Journal Article

‘Humanity must perforce prey upon itself like monsters of the deep’: <i>King Lear</i> and the Urban Gangster Movie

Yvonne Griggs

in Adaptation

Volume 1, issue 2, pages 121-139
Published in print September 2008 | ISSN: 1755-0637
Published online September 2008 | e-ISSN: 1755-0645 | DOI:
‘Humanity must perforce prey upon itself like monsters of the deep’: King Lear and the Urban Gangster Movie

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Since the 1940s there has been an ongoing and fertile intertextual relationship between cinema's popular gangster genre and the ‘high art’ works of Shakespeare. However, whilst consideration of films that lend a gangster twist to Macbeth and Richard III have become part of the critical landscape, little work has been undertaken in relation to the cinematic appropriation of King Lear as gangster movie, despite its thematic and ideological parallels with a certain type of gangster film. This article examines the textual transactions taking place between Shakespeare's King Lear and the gangster genre; it explores not only the ways in which Lear's story is shaped in accordance with the cinematic codes and conventions of the gangster genre, but how the gangster genre has evolved in response to the mythical Lear narrative.

Keywords: Intertextuality; genre; tragedy; gangster; film; King Lear

Journal Article.  10272 words. 

Subjects: Film ; Television ; Literature

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