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King Lear (1970)

GP | | Drama | July 1970 (UK)
The Shakespeare tragedy that gave us the expression "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child." King Lear has not one but two ungrateful children, and it's ... See full summary »


Peter Brook


Peter Brook, William Shakespeare (play)
2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »




Complete credited cast:
Paul Scofield ... King Lear
Irene Worth ... Goneril
Cyril Cusack ... Albany
Susan Engel ... Regan
Tom Fleming Tom Fleming ... Kent
Anne-Lise Gabold Anne-Lise Gabold ... Cordelia
Ian Hogg ... Edmund
Robert Langdon Lloyd Robert Langdon Lloyd ... Edgar (as Robert Lloyd)
Jack MacGowran ... Fool
Patrick Magee ... Cornwall
Barry Stanton ... Oswald
Alan Webb ... Gloucester
Søren Elung Jensen Søren Elung Jensen ... Duke of Burgundy


The Shakespeare tragedy that gave us the expression "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child." King Lear has not one but two ungrateful children, and it's especially galling because he turned over his entire kingdom to them. Paul Scofield is an ancient, imposing shell of a Lear tormented by his too-long life as well as by daughters he calls "unnatural hags." At one point, the king looks his eldest daughter, Goneril (Ireme Worth), straight in the eye and declares, "Thou art a boil, a plague-sore, of embossed carbuncle in my corrupted blood." These are the troubles not even the best-trained family counselor could ever hope to resolve. Written by alfiehitchie

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Did You Know?


The song sung by the fool at the end of Act III, Scene 2 is not present in Shakespeare's script. This song can be found sung by the fool in "Twelfth Night" in the closing scene of Shakespeare's script for the play. See more »


[first lines]
King Lear: Know that we have divided In three our kingdom: and 'tis our fast intent To shake all cares and business from our age; Conferring them on younger strengths, while we Unburthen'd crawl toward death.
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Crazy Credits

Not only is there no music in the film, but there are no "ambient sounds" at all during the opening credits, giving the impression that they were filmed using no soundtrack whatsoever. See more »


Version of King Lear (1987) See more »

User Reviews

a house in a hurricane
4 August 2006 | by winner55See all my reviews

in a moment of irony that could occur only in cinema, the definitive version of Shakespeare's 'king Lear' is Kurosawa akira's 1985 'ran'. only Kurosawa - at the end of his own career and looking back at at a century of blindness socially and politically, that dragged his culture through the horrors of the Tojo regime and the second world war - could grasp the essential insight of Shakespeare's vision of political perversion arising from simple but fundamental personal mistakes in judgment.

brook, of course, doesn't go after that. in fact, the issues just noted have been missed just about entirely by every American and British version of the play i've seen, even Laurence Olivier's farewell performance on television just before he died.

so when we come to brook's film, we have to let go of the hope that this will be the 'ur-Lear' that we seem to have misplaced in the west ever since the Elizabethan era.

in fact, let's let go of Shakespeare completely, here - this is a peter brook film, and brook is actually after something fundamentally cinematic - but not necessarily Shakespearean.

brook's film is a relentless portrayal of the world turned upside down. the most memorable quality of the film - and it stuck to me for many years - is the camera work, that gets unsteadier and more rapidly cut as the film goes on, until the audience feels trapped inside a house in a hurricane - and one that's quickly falling apart.

to find some ground in this visual catastrophe, the audience will desperately grab onto Shakespeare's words or the fine performances by the wonderful cast - but be warned - that's not really going to help much, and it's not supposed to.

brook, who made his name by approaching theatrical stage performances in a rather daring visual style, clearly wanted to see how far he could push the medium - the audience will have to decide whether he's successful - but the effort itself is worthy of respect.

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UK | Denmark



Release Date:

July 1970 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

King Lear See more »

Filming Locations:

Råbjerg Mile, Jylland, Denmark See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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