My Poor Fool Is Hang’d

Let’s talk about King Lear for a second, since I’m in the middle of watching a new production (that I’ll be posting about shortly).

We all know the deal with Fool.  He disappears halfway through the play. There’s that one line “my poor fool is hang’d” at the end.  It’s generally interpreted that Cordelia / Fool were doubled, and that Lear, who is sitting before Cordelia’s hanged corpse, is referring to her as his fool.

That leaves it up to the director.  Many interpretations show the actual death of the character, presumably to give the audience some closure (“Wait, the fool was hanged? When was that, I missed it!”)  Isn’t it the McKellen version that shows Fool left behind, surrounded by enemy soldiers, and hanged right there on screen?  Not a fan of that scene.

I know a production where Gloucester and Kent forget about Fool when they take Lear, leaving him to die in the storm.  Between the two I think I like that ending better.  The former has an element of “humanity is deliberately violent toward each other. The latter is more “humanity can too easily forget each other.”

How else have you seen it done?  Do you prefer to leave it the way Shakespeare wrote it, with no resolution to Fool’s fate?

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