Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: September 2019

Chapter 8 - Romancing King Lear: Hobson’s Choice, Life Goes On and Beyond

from Part III - The Genres of Lear

Summary

This chapter focuses primarily on two films that use King Lear to comic and romantic ends: Hobson’s Choice (directed by David Lean, 1954) and Life Goes On (directed by Sangeeta Datta, 2011). In remediating Harold Brighouse’s play about a tyrannical, incontinent Lancastrian boot maker and his three daughters, Lean not only captures its Shakespearean echoes but adds new filmic ones, primarily through his visualization of situations only narrated in the 1915 playtext. Datta’s transference of Lear’s familial discord to a first-generation Bengali family in contemporary London goes even further in quoting Shakespeare’s play at crucial moments in the narrative. In each film, the juxtaposition serves to isolate the unreasonable father to the benefit of the daughters’ narrative fates, while also allowing a dimension of sympathy (comic and sentimental, respectively) for men mentally unmoored from a lost political order. Moreover, the chapter enlarges on these patterns by citing family resemblances with other comic Lear intertexts on both small and large screen. These latter draw further attention to media specificity, format and distribution. The analysis not only illuminates the productions but can also enrich current scholarly conversations about genre, gender and Shakespeare’s movement towards tragicomic romance.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO
Brighouse, H., Hobson’s Choice: a Three-act Comedy (London: Constable and Company, 1916).
Földváry, K., ‘Postcolonial Hybridity: the Making of a Bollywood Lear in London’, Shakespeare (British Shakespeare Association) 9.3 (2013): 304–12.
Fryer, M., ‘Abstract Storms: Reinventing Storms from Elizabethan Theater’, undergraduate essay, MIT, 2015.
Griggs, Y., Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’: the Relationship between Text and Film (London: Methuen Drama, 2009).
Henderson, D. E., ‘Alternative Collaborations: Shakespeare, Nahum Tate, Our Academy, and the Science of Probability’, in Henderson, D. E. (ed.), Alternative Shakespeares 3 (London: Routledge, 2008), 243–63.
  ‘Genre and Modernity in Hobson’s Choice and Life Goes On’, Litteraria Pragensia: Studies in Literature and Culture 26.52, Special Issue (December 2016): 4957.
Holland, N. H. ‘David Lean, Hobson’s Choice, 1954’: www.asharperfocus.com/Hobson.html (accessed 12 July 2016).
Lanier, D. M., ‘Film Spin-offs and Citations’ in Burt, R. (ed.), Shakespeares after Shakespeare: an Encyclopedia of the Bard in Mass Media and Popular Culture (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2007), 132365.
Olivier, L., On Acting (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1986).
Pye, C., The Storm at Sea: Political Aesthetics in the Time of Shakespeare (New York: Fordham University Press, 2015).
Silver, A. and Ursini, J., David Lean and His Films (London: Frewin, 1974; Los Angeles: Silman-James Press, 1991).
Szymborska, W., ‘Theatre Impressions’, in her Poems New and Collected 1957–1997, trans. S. Baranczak and C. Cavanagh (New York: Harcourt, 1998), 114.