Goodreads: King Lear
Approaching old age, King Lear determines to divide his kingdom among his daughters. But is a king still a king when he has given up all the trappings of royalty? Gareth Hinds adapts one of Shakespeare’s most well-known tragedies.
Gareth Hinds presents what seems to be a scholarly adaptation of what some consider Shakespeare’s best tragedy. Complete with a preface about variations between the Quarto and Folio versions, a dramatis personae, and endnotes about the changes and excisions made, the work seems poised to save students everywhere from failing their Shakespeare exams. But the seriousness of the text raises it above a study guide. It’s clear that Hinds respects his source material and wants to present it in a way that’s both accessible and beautiful. And he succeeds.
This adaptation does not have the rich colors of Hinds’s Romeo and Juliet, but it’s still in full color and Hinds makes some interesting stylistic choices sure to raise questions in the attentive reader. The play begins in pastels but will encompass a variety of illustrations, including pages that are mostly white space and scenes shown as negatives. Black-and-white drawings end the tale. Each choice contributes a certain mood to the story, even if sometimes it seems like the message is too blatant. “Bad stuff is happening here!” cry the negative drawings.
Some of the action becomes so cluttered that Hinds unfortunately has to provide lines to show the progression of the story. This, assuredly, is not the best layout option for a graphic novel; you want the scenes to flow without such obvious markers. I’m not sure if we could argue that even these lines provide some sort of meaning to the story. We’re all lost and confused like Lear? We’re directionless without the king? The world has gone crazy and what used to have meaning no longer does? I guess we could stretch our interpretive powers, but it seems as if we shouldn’t have to.
Altogether, however, the book does a nice job illustrating the story and suggesting to readers the power the play can have. Readers new to drama often need time to learn how to stage the plays in their heads, how to hear the emotions, how to read the stage directions implicit in the dialogue. The graphic novel brings this life.