The Three Daughters of King Lear
How It's Used
"The two American novels[Editor's Note: Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres and Mairi MacInnes's The Quondom Wives], while not nearly so reliant on bardolatry, are firmly embedded in King Lear.
"I wondered if there might be ideological agendas at work, particularly in Jane Smiley's much-admired novel about farm-life in Iowa in the '70s. It observes the detail of Lear with great fidelity: Ginny, the eldest and childless; Rose, the mother of two daughters; and Caroline, the New York lawyer, are drawn respectively from Goneril, Regan and Cordelia...
"In Mairi MacInnes's short, quirky and flawed reworking of Lear, the crisis is also precipitated by an old man's decision to subdivide his estate, in Yorkshire. Goneril, Regan and Cordelia become Gwen, Reggie and Delia..."
—Andrew Reimer, "Bard Business Still Booming," The Sydney Morning Herald, March 6, 1993.
"Like Lear, Elliott Baines is widowed and has three troubled daughters, who might appear remarkably normal alongside Goneril, Regan and Cordelia but who, for the purposes of prime-time TV, are suitably neurotic. These are the things Cromwell considered when Wells asked his opinion."
—John Levesque, "Cromwell Seeks Link to 'Lear' in 'Baines,'" The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 29, 2001, p. C1.
"I was standing on a crowded downtown No. 1 train from Pennsylvania Station one Saturday when I gradually became aware of a conversation between a couple standing behind me.
"Man: 'Seriously, all you have to do is say the words 'King Lear' and someone will turn around.'
"I couldn’t resist; I turned and made eye contact with him. He eagerly asked, 'You've read "King Lear"?'
"'Lear’s daughters, what were their names?'
"I responded, 'Goneril, Regan and Cordelia.'
"'Cordelia!' he exclaimed. 'That’s the one I forgot!'
"I reminded him, 'And she was the nice one!'
"I turned back around, and they continued their conversation about various productions of Shakespeare’s works that they had seen around the country. As they left the train at 18th Street, I could hear him saying, 'See, I told you. In New York, someone on the train has read "King Lear"!'
—Evelyn Codd, “Dear Diary Column,” The New York Times, September 11, 2006.
"As Shakespearean scholar Stephen Greenblatt observes in his bestselling book Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, there's a curious puzzle that informs the opening of his majestic tragedy, King Lear. Intent on retirement, the old, enfeebled and increasingly demented monarch has decided to divide his realm among his three daughters; as the first act opens, the map of equitable, tripartite division has already been drawn. Yet Lear, behaving as though the boundaries were still negotiable, stages a family competition–to see which of his daughters, Goneril, Regan or Cordelia, can publicly profess the greatest love for him. 'Which of you shall we say doth love us most?'"
—Michael Posner, "Bedford's Lear is every inch a king–a recognizably human one," The Globe and Mail, May 30, 2007.
"More often, though, it's other writers, rather than the original author of a play, who return to older material. John Fletcher was intrigued enough by 'The Taming of the Shrew' to wonder what happened next and write 'The Tamer Tamed', and Chekhov's 'Three Sisters' has attracted any number of sequels, including Reza de Wet's 'Three Sisters Two', which takes up the trio's story after the Russian revolution. Cindy Oswin's Scenic Flights takes Beckett's Winnie from 'Happy Days' on a world cruise, and Elaine Feinstein's 'Lear's Daughters' is a prequel, exploring the events of Goneril, Regan and Cordelia's childhood to make sense of what eventually occurs in the opening scene of Shakespeare's play. Stoppard's 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern' has spawned an entire industry of minor characters taking centre stage. Helen Cooper's 'Mrs Vershinin'–who is mentioned but who never appears in 'Three Sisters'–is one of the best of the bunch."
—Lyn Gardner, "Stage sequels deserve a second chance: Sequels are rare in theatre, but the possibilities are ripe," The Guardian (UK), May 10, 2009.
Links Beyond eAlmanac
Wikipedia article on "King Lear"
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