In my project of reading the complete works of Shakespeare this year (currently at 33 down, 5 to go), I read King Lear for a second time. Something that struck me is just how complementary the five most sympathetic male characters are. I was reminded of the Five Man Band trope, which shows itself in numerous stories and films.
I think a modern movie or TV series based on Lear’s five man band could be quite good. Picture an ongoing series of conflicts in a large story arc, where their dynamic strengths and weaknesses both contribute to their success while often hindering them (not very original, that), could make for excellent episodic storytelling.
Consider these character notes:
Lear: Out of touch with reality from betrayal brought on by his own shallow pride when (he was younger, here). When lucid, he’s brilliant and fierce, though wracked with remorse. Often, though, he falls victim to fugues of emotional breakdown. Fallen from a position of power before the story started.
Kent: Disguised, unknown to Lear: serves Lear despite Lear foolishly hurting him in an earlier wrath (years before, in our version), before insanity. Wants to save the old man; doesn’t (consciously) blame him for the assault and subsequent bad fortune. Loves Lear from empathy for the role fate has played in his fall, and from seeing him used and abused by those he loved and trusted. Has to balance desire to protect and nurture this father-figure with occasionally dealing with repressed anger over the suffering he endured at his hands–though, again, he doesn’t hold Lear fully responsible for his actions.
Edgar: Like Kent, disguised; like Lear, out of touch with reality, but Edgar only superficially so–pretends it. Betrayed by a villain in league with those who ousted Lear, he hides under society’s radar for his own life’s sake.
Gloucester: Nobly stood against villainous conspiracy, but not before they had done great damage–blinded and cast out for it. Aided by Edgar, his son in secret disguise. As Kent doesn’t blame Lear, Edgar doesn’t blame Gloucester, but guilt eats G up for falling fool to manipulation earlier. Edgar can’t reveal himself, though, without further endangering G, so he must keep his identity hidden to protect his father, even though mourning for the loss of his son hurts G terribly.
Fool: most mysterious of all; partly cynical, very reticent and wise–no obvious enemies or motivation, but loyally stays with band and counsels them, though often in seemingly cruel ways. No one knows his true background before he served under Lear in his previous position of power, though his wisdom and skills often hint at impressive private experiences.
Doesn’t that sound good? There’s a parallel dynamic with father-son themes (one literal, one metaphorical), with the Fool as an independent 5th wheel…an unknown quantity in a pack of rogues trying to do something good in a world that has already rejected all of them in some way.
Basically, it could be Scooby-Doo or The A-Team, by way of Masterpiece Theater.