5. Goneril, Regan and Cordelia

Lear is Here dir. Wu Hsing-kuo, Taiwan, 2001

Chapter 5: Goneril, Regan and Cordelia

The Fool, wearing Li’er’s beard, has asked his three daughters to declare their love in Ch 4.  Now, Goneril, Regan and Cordelia appear in turn.  Wu changes costume behind one of the rocks upstage and  appears (still bareheaded with a short haircut and still wearing the characteristic make-up of the fool) in a silk robe for Goneril, and then a long skirt as he morphs into Regan and then Cordelia.  All three daughters make use of the ample and expressive “water sleeves” typical of Beijing opera and stylized “female”  (dan) movements and speech patterns.   The daughters are distinguished from one another, but it could be argued that Cordelia  (at least in this 2001 production: the role of Cordelia is one that has evolved from this beginning in later productions of Lear is Here) — is more like her sisters than in King Lear.  The audience applauds several times, and it is interesting to not at which points this happens and to think about why applause occurs at precisely these moments.

Exercise A

Choose a 3-10 second clip for each daughter and annotate each, showing how the three daughters differ in Wu’s interpretation.

Exercise B

The “Love Test” in King Lear has its amusing moments, but is seldom played as comedy, while the comic elements are prominent for all three daughters.  Choose one moment from the three performances and discuss in a brief note how the comedy is generated, and how it might change the King Lear story to play these moments as comic ones.