All posts by Andrew Kim

Theatre Calgary Production of King Lear

I attended the Theatre Calgary production of the play King Lear by William Shakespeare on April 1st, 2015. This production had different ways of representing the settings than the 2008 movie version of King Lear. Also, the acting was similar but presented different feelings in the two productions, and the lack of focus on each character in this production helped with understanding the plot more comprehensively.

The props in the Theatre Calgary production, with the obvious reason of space constraint, was much less elaborate than in the movie. Despite the restraint on the props, the scenes were represented well. The set was wooden, which could be easily used to represent both the castles of the lords and the king as well as the outside for scenes when King Lear is outside in the rain or when Gloucester “falls” down the cliff. For the insides, tables and chairs were placed. For the outside scenes, patches of tall grass were placed. The use of props in this play helped elicit my imagination and increased the quality of my experience of watching the play.

Also, the vocal acting, which was seen as very unnatural in the movie, was quite fitting and helped significantly with the story telling throughout the play. The lines were delivered clearly and yet with emotion. Additionally, the acting of the rage of King Lear in the first scene was also more natural. In the movie, the speeches gave off feelings of anger. Though it can make sense depending on the interpretation of the text, it was definitely not an interpretation that I agreed with. The Theatre Calgary production, however, showed the rage as being more about disappointment and disbelief than anger. I found that the accusations by Lear were less directed at Cordelia and more at her action. This conveyed the feeling that Lear still loves Cordelia, but in disbelief of her “betrayal,” makes decisions that he wouldn’t normally make. Overall, the interpretations of human emotion in the play was much more accurate and realistic than the movie.

Being able to see the entire stage helped with the story flow as well. For example, the first scene in the movie showed only parts of the stage, making it impossible to see what other characters are doing. In the play, however, it is possible to look at any character. By observing the reactions of other characters, like Cordelia’s face as Lear says that nothing will come of nothing, it is easier to identify with the characters and identify the mood of the scene. It was also possible to notice movements in the back that enhanced the overall quality of the story progression, like the creative methods of moving of actors on to stage. The rain scene had a lit-up background that made it so that the actors approaching the stage from the behind were visible only by their silhouette. This made it possible for the audience to see the characters approaching without disturbing the main actor speaking at the time and also giving it a depth perception.

The Theatre Calgary production of King Lear used other means of communicating ideas to the audience that were not present in the movie. For example, there were many steps on the stage, with the entire stage itself being wide stairs and the presence of the stairs and different levels in the wooden structure. The characters were placed in different heights compared to others each time according to their authority. In the first scene, King Lear was higher up than any other characters. However, as the play progressed on, he was placed lower than others from time to time. Also, the bastard, Edmund, was also placed higher in the earlier scenes than Edgar, Kent, and Gloucester.

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Close-reading on Ulysses’ speech in Troilus and Cressida (1.3.75 – 137)

MODERNIZATION: Troy, which still stands on its foundation, would have been destroyed and Hector’s sword would have lost its master (Hector would have died), if it wasn’t for the following reason: The rights of the authorities have been neglected. And there are many empty Greek tents on the field and as many insincere factions. When the general (in this case Agamemnon) does not act as the head of the hive, what reward (honey) can be expected from the hive, when foragers can take it from the hive whenever they want? The degree (rank) is not shown through the mask that we wear in battle, as the most unworthy is perceived as an equal to the worthiest.

The Heaven and the planet (Earth), which is the centre of the universe (geocentric model of the universe), also follows the degree, order, rank, course, proportion, season, form, and custom all in the right order. And therefore the glorious Sun is made the heavenly king due to its noble eminence and is rotating around the Earth amongst the other planets. The Sun’s healing rays (described as gaze from the eyes of the Sun) corrects the displacement of the planets that does not stay in their positions and hurries as if following the orders of a king without pause to encourage the goodness and discourage the bad.

However, when the planets that are causing disorder become aligned with each other, their mischief becomes too much and causes disasters such as plagues, ill omen, mutiny, raging of seas, earthquakes, commotion in the winds, fears, changes, horrors, cracks and fissures, and complete tearing and uprooting of the unity (represented through marriage in the text) of calm states (as in status of being calm, not countries) from their positions.

