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King Lear (1983)

An aging King invites disaster, when he abdicates to his corrupt, toadying daughters, and rejects his loving and honest one.

Director:

Michael Elliott

Writer:

William Shakespeare (play)
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Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Colin Blakely ... Kent
Leo McKern ... Gloucester
Robert Lindsay ... Edmund
Laurence Olivier ... King Lear
Dorothy Tutin ... Goneril
Anna Calder-Marshall ... Cordelia
Diana Rigg ... Regan
Robert Lang ... Albany
Jeremy Kemp ... Cornwall
Brian Cox ... Burgundy
Edward Petherbridge ... France
David Threlfall ... Edgar
Geoffrey Bateman Geoffrey Bateman ... Oswald
John Cording ... Lear's Knight
John Hurt ... The Fool
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Storyline

Lear is an aging King who wants to retire by abdicating to his three daughters. However, in an act of petty ego stroking, he asks them who among them loves him most. While two daughters eagerly toady to him, his one loving daughter, Cordelia, refuses play along with this foolish charade. In a rage, Lear exiles her along with his one loyal aide who dares to stick up for her. This foolish move works to Lear's sorrow as his two remaining daughters cruelly and gradually strip him of his status and possessions until he is rendered an insane hermit attended only by his fool. All the while, the illegitimate son of another lord is plotting his own ambitions while contributing to this tragic tale of ego and familial cruelty. Written by Kenneth Chisholm <kchishol@home.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

26 January 1984 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El Rey Lear See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Granada Television See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

4:3
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The last specifically made-for-television production of a Shakespearean play (to date April 2019) to have its American television premiere on commercial network television, an occurrence that was much more common in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. See more »

Quotes

Kent: Fellow, I know thee.
Oswald: What dost thou know me for?
Kent: A knave, a rascal, an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy worsted-stocking knave; a lily-livered, action-taking, whoreson, glass-gazing, super-serviceable, finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pander, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch; one whom I will beat into ...
See more »

Connections

Version of King Lear See more »

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User Reviews

 
How an old fart becomes a real king
5 January 2006 | by donelan-1See all my reviews

The key to Olivier's performance is also the key to the play. Lear has been an absolute monarch for so long that he thinks of his royal status as a personal attribute. He therefore takes for granted that he will still be treated as a king (without the burden of royal responsibilities) when he has given up the land and authority that are the basis of his power. His attitude recalls the words of Shakespeare's Richard II: "Not all the waters of the rough rude sea can wash the balm from an anointed king." Events in that play prove how wrong he was.

Lear's position has also isolated him from the realities of everyday life and genuine human emotion. His tragedy is the price he pays for rediscovering those realities. His nobility is shown by his willingness to acknowledge his error and pay the price: "Oh I have ta'en too little care of this..." Olivier's performance, more than any other on film, shows this process of coming to terms with the realities of human life, and the falsity of court life; and being driven insane by the shock until his recognition of Cordelia brings him back. Olivier shows us what Lear is going through with hundreds of small gestures, movements, inflections of voice, and facial expressions. By comparison, he makes other actors in the role seem wooden, and he reveals how an "old fart" can regain his nobility by facing the truth.


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