"What is the cause of thunder?"

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Catchfire Catchfire's picture
"What is the cause of thunder?"

Peter Brook's King Lear (1971) starring a cold, vacant and menacing Paul Scofield as the mad king, in its entirety.

It's a truism to say that Peter Brook's film King Lear is a masterpiece. But what is a masterpiece? Saying this of a work can be a way of not looking at it: the artwork becomes "timeless", a glazed exhibit in the museum of our cultural self-regard. It turns into a monument.

Thinking this over after watching Brook's film recently, it seems to me that when I say something is a masterpiece, I mean that its achievement is not that it rises into some lofty empyrean sphere where history no longer exists. It's a masterpiece because it does the opposite: because it makes a gesture so potent that it seems to draw all human experience into its gravity, because it reaches deep into individual and collective memory and hauls experience, naked and bloody, into the present.

Or, you could always try James Earl Jones's famous rendition in 1974, performed live in New York's Shakespreare in the Park.

If you're pressed for time, here is Kate Beaton's comic version.

Issues Pages: 

... or Lister Sinclair's inspired reference to it in "Masterpieces of Disco".

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Care to elaborate, or share a link? I don't know the reference, the person or the piece.


You don't know Lister Sinclair. Now I'm gobsmacked. Catchfire. You're young.

ETA: Btw am downloading and will surely watch Brook's Lear. You've made it irresistible.




Here's the one classic. And I think I will go for the other one as well. I've only ever seen the film version with Ian Holm,



Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Ohhhhhhh. Lister Sin-clair.

What a magnificent podcast, Winston! Thanks for sharing. I was actually going to title this thread "Never! Never! Never! Never! Never!" but thought it was too opaque. "It's the fiveness that matters." Indeed!