When living in a world with an array of differing opinions, beliefs, perspectives, and values, adaptations of original pieces are very common. However, there are no specific guidelines to determine what categorizes an article, film, play, etc. as an adaptation. Does a certain percent of plot events from the original have to be incorporated into adaptations? Should adaptations always be easily recognizable for the audience? These are the types of questions that encouraged analysis as I watched Godard’s 1987 version of King Lear. As a recent reader of the original King Lear, I noticed that the majority of the plot had gone missing. For example, the presence of Goneril and Regan in the film, the formal division of land/power, Gloucester’s loss of sight, the brotherly dispute between Edmond and Edgar, Lear’s death, and the list continues. Yet, Shakespeare Jr. was convinced that ninety-nine percent of the play had been rediscovered. Does this mean that King Lear and Cordelia’s relationship is all that is truly important? Personally, this made it very difficult to understand the context of the story line that Godard’s version of King Lear delivered as his version simplified the original’s complexity to a single relationship, King Lear and Cordelia’s father-daughter relationship.
According Lianne Habinek in A Question, an Answer, and a Death, she states that Peter Sellars released the secret that Godard had not actually read King Lear except for the first three and last three pages. Even though this may not be true, it does possibly explain Godard’s thought process when curating this adaptation. Could this be why Godard’s adaptation focuses on King Lear and Cordelia’s relationship? The first and final scenes represent the main events in Godard’s adaptation perfectly; Cordelia’s original failure to profess her love to her father and her innocent death at the end of the tragedy. Without additional relationships and interactions with other original characters from the play depicted within the film, Godard created an adaptation that is dedicated to telling the story of power (King Lear) vs. virtue (Cordelia). The question now is, does this simplified version fully capture and recite the full message that William Shakespeare originally delivered?
Hutcheon in Beginning to Theorize Adaptation states that adaptation is “repetition without replication”. Hutcheon points out three specific components of adaptations: product, recreation, and reception. These stages refer to the transition to a different medium, the reinterpretation and recreation of a piece, and how the audience understands the adaptation. Even though Godard’s adaptation is a widely accepted piece, I personally still question whether his adaptation embodies the whole message that Shakespeare portrayed to us within his play. Yes, Godard’s adaptation is a product that transitioned into a new medium and was creatively reinterpreted but does it receive positive reception from its audience? When comparing the play to Godard’s film, I believe the play provided more contextual elements that increased tension and excitement for readers. However, this adaptation changes my perception because it now makes me question whether the relationship between King Lear and Cordelia is the ninety-nine percent that viewers need to understand Shakespeare’s message. The message being that virtue trumps power. Discussion Questions: In the play, were the other characters and events distractions/extras? Can Godard’s film be considered an accurate adaptation due to its extreme simplicity? Or does it not matter?