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King Lear (1982) TV Movie Review (BBC)

By: Alex Phuong (Two Beers) –

*Spoiler Alert!*

William Shakespeare’s plays can be generally divided into three sub-genres, which are: historical, comedy, or tragedy. The top three tragedies that modern audiences know from the Bard are most likely Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and Hamlet. Out of all of the plays that Shakespeare wrote, which one is the most tragic, though? According to my “History of Theater” professor from Pasadena City College, the answer is King Lear.

A Toast!

Since this is a BBC production, the production values are incredible. The acting is strong, the costumes fit well with the dark tone of the original play, and this TV movie is once again another fantastic film that honors the brilliance of who is perhaps the greatest dramatist of all time. The British Broadcasting Corporation really knows how to adapt publications from British authors!

Beer Two

*Spoiler Alert!*

This is not really a criticism of this film, but more of a content warning. The plot is depressing, there are multiple deaths, a few violent moments, and many of the characters are melancholic throughout the entire play/film.

Also, this might sound a bit random, but the sons of Gloucester have very confusing names. Edgar and Edmund are hard to differentiate simply because their names are too similar to one another. Luckily, my Shakespeare professor at CSULA taught me a neat tip to help tell the brothers apart. Edgar is “good” because he has the letter “G” in his name, and Edmund is the “evil” bastard son because the letter “M” is the first letter in the Spanish word “mal,” which, of course, means “bad.”

*Please note that Edmund is a “bastard” in both the modern and retrospective use of that term because he is a devilish character that is also the illegitimate heir to his father’s throne.


Viewers might need tissues while watching this BBC classic because they might weep as much as King Lear does throughout what is perhaps the most depressing play that William Shakespeare wrote (and what is also perhaps one of the most depressing stories ever conceived by the human imagination).

King Lear (1982) Bonus Drinking Game

Take a Drink: every time the characters repeat themselves verbally (which is a part of Shakespeare’s rhetorical writing style)

*Spoiler* Have a Bloody Mary: when Cornwall gouges out Gloucester’s eyes during the climax in the third act of the play

And Do Not Be Sober: during every depressing moment, especially at the end

About Alex Phuong

Alex Andy Phuong earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from California State University-Los Angeles in 2015. His love affair with cinema began after discovering Turner Classic Movies in the summer of 2004. His favorite film director is Woody Allen, and his favorite movie star is Kate Winslet.

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