KING LEAR AS A POLITICAL PLAY (COMMENT). Dick Weisfelder commented that: “Christopher Plummer played [Lear] as a family drama in Stratford, but the emphasis was also on the doubts and uncertainties that come with advanced age.” For me, those are two central points of the play. But maybe that is because I am an American. In this set of five interviews with different Lears by Laura Barnett in the Guardian (January 12, 2014), Timothy West says: “I believe strongly that Lear is not as old as he says he is. If you play him as so old that it’s reasonable for him to abdicate, then it just becomes a play about difficult family relations. It’s much more effective to show that this man still has all his marbles to begin with and really should be ruling the country. The fact that he wants to go on being treated as a king without doing any of the work is, I think, one of the great sins in the Shakespearean book.”
This is the kind of attention to the role of kings, which Adam Gopnick and John Andrews were referring to as a British approach. For a king to surrender power before death—or for a President to resign before completing his term—is an important event.