The third of May, 2011: I fear I am not in my perfect mind

A favourite film scene, revisited this weekend thanks to Film4.

From The Madness Of King George (Nicholas Hytner, 1994). Here’s the play, starting from where Thurlow (the excellent John Wood) takes over as Cordelia:

CORDELIA

O you kind gods,
Cure this great breach in his abused nature!
The untuned and jarring senses, O, wind up
Of this child-changed father!

The screenplay (by Alan Bennett) then leaves out a few lines, and resumes with Greville as the doctor:

Doctor

Be by, good madam, when we do awake him;
I doubt not of his temperance.

Another cut, now to Cordelia:

CORDELIA

O my dear father! Restoration hang
Thy medicine on my lips; and let this kiss
Repair those violent harms that my two sisters
Have in thy reverence made!

Another cut (so we lose, among other things, the line ‘Was this a face/ To be opposed against the warring winds?/ To stand against the deep dread-bolted thunder?’, but it’s all to the good), and Cordelia goes on:

How does my royal lord? How fares your majesty?

Cue Hawthorne masterclass:

KING LEAR

You do me wrong to take me out o’ the grave:
Thou art a soul in bliss; but I am bound
Upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears
Do scald like moulten lead.

Short cut. Then:

Pray, do not mock me:
I am a very foolish fond old man…

… And, to deal plainly,
I fear I am not in my perfect mind.

Here’s a little historical background on Francis Willis, the doctor who butts in at this point (‘a man of ten thousand; open, honest, dauntless, light-hearted, innocent, and high-minded’).

Fulke Greville, the equerry, doesn’t make it into the DNB (though many of his compulsively (and compellingly) diarising relations do). Of the devious Thurlow, on the other hand, we know a great deal: he was probably, for instance, the father of an illegitimate child; his debating style earned him the nickname ‘Tiger’; and Charles James Fox said of him that ‘no man could be so wise as Thurlow looked’.

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