The Story So Far: After quarreling with his elder daughters, Lear has run out onto the heath (a wide-open shrubby sort of landscape) in the middle of a huge storm. Clearly off his rocker and accompanied only by the long-suffering Fool, he rants and raves until Kent finds him and tries to persuade him to take shelter.
Meanwhile, Regan and Cornwall, who have taken command of the Earl of Gloucester's castle, have expressly forbidden anyone from helping the old, insane, and now wet ex-king.
Here we finally meet Edgar, in his role as Poor Tom, in all his muddy, half-naked glory. In order to escape his father's misplaced wrath, Edgar has chose to disguise himself as a beggar. That's all well and good, but the lengths to which Edgar goes in his disguise are rather extraordinary. He throws himself whole-heartedly into his part and comes up with HUGE rambling "mad" speeches. I worry about Edgar sometimes.
This scene also features the famous "Off, off, you lendings!" bit where Lear takes off his clothes in the middle of a storm. It's one of the directorial flashpoints of King Lear - just how many clothes does Lear take off? Several acclaimed productions in recent memory, notably Ian Holm's 1997 production and Ian McKellen's 2007 production, have had Lear drop his trousers in a most emphatic and thorough manner, revealing literally all to the elements.
I was fortunate enough to see Ian McKellen perform Lear while on tour in Singapore. For better or worse, nudity on the stage was not permitted, and thus I never got to see Sir Ian's bare, forked animal.
Dear old Gloucester. He always tries to do the right thing, but he's sometimes as thick as a brick wall. Here he bumps into not one but two disguised acquaintances - his friend Kent and his son Edgar - and, despite being reminded of them enough to bring them up in conversation, he totally fails to recognize either of them.
Get some glasses, Gloucester! You clearly have bad eyesight. For the moment, anyways.
That's all for this week! Join me again on Monday, when we'll check in with Edmund again and see how his plans for world domination are progressing.