When degree (rank), which is a ladder to every higher beings, becomes unstable, the entirety of the system becomes disordered. How could communities, university degrees, societies in cities, peaceful commercial exchanges between countries, the primogeniture and the rights of birth, and the right of age and monarchy remain authentic if it isn’t for degree? Just taking away degree will untune the string of the instrument and listen to the discord that comes from it. Everything will result in conflict. The water would rise and flood over the shores and make this solid planet (globe. Could possibly be the Globe) wet; the strong will rule over the weak and the violent sons will murder their father. Force will be the law (right), both right and wrong, between which justice lies and if those exerting the force on others lose their name, justice will also lose its name. Then everything will be able power. Power will become the will of the people and their will will become greed and the greed, like a predator (wolf), with will and power doubling it, will, without doubt, prey on others and eventually itself.

Great Agamemnon, this chaos of preying and self-preying results from the loss (personified in text as suffocating and chocking) of degree. And this neglecting of degree makes us, who want to climb up, fall back. The general (or whoever is on the top of the hierarchy) falling back due to this makes the subordinates follow him for the sake of following their superior. This whole process makes us fall behind rather than advance forward. And it is because of this that Troy is still standing, not because it is strong. To summarize, Troy is standing now due to our weaknesses, not its strength.

CLOSE READING: the bee and the honey metaphor. Honey, like in “The Rape of Lucrece,” is used as a word describing an award that foragers come after. Degree is mentioned repeatedly in this passage and the entire passage emphasizes on the importance of order. The Elizabethan people believed that there were hierarchies in this world and the falling of one of the apex would result in the disorder not only in that particular hierarchy, but in all others as well (as seen in Macbeth when Macbeth goes to kill Duncan. The owls cry and there is chaos in the state of the universe around him). This reference to the hierarchy systems of the universe is mentioned in great detail in this passage as well. The part about the mask is saying that by being masked, the hierarchy is ignored and that, in turn, causes the calamities in the universe observed. The “Sol” is referring to the Sun. The way the sun is described (i.e. med’cinable eye) shows that the Sun in this passage refers to the god of medicine, music, prophecy, truth, and the Sun, Apollo. The Sol is given the quality of healing because of this mythological deity. The next part talks about the disorder that results when the hierarchy is indeed over-turned. The passage, and many other passages in this text later on, talks particularly about plagues (like in lines 96 and 103). Marriage, as seen in line 100, is seen as a unifying force as well as a stable and orderly force. The degree is also described as the ladder, following form its archaic meaning of the rungs of a ladder. This metaphor is used to describe the climbing of the ladder as the different ranks and order and climbing towards the top of the hierarchy. The theme of Apollo, in this case as the god of music, is continued on by describing disorder as an untuned instrument that give off discord. Then, like in many of his other texts, Shakespeare uses a water related metaphor to compare flood and disorder. The strong ground loses its stability due to the water and creates unstable mud-like earth. Then, wolf is used to describe the greed that results from the power. The ladder metaphor is also continued in lines 126 – 131 by the use of words like “climb” and “step.” The plague metaphor also recurs in lines 132 – 135, with the use of words such as “sick,” “fever” and “pale.” The last sentence that Ulysses speaks summarized his long speech into a single line; “Troy in our weakness lives, not in her strength.”

Shakespearean Sonnet

Although this path all we, the men, do walk

Not one have seen the end, the endless light.

From time to time the road some walls do block,

But we climb o’er, with hope for days so bright.

Though some will fall behind, the rest goes on.

No time nor strength to see the route they’ve strode.

To stop and help the fell is frowned upon,

To go forward, the cold our hearts corrode.

But thou shalt not in dark thy warmth misplace

For love for friends thine heart doth so possess.

The enemies’ ill will thou shouldst embrace

And their disgust at thee with love suppress.

In darkness, find a light. O’ershine the shade

To thaw the ice and make the shadows fade