again the last scenes of the play till I undertook to revise them as an editor.
                                                                          from Dr. Johnson’s introduction to his edition of King Lear 1765

This depth of nature, this force of passion, this tug and war of the elements of our being, this firm faith in filial piety, and the giddy anarchy and whirling tumult of the thoughts at finding this prop failing it, the contrast between the fixed, immoveable basis of natural affection, and the rapid, irregular starts of imagination, suddenly wrenched from all its accustomed holds and resting-places in the soul, this is what Shakespear has given, and what nobody else but he could give.
                                                                          from William Hazlitt’s Characters of Shakespeare’s Plays 1817

Of all Shakespeare’s plays Macbeth is the most rapid, Hamlet the slowest in movement. Lear combines length with rapidity,—like the hurricane and the whirlpool absorbing while it advances. It begins as a stormy day in summer, with brightness; but that brightness is lurid, and anticipates the tempest.
                                                                         from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Lectures c. 1818

Both East and West have a legend about the Emperor and his imperial garb. The Emperor goes for a swim; he comes to a river, undresses, leaves his clothes on the shore, and dives into the water. While he is swimming, thieves steal his clothes. The Emperor has to go home naked. When he approaches the palace and orders the gates to be opened, the guard will not admit him. He claims to be the Emperor, but no one believes him …
                                                                         from Grigori Kozintsev’s Shakespeare: Time and Conscience 1966

 What I wanted to say in the last scene was that humanity must face life without relying on God or Buddha. We must try to the maximum to build for a happy future, otherwise there will be a succession of wars. A reason I couldn’t shoot this film for so long was that producers complained that the ending was tragic. We are always closing our eyes.
                                                                         Akira Kurosawa on the filming of RAN, 1986


Love Like Salt

from a French version of the tale known as ‘The Dirty Shepherdess’: 

   Once upon a time there lived a king who had two daughters, and he loved them with all his heart. When they grew up, he was seized with a wish to know if they, on their part, truly loved him, and he made up his mind that he would give his kingdom to whichever best proved her devotion.
So he called the elder princess and said to her, “How much do you love me?”
“As the apple of my eye!” answered she.
“Ah!” exclaimed the king, kissing her tenderly as he spoke, “you are indeed a good daughter.”
Then he sent for the younger, and asked her how much she loved him.
“I look upon you, my father,” she answered, “as I look upon salt in my food.”
But the king did not like her words, and ordered her to quit the court, and never again to appear before him. The princess went sadly up to her room, but when she was reminded of her father’s commands, she dried her eyes, made a bundle of her jewels and hurriedly left the castle where she was born.
She walked straight along the road in front of her, without knowing very well where she was going or what was to become of her, for she had never been shown how to work. As she was afraid that no housewife would want to engage a girl with such a pretty face, she determined to make herself as ugly as she could. She therefore took off the dress that she was wearing and put on some horrible old rags belonging to a beggar, all torn and covered with mud. After that she smeared mud all over her hands and face, and shook her hair into a great tangle. But the farmers’ wives would have nothing to say to such a dirty maiden, and sent her away with a morsel of bread for charity’s sake …’

The story then begins to resemble Cinderella, as the Princess, who finds work as a shepherdess, is spotted bathing by a Prince out hunting. He falls for her but cannot trace her, until he finds a ring that has fallen from her finger. He declares he will marry the woman the ring fits. Only the dirty shepherdess has a finger small enough for the ring and they are married. Her father is invited to the wedding feast …

   By the orders of the bride, they only served her father at the wedding breakfast bread without salt, and meat without seasoning. Seeing him make faces, and eat very little, his daughter, who sat beside him, inquired if his dinner was not to his taste.
“No,” he replied, “the dishes are carefully cooked and sent up, but they are all so dreadfully tasteless.”
“Did not I tell you, my father, that salt was the best thing in life? And yet, when I compared you to salt, to show how much I loved you, you chased me from your presence.”
The king embraced his daughter, and allowed that he had been wrong to misinterpret her words. Then, for the rest of the wedding feast they gave him bread made with salt, and dishes with seasoning, and he said they were the very best he had ever eaten.’

The Leir Myth

from Edmund Spenser’s The  Faerie Queene (1580-1594)

The love test; Cordelia disinherited …

Next him king Leyr in happy peace long reigned,
But had no issue male him to succeed,
But three fair daughters, which were well uptrained
In all that seeméd fit for kingly seed;
Mongst whom his realm he equally decreed
To have divided. Tho, when feeble age
Nigh to his utmost date he saw proceed,
He called his daughters, and with speeches sage
Inquired, which of them most did love her parentage?

The eldest, Gonorill, gan to protest,
That she much more than her own life him loved:
And Regan greater love to him professed
Then all the world, when ever it were prooved;
But Cordeill said she loved him as behooved:
Whose simple answer, wanting colours fair
To paint it forth, him to displeasance moved,
That in his crown he counted her no heir,
But twixt the other twain his kingdom whole did share …

from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regium Britanniae (c.1135) translated from the Latin by A. Thompson

Cordelia married to the King of the Franks; Lear’s retinue reduced by her sisters to one man …

…   It happened after this, that Aganippus, king of the Franks, having heard of the fame of Cordeilla’s beauty, forthwith sent his ambassadors to the king to demand her in marriage. The father, retaining yet his anger towards her, made answer; “That he was very willing to bestow his daughter, but without either money or territories ; because he had already given away his kingdom with all his treasure, to his eldest daughters, Gonorilla and Regau.”  When this was told Aganippus, he being very much in love with the lady, sent again to King Leir, to tell him, “That he had money and territories enough, as he possessed the third part of Gaul, and desired no more than his daughter only, that he might have heirs by her.” At last the match was concluded, and Cordeilla was sent to Gaul, and married to Aganippus.
A long time after this, when Leir came to be infirm through old age, the two dukes, on whom he had bestowed Britain with his two daughters, fostered an insurrection against him, and deprived him of his kingdom, and of all regal authority, which he had hitherto exercised with great power and glory. At length, by mutual agreement, Maglaunus, Duke of Albania, one of his sons-in-law, was to allow him a maintenance at his own house, together with sixty soldiers, who were to be kept for state. After two years’ stay his daughter Gonorilla grudged the number of his men, who began to upbraid the ministers of the court with their scanty allowance; and having spoken to her husband about it, gave orders that the number of her father’s followers should be reduced to thirty, and the rest discharged. The father, resenting this treatment, left Maglaunus, and went to Henuinus, Duke of Cornwall, to whom he had married his daughter Regau. Here he met with an honourable reception, but before the year was at an end, a quarrel happened between the two families, which raised Regau’s indignation; so that she commanded her father to discharge all his attendants but five, and to be contented with their service. This second affliction was insupportable to him, and made him return again to his former daughter, with hopes that the misery of his condition might move in her some sentiments of filial piety, and that he, with his family, might find a subsistence with her. But she, not forgetting her resentment, swore by the gods he should not stay with her, unless he would dismiss his retinue, and be contented with the attendance of one man; and with bitter reproaches, told him how ill his desire of vain-glorious pomp suited his age and poverty. When he found that she was by no means to be prevailed upon, he was at last forced to comply, and, dismissing the rest, to take up with one man only …

from Holinshed’s Second Booke of The Historie of England (1587)

Lear flees to France to seek help from Cordelia         

In the end, such was the unkindness, or (as I may say) the unnaturalness which he found in his two daughters, notwithstanding their fair and pleasant words uttered in time past, that being constrained of necessity, he fled the land and sailed into Gallia, there to seek some comfort of his youngest daughter Cordeilla, whom before time he hated. The lady Cordeilla hearing that he was arrived in poor estate, she first sent to him privily a certain sum of money to apparel himself withall, and to retain a certain number of servants that might attend upon him in honorable wise, as appertained to the estate which he had born: and then so accompanied, she appointed him to come to the court, which he did, and was so joyfully, honorably, and lovingly received that his heart was greatly comforted: for he was no less honoured, than if he had been king of the whole country himself.
Now when he had informed his son in law and his daughter in what sort he had been used by his other daughters, Aganippus caused a mighty army to be put in a readiness, and likewise a great navy of ships to be rigged, to pass over into Britain with Leir his father in law, to see him again restored to his kingdom. It was accorded that Cordeilla should also go with him to take possession of the land, the which he promised to leave unto her, as the rightfull inheritor after his decease, notwithstanding any former grant made to her sisters or to their husbands in any manner of wise. Hereupon, when this army and navy of ships were ready, Leir and his daughter Cordeilla with her husband took the sea, and arriving in Britain, fought with their enemies, and discomfitted them in battle, in the which Maglanus and Henninus were slain …

from The  Faerie Queene

Cordelia restores Lear to the throne, then succeeds him as Queen; Goneril and Regan’s sons rebel against her and imprison her; she hangs herself.

… So to his crown she him restored again,
In which he died, made ripe for death by eld,
And after wild, it should to her remain,
Who peaceably the same long time did weld:
And all mens hearts in due obedience held:
Till that her sisters children, waxen strong
Through proud ambition, against her rebelled,
And overcommen kept in prison long,
Till weary of that wretched life, her self she hong.

Rehearsal images by Graham Burke


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