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Sculpture of King Lear by Greg Wyatt

Dr Paul Edmondson and Professor Sir Stanley Wells discuss sculptures of Shakespeare's plays with the sculptor, Greg Wyatt. This sculpture depicts King Lear.


Wells: To my mind, King Lear is the greatest of Shakespeare’s plays. It’s also the most demanding—for actors and for audiences, I think, and for readers. The summit of an actor’s career is to play and succeed as King Lear and I think the play is very much about what it means to be a human being, to suffer both in the mind (as Lear does) and in the body (as the Earl of Gloucester does).

Wyatt: Indeed, I stripped even the skin away in the Act V. I have the bony under the skin to even heighten the artistry and portrayal of withered, weakened, and raw humanity.

Edmondson: And a play about brokenness, a play about a kingdom being broken, here we’ve got a broken crown and a feeling that the whole thing is going to break and tear apart.

Wyatt: I do remember a decisive moment in the 8-inch model in which I was really struggling with these ideas of composition, and it only worked in the moment when I bifurcated and made the prongs.

Edmondson: As if the whole thing had just been struck by lightning, which is sort of what happens in Lear on the heath, isn’t it? In his mind. And the flintiness of what it means to have a broken kingdom, too, is captured in these shards I suppose.

Wyatt: Well, shatters.

Edmondson: Yes—shatters, fragments.

Wyatt: I used, actually, glass in the initial model—glass and cut wood and plaster cast to sharpen the edges of these things as if they came from a shattered vase or something.

Wells: The Fool, of course, is a very important character in the play, a sort of symbolic realization of the foolishness, the folly of Lear. It is interesting that the Fool disappears halfway through the play, at the time when Lear actually goes mad. The Fool has almost entered into Lear, and so he’s no longer required to be onstage.

Edmondson: Well here, he’s right on inside of Lear’s head on this side. The side of Lear’s head looks like an enormous ear—

Wyatt: Whispering, yes.

Edmondson: —symbolizing the folly that’s entered into Lear’s head and turned him mad.

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