The Tragedy of King Lear (screenplay)

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"The Tragedy of King Lear" is an unpublished screenplay by Harold Pinter (1930–2008), the 2005 Nobel Laureate in Literature. Is Pinter's adaptation of Shakespeare's play King Lear for the screen, which was commissioned by actor and director Tim Roth for a film that Roth planned to direct. Pinter completed the screenplay in 2000. It is not yet filmed. It is one of only three screenplays that Pinter adapted from another dramatist's play; the others being his screenplay adaptation of Butley, by his good friend Simon Gray (Gale, Films 2) and Sleuth originally written for the stage by Anthony Shaffer.

Roth told the Independent in February 2000, before Pinter completed the screenplay, "This is a very hefty piece, to say the least, and I'm not interested in a bunch of people standing around a castle talking. … What Harold Pinter will do is rearrange, cut and then turn it from a stage piece into cinema."[1]

Commenting on how "active" were their plans to film King Lear, Roth's coproducer Dixie Linder told her interviewer actress Lysette Anthony, in their interview for Vivid Magazine: "it's so difficult. We've got this amazing A-list cast, and Harold Pinter adapted it. But the problem is no one really wants to do [a film of] Shakespeare at the moment. It's expensive. Everyone says 'Well, you know, it's a tragedy. . .' In fact my favourite comment on this script was 'it's very downbeat. . .' And I said, It was a tragedy to begin with!!! I mean did you think we were going to re-write it and make it a comedy?" (Anthony 128).

Manuscripts and typedrafts for this work and related correspondence pertaining to it are part of The Harold Pinter Archive in the British Library. Based on those materials, this unpublished and unfilmed screenplay is discussed briefly by Pinter's official authorised biographer, Michael Billington (408–9), who points out that Pinter completed it in March 2000, and, in passing, by Steven H. Gale, in his introduction to his edited collection of essays The Films of Harold Pinter (2) and, also relatively briefly, in his book Sharp Cut (370–72), citing an 88-page typedraft.


  1. ^ Qtd. in Pinter's webpage for the film also states that at the time, Roth was "working with Dixie Linder, the producer of his directorial debut about incest, The War Zone, with whom he formed the company Roth-Linder Productions (Anthony 128).


External links[edit]

  • "The Tragedy of King Lear" in "Films by Harold Pinter" at The Official Website of the International Playwright Harold Pinter.