QueenʼsMen Editions

About this text

  • Title: King Leir
  • Author: Peter Cockett

  • Copyright Queen's Men Editions. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Peter Cockett
    Peer Reviewed

    King Leir

    King Leir, Scene 13

    Cordella: Julian DeZotti

    Queen's Men Dramaturgy: Narrative Over-Determination (Sc. 13)

    Read about narrative over-determination in Scene 11

    Scene 13 is another short soliloquy inserted between two scenes that provides the audience with largely unnecessary information. The fact that the playwright returns to this device repeatedly suggests he felt it important to repeat plot points and to keep the audience engaged with characters that they have not seen for a while. Here we find Cordella in a state of great happiness longing only for reconciliation with her father. Her soliloquy reminds the audience of her plight and raises expectations about the action to come. Such soliloquies also serve the basic function of clearing the stage and allowing an indefinite time to pass in which other actions in the story can take place. When we return to Britain, Leir has finished his journey to Ragan.

    Read more about narrative over-determination

    Performing Cordella (Sc. 13)

    Read about performing Cordella in Scene 7

    Probably the hardest scene that Julian had to play in the entire SQM repertoire, the sequence begins with Cordella's self-criticism with respect to her Christian duty and it ends with her forgiveness of those who have previously caused her suffering. Most twenty-first-century actors find it difficult to engage with such religiously motivated sentiment. Indeed, playing the good characters in these plays is far more challenging today than playing the wicked ones. Despite the relatively foreign affective register, the monologue has an arc to its structure that a modern actor should find quite playable: Cordella moves from a display of pious gratitude to God and wifely devotion to her husband to a brief complaint against her father and then her sisters only to conclude by forgiving them and determining to go to church to pray for her father's favor. The monologue has a clear and active emotional journey, but displays of modesty, humble gratitude, and forgiveness are not often featured in the modern actor's repertoire nor are they behaviors highly valued by popular culture, which places more value on confidence, self-sufficiency, and revenge. Working on this scene, I tried to encourage Julian to see her forgiveness as an active choice and a sign of strength. Cordella feels bitterness and resentment towards her sisters but masters these negative emotions through forgiveness, dedicating herself instead to prayer and faith in God's divine providence.

    Read more about performing Cordella

    Watch video of Scene 13 on the Performing the Queen's Men website. (The video footage is password protected. Click on "Cancel" in the pop-up window to obtain password.)

    Dramaturgy and Providence

    As a director I have been trained to view every speech as an action linked in a causal chain that carries the plot from beginning to end. Actors are trained to study their characters' objectives and treat each line, word, or gesture as a tactic used to achieve those objectives, thus turning conversation into active dialogue that drives the plot through to its conclusion. King Leir's emphasis on divine providence reduces the characters' agency, making them subject to the will of God who is the prime manipulator of events and ultimately responsible for the happy resolution of the plot. At certain moments, such as this one, characters put themselves into God's hands, an action of sorts, but one that is far removed from the action heroes that fill popular culture today. In retrospect, a better understanding of the paradoxes of early modern providential thought would have helped us here. Cordella has to find the strength of will to do what she knows God expects her to do. The human struggle is still there to be played in spite of the belief that God has determined the course of action from the start.

    Watch video of Scene 13 on the Performing the Queen's Men website. (The video footage is password protected. Click on "Cancel" in the pop-up window to obtain password.)