‘King Lear’ Gets a New Twist in ‘Fool’

By Alissa Vecchio

Elm Staff Writer

“Fool” is Chris Moore’s retelling of Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” Old and tired Lear is stepping down from the throne and distributing the kingdom of Britain among his three daughters, aggressive Goneril, ruthless Regan and virtuous Cordelia. But there’s a catch: the daughters are asked to express just how much they love their father, and the wrong answer could send him over the edge, and a certain daughter into banishment.  The sisters must ultimately compete for their father’s love (and land), risking everything they have and jeopardizing their futures.  Throw in a loyal nobleman by