King Lear

Infinite Monkey Syndrome

Date: 2012
Posted by: James R. Ford
Cast: Not given
Credits: Produced by James R. Ford
Duration: 1.30

A few months ago it was reported that US programmer Jesse Anderson had set up a virtual set of some millions of monkeys (using Hadoop), all of them tying at random on virtual typewriters, and had managed produce something that was 99.99% Shakespeare – the first text to be achieved in this way being ‘A Lover’s Complaint’. Anderson had cut corners however, because every time the random typing came up with words that roughly matched something from the Shakespeare canon then they would be retained, if not then discarded. With this and other constraints, Anderson could achieve his goal. The purely random production of Shakespeare by an infinite number of monkeys remains something for the philosophers and theoretical mathematicians.

Or for a videomaker. This droll piece, made by British artist James R. Ford, is an extract from a 9 minutes 8 second loop (therefore designed in principle to run forever). It shows us a woman in a monkey suit, typing Shakespeare, as the tags to the video tell us, because otherwise we would not know (a photograph of the typewriter on the artist’s website indicates that only gibberish has been produced – so far). Is is a Shakespeare video? I say that it is – and so it is (and just to make the point this post has been tagged with all of the plays and poems). A video to watch, infinitely.

Jesse Anderson explains more about his project on this video:

Vimeo page
BBC online news item on Jesse Anderson’s project
Jesse Anderson’s Million Monkeys Project
James R. Ford’s personal website


Date: 2009
Posted by: lavamatic
Cast: not visible
Credits: Made by Jeffrey Weeter
Duration: 5.14

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this, but it’s different and quite hypnotic. The filmmaker (Chicago-based intermedia artist and audio engineer Jeffrey Weeter) has taken sequences from the 1910 Italian silent film Re Lear (King Lear), and then zoomed in on action from the edges of the frame only, so that all you see are feet and the hems of cloaks. The mysterious action is interspersed with titles that read ‘something selfish’, ‘something similar’, ‘something scandalous’ etc., while fitful pieces of music play over the top. It is something rich and strange. Weeter tells us:

“Lear” is a different look. It focuses the information analyzed in the periphery. A narrative unfolds as threads of content are connected and pattern is established. Where there is compression there is also expansion. It is looking at you, vast-expanse-of-art-and-technology-across-history.

Well, I’m not sure that any narrative unfolds at all, still less that compression means expansion. But the sheer elusive of the exercise exerts a real fascination, and it shows how interesting Shakespeare can become in a filmmaker’s hands when they do not feel compelled to tell a story.

Vimeo page
Jeffrey Weeter

Shakespeare Shakedown

Date: 2007
Posted by: justjill
Cast: Not given
Credits: Produced by Patrik Fleming and Jill Blum
Duration: 6.63

An enjoyable skit from a Shakespeare class at the University of Baltimore, in which Gladys and Lorraine gossip about Ophelia and Gertude, the Macbeths’ marital disharmony and the three witches’ skin care problems, and King Lear, interspersed with advertisements for the King Lear Guide to Retirement Planning and Rid-a-Kin, the ideal poison for troublesome relatives. Some audio problems along the way, but bitchy fun.

YouTube page
Internet Archive page


Date: 2005
Posted by: mf99
Credits: The credits, in MTV Style, say “Lear”, by Wilson Mccutchan, on Phat Phish Records
Cast: David Mclean (King Lear), Chris Teolis (Cordelia), Kevin Hagino (The Fool), James Mangan (Stunt Lear), Andrew McConnon (Regan), Victor Wong (Goneril), Wilson Mccutchan (Lead Vocal)
Duration: 7.07

A first-rate parody of the video for Eminem’s ‘Stan’, changing the story from that of an obsessed fan who writes repeatedly to Eminem before killing himself and his girlfriend, to King Lear writing to his daughter Cordelia (“Dear Cordelia, I wrote to you, but you still ain’t calling, hope there’s not a problem, I sent two letters to France in autumn…”), complete with the sample from Dido’s ‘Thank You’ to intercut the familiar tale of ‘drama, violence and death’. It works ingeniously well, finding adroit parallels in these two tales of disordered passion, maybe even offering some insight into the psychodrama that is King Lear.

The original ‘Stan’ video, directed by Phil Atwell and Dr. Dre in 2001
YouTube page

Meerkat Playhouse – King Lear

Date: 2008
Posted by: ronh100
Credits: Created by ronh100
Duration: 1.36

A palpably weird animated video in which three meerkats give us a reading from King Lear, Act 2 Scene 2 (“thou art a boil, A plague-sore, an embossed carbuncle, In my corrupted blood…”). One meerkat announces the scene, one reads Lear’s words, one shares the words of Goneril and Regan. Its creator ronh100 specialises in animated heads, usually of famous or iconic figures, singing songs or making variously bizarre statements. Here there seems to be no better reason for meerkats to be giving a reading of King Lear than that is not what you would ever expect of meerkats. Or King Lear.

YouTube page