Peter Brook’s Film Production of King Lear Essay

Peter Brook’s film production of King Lear was followed by diverse critical opinion. W. Chaplin (1973) deemed the production as a dramatic failure due to its violent nature; however, W. Johnson (1972) conversely praises the “bursts of exaggerated violence” which he claims, leads successfully to the establishment of the production’s atmosphere. Through both these views we see violence as being central to interpreting Brook’s King Lear. In a similar fashion, Anne Bradby (2004) described Shakespeare’s Lear as having an “atmosphere of unparalleled rapine, cruelty, and bodily pain” as central to its plots and themes (a theme also touched on by other critics such as G. Orwell (1947), and W. Knight (1949)). From this, we see that interpreta-tions of King Lear benefit from an examination of violence. In order to show how Brook estab-lishes his distinguishing atmosphere of violence, I am going to explore the presentation of vio-lence, the destruction of compassion, and the reactions to both of these key aspects of the pro-duction.

Stark violence is created to directly establish violence through: setting, brutality stem-ming from characters’ action, and emphasis on language. Key elements include the architectural environment (castles), the Costumes and the Props (specifically the choice of weapons), and landscape. In addition, to increase the significance of these features, Brook uses diverse respons-es towards the violence, and careful focus on cinematography.Landscape and setting permeate every scene in every production; within Brook’s Lear this repetition creates the continuity of stark violence through the production. In instances like Edgar’s bleak escape at 0:42, to the gruesome conclusion of the battle at 2:01, the landscape an…

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… from Shakespeare Survey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982. Print.

Carnovsky, M. and P. Sander (1977). “The Eye of the Storm: On PlayingKing Lear.” Shakespeare Quarterly 28(2): 144-150.

Schlueter, L. a. (1991). “Reading Shakespeare in performance: King Lear ” Associated University Press.

Johnson, W. (1972). Film Quarterly 25(3): 41-48.

Chaplin, W. (1973). “Our Darker Purpose: Peter Brook’s King Lear.” Arion 1(1): 168-187.

Hole, S. (1968). “The Background of Divine Action in King Lear.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 8(2): 217-233.

Carroll, W. C. (1987). “”The Base Shall Top Th’Legitimate”: The Bedlam Beggar and the Role of Edgar in “King Lear”.” Shakespeare Quarterly 38(4): 426-441.

Isenberg, A. (1951). “Cordelia Absent.” Shakespeare Quarterly 2(3): 185-194.

Knowles, R. (1999). “Cordelia’s Return.” Shakespeare Quarterly 50(1): 33-50.

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