Composers and their stage works 

Seven Lears

Howard Barker

The education of a king is the theme of Seven Lears, Barker's imaginative "version" of Shakespeare's original. Barker's Lear, trying desperately to be a good king in the midst of war and intrigue, shuttles between his lover Prudentia and his wife Clarissa, Prudentia's daughter. Prudentia bolsters Lear with her endless desire for him, Clarissa reassures him with her clarity of motive and her leadership in war. Lear veers wildly between conscience and cruelty. The gaol, a collective of the unjustly imprisoned, is always at hand to remind him of the poor, but he orders merciless slaughter after a battle. He confers the dukedom of Gloucester on a beggar, but orders his most able minister to become his Fool and sanctions the execution of Prudentia at the prompting of Clarissa. Building on an old legend, Barker has Lear attempt to fly, but he only causes the death of a boy of whom he was very fond. He tries to drown Cordelia in a vat of gin and finishes playing chess with Kent, whom he hates. His desire for truth and honesty have caused only mayhem and unhappiness.