Miles had to read a bunch of books for his summer reading in 2014. He had to read King Lear, one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. When we went to Deep Creek Lake for a week in the summer, I rented a 1990s production of the play featuring Ian Holm as Lear. I had been reading and watching different interpretations of the play during the past few months, so I was excited to watch it with him.
It was in the morning. I wanted to get Miles involved in watching the play while he was fresh and awake. It was raining so we couldn’t do much outside. Watching Lear was a great way for me to enjoy the production and for Miles to get some of his summer homework finished.
Lear also interested me because Miles and I had been having a difficult summer. Lear is about a father and his children. It is about a family torn apart and the tragedy of its dissolution. But I knew that there was some happiness in the end, a happiness of some reconciliation. The play was by no means a mapping of my relationship with Miles, but there were lessons there and drama. Lear is a great character. So is Kent. So are the daughters. So is Gloucester.
At first, I was not impressed with the opening scene of this production of Lear. The sets were dated to the 90s. It looked like Martha Stewart had designed the opening scene’s decor– bold single colors for the walls and furniture. I was a little disappointed. Miles sat on one couch and I on the other. The rest of our family sat playing cards, disinterested at far end of the room in the kitchen area.
Ian Holm as Lear was stunningly good. I had been obsessed with the opening scene of Lear for the past few weeks, and Holm knocked my socks off. I soon got over my disappointment with the sets and was drawn into the intensity of the performance. Holm’s Lear was so vicious in his anger, so mean. I was tearful watching the opening scene with Cordelia’s rejection of the deal her father tried to make. The drama shook me. I felt the dispute. I was shaken.
The scene ended and I was relieved. I was not ready for how powerful the experience would feel and how much it would affect me. I looked over to Miles to see if he too understood, if he got it. Miles was asleep. It was too early for him. My entire rapturous involvement with the play completely eluded him. Holm spitting bile in the face of his daughter did not register. Oh well. I am sure he read it on his own and I hope he understood Lear on the heath in his madness. I hope he did because it took me many years to get it and I am not sure I even understand it now.