2477. King Lear’s daughter

Stacey-Lee couldn’t believe it. She had just got out of Drama School and the city’s biggest theatre company had cast her as Cordelia in Shakespeare’s “King Lear”.

Stacey-Lee was shocked. The most beautiful princess in all of Shakespeare! The most tragic! The drama character that if one didn’t play the part in one’s youth then one would never play it at all. How she got the part Stacey-Lee would never know. She had been selected from quite a large group of applicants. Perhaps it was because she loved the play and already knew Cordelia’s lines off by heart.

”I cannot heave my heart into my mouth.”

Opening night began. Anyone who was anyone was in the audience. Half of Hollywood was there – the other half was somewhere else. It was billed as perhaps the greatest production of the season.

The curtains open. King Lear asked his three daughters (including the two ugly ones) to profess their love and he would divide his kingdom accordingly. When it came to Cordelia’s turn, Stacey-Lee couldn’t remember the lines. Instead of saying “I cannot heave my heart into my mouth” all she could think of was “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” So she said that instead.

The next three hours (as one critic put it) was an absolute triumph of improvisation.


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