"Apparent Perversities": Text and Subtext in the Construction of the Role of Edgar in Brook's Film of King Lear1
J. G. Saunders, Chichester University College
In an otherwise eulogistic review of Peter Brook's film of King Lear ('the best of all Shakespeare movies'), a review which affirmed the need for imaginative interpretation of Shakespeare's texts ('The point is simple: these texts, if we are to hold on to their greatness . . . have to be reborn in the imagination of another'), Frank Kermode listed Edgar's speaking of some of Edmund's libels against him, and the transposition of Edgar's terrible words over the dying Edmund ('The gods are just . . . ') to the dying Cornwall, as two of the film's 'apparent perversities'—wondering whether Brook himself could explain 'what he was up to'.2 I intend to show that the role of Edgar was central to Brook's reading of King Lear and that the textual liberties which he took in constructing Edgar's character and role were integral to the subtextual, imaginative processes leading to the film's composition. In so doing, I hope to demonstrate that Brook's treatment of Shakespeare's text was in some respects much more audacious and less reverential than Kermode and other commentators seem to have realized.