8. The Cliffs of Dover

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

Chapter 8: The Cliffs of Dover

Wu dies as Edmund, and quickly arises from the stage as Gloucester, repeating “Amiduofo.” This is the Mandarin name of Amitabha Buddha and Gloucester is therefore calling upon Buddha, but he is also seeking, as in Shakespeare’s text, the cliffs of Dover (“Duofo”), so that his despairing pilgrimage and the name of the Buddha, widely used in prayers and chants, are blended.  Wu shifts to the role of Poor Tom (Edgar) and offers to lead Gloucester there. The sequence follows the scene in Shakespeare, though with song and much altered wording.  Wu has made clear in interviews that the Gloucester-Edgar relationship in this scene is central to his own understanding of King Lear, and takes great care with the transitions between the characters.  As in Shakespeare, the shifting motives of each, and the manner and extent to which father and son make themselves known to one another (if they do) is given an additional layer of complexity when one performer plays both roles and must alternate between them.  At the end of the scene an off-stage narration begins “My father gave me a chance to kill him but I did not kill him […..] father and son are reborn.”  Who is this character?  What is his relation to the other characters we have seen?  Is he one of them or a narrator distinct from them?


Choose a very short clip (maximum 30 seconds) in which Wu changes roles in this sequence, and comment on the changes.