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 18

    Gonorill: Matthew Krist
    Cornwall: Jason Gray
    French Ambassador: Phil Borg
    Cornwall's Servant: David Kynaston

    The Queen's Men Dramaturgy: Medley Style (Sc. 18)

    120Read about the Queen's medley style in Scene 15

    The scene raised some titters occasionally but I always felt it left the audience feeling as confused as the Ambassador. The opening of the scene has a stately quality as Cornwall and the French Ambassador adopt the language of courtly diplomacy (TLN 1375-1390). Gonorill then leads the Ambassador into a series of misunderstandings through comic double-talk. The humor depends on our knowledge of her hatred for Cordella and the Ambassador's ignorance of the same. It proved extremely difficult to make these obvious jokes funny in performance. The comedy might have worked better if the audience had been aligned sympathetically with the queen and the Ambassador had been in some way deserving of her trickery, but this was not the case. In our production, we tried to make the Ambassador a figure of fun, Phil Borg gave him a slightly gormless quality and he was dressed with a floppy red hat but it never really worked. Making him too ridiculous in order to encourage laughter would have undermined the gravity subsequent scenes in which he is insulted and struck by Ragan.

    As vehicle for comic business the scene failed in our performance, but perhaps the Queen's Men were using comic devices to create an affect beyond simple laughter. Perhaps the queen's equivocation was intended to be unsettling here rather than amusing? The comic device worked not to create laughter but to make the audience uncomfortable in an upside-down world of rhetorical slapstick. The scene is perhaps a sign of the company's willingness to experiment with theatrical and rhetorical tropes in order to create a wide variety of performance experiences, what McMillin and MacLean describe as their medley style.

    Read about Queen's Men medley style in later scenes

    Performing Cornwall (Sc. 18)

    Read about performing Cornwall in Scene 12

    In this scene Cornwall shows sincere concern for Leir and conducts himself as an effective statesmen with the Gallian Ambassador. The audience knows that he is being duped by his wife, but this scene marked another step towards the more serious interpretation of the character Gray developed for the later scenes.

    Read more about performing Cornwall

    [[ Resource not found ]]Watch video of Scene 18 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.)