Classic Remarks

Classic Remarks Redux: #4

#ClassicRemarksRedux – Thanks to the ladies at Pages Unbound for the prompts and inspiration.

See my intro post to find out more about my Classic Remarks Redux series. Thanks to the ladies at Pages Unbound for the prompts and inspiration.

Prompt #4 from Dec. 9, 2016: Nahum Tate is infamous for his 1681 adaptation of King Lear with a happy ending.  Why do you think some adaptations of works are praised and others dismissed?  Can we separate the merit of an adaptation from the merit of the work it is based on?

I… uh……. um…….. huh? what?

I didn’t even know about this and King Lear is probably the Shakespeare play I studied the most thoroughly. It was a major text for a Philosophy class I took in college. And, yet somehow I had never heard about an adaptation with a happy ending.

I feel a little cheated by my Professor because this version of the play REPLACED Shakespeare’s version for over 150 years.

I’ve sat here a while and tried to imagine just how that would work out and I’m drawing a blank. For a quick overview I went to Wikipedia, The History of King Lear.

In the Wiki, Stanley Wells, a Shakespeare historian also, “points out that at the time that Tate was making his alterations, Shakespeare was not regarded as a master whose works could not be touched, but “as a dramatist whose works, however admirable, required adaptation to fit them for the new theatrical and social circumstances of the time, as well as to changes in taste.”‘

Making changes to plays to help them fit with the audience or political climate, has long been an accepted practice. So I can see why Tate made the changes he did. I just never would have thought that the Tragedy of King Lear was a play capable of having a happy ending.

One reply on “Classic Remarks Redux: #4”

I kind of love Tate’s adaptation precisely because it does seem so unthinkable. King Lear is one of Shakespeare’s darkest plays. Changing the ending changes the whole story and its meaning.

But I also think it’s kind of fun to have both. Not only because, if I want a happy ending, I can choose that today, but also because it tells us so much about history! About what was popular, how Shakespeare was received, how audiences thought art “should” be. It’s just so fascinating! And kind of weird, too!

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