King Lear, old and tired, divides his kingdom among his daughters, giving great importance to their protestations of love for him. When Cordelia, youngest and most honest, refuses to idly ... See full summary »

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King Lear, old and tired, divides his kingdom among his daughters, giving great importance to their protestations of love for him. When Cordelia, youngest and most honest, refuses to idly flatter the old man in return for favor, he banishes her and turns for support to his remaining daughters. But Goneril and Regan have no love for him and instead plot to take all his power from him. In a parallel, Lear's loyal courtier Gloucester favors his illegitimate son Edmund after being told lies about his faithful son Edgar. Madness and tragedy befall both ill-starred fathers. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

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18 October 1982 (USA)  »

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The Complete Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare: King Lear  »

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1.33 : 1
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Trivia

Jonathan Miller had previously directed a Nottingham Playhouse production of King Lear in 1969, starring Michael Hordern as Lear and Frank Middlemass as the Fool. In 1975, he remounted that same production for the BBC Play of the Month, a heavily truncated version, which happened to be the BBC's last Shakespeare production prior to the beginning of the Television Shakespeare. During his producership, Miller tried to persuade the BBC to use the Play of the Month production as their Lear, but they refused, saying a new production had to be done. At the end of the fourth season, Miller's last as producer, his contract stipulated that he still had one production to direct. In-coming producer Shaun Sutton offered him Love's Labour's Lost, but Miller wanted to do one of the three remaining tragedies; Lear, Macbeth or Coriolanus. He had never directed Macbeth or Coriolanus before, but he felt so comfortable with Lear that he went with it. However, the production was basically the same as his 1969/1975 version, with the same two leading actors, the same costumes design, the same lighting, and the same design concept. The only significant difference is that more of the text is used in the latter production. See more »

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Version of King Lear (1976) See more »

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User Reviews

one of the better BBC Shakespeares
18 November 2004 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Let's get the niggles out of the way first - I didn't like the performances of either Julian Curry as Cornwall (too bored) or John Bird as Albany (ok but too John Bird). I felt some of the poetry of the text was muffed and therefore lost power, and there was little sense of scale - where were Lear's rowdy knights?

However, the good by far outweighs the bad. As the three daughters of Lear, Gillian Barge (Goneril), Penelope Wilton (Regan), and Brenda Blethyn (Cordelia) are all excellent. The eldest sisters are pure poison, plotting against their father and their land; while Blethyn gives the wronged youngest daughter quiet dignity. John Shrapnel made an excellent Kent, at times quarrelsome, at others lordly as became his hidden persona.

Good stuff too from John Grillo as the sneaky servant Oswald, from Anton Lesser as Edgar (and Tom a Bedlam), and from Norman Rodway as the Earl of Gloucester - the scene where he has his eyes plucked out, seen only from behind, is played very well, as are subsequent scenes with the disguised Edgar and Lear. Michael Kitchen is a fairly interesting Edmund, but looks a bit cartoonish in places, all that conspiratorial glancing at the camera.

I wasn't that keen on Frank Middlemass' take on the Fool but I have never had much patience with anyone in that part - perhaps he did what he could with some fairly poor bits of speech and action.

I've left Lear himself till last. I didn't think at first that Michael Hordern was quite right - but following the storm he comes into his own, and by the final act and scenes with Cordelia and following, he gives the character a human side that's lacking from many productions - even Olivier came short of the scene where Lear recognises he is in the presence of his youngest and much wronged daughter. It is an interesting performance that repays re-watching and a fascinating contrast to other versions available to view.


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