7. Edgar, Edmund and Gloucester

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

Chapter 7: Edgar, Edmund and Gloucester

This sequence begins with the blinded Gloucester’s cries of pain.  He wonders whether the heavens have punished him, and acknowledges that he has done his son Edgar wrong.  Edmund enters. Only now, late in Wu’s play, does he speak an adapted  version of the famous soliloquy (“Thou, nature, art my goddess…now gods, stand up for bastards!) which occurs in Shakespeare’s text in Act 2), reveals that he has ensnared Edgar in his trap and re-enacts the mock battle he staged with Edgar to make his father believe that Edgar was disloyal, not he.  Then Edgar appears, as “Poor Tom,” the wandering mad beggar persona he has adopted after being rejected by Gloucester.  The character changes again from Edgar to Edmund as Wu stages a version of Edmund’s death (in Act 5 in Shakespeare).  This is the sequence in which it is perhaps most difficult to follow the role-shifts, especially because both Edgar and Edmund are both young men, because Edgar takes on an additional role within the role (“Poor Tom”) and because Edmund’s whole story, which extends throughout Shakespeare’s play, is told in a short space of time, in which Edmund as narrator refers to, and then acts out earlier events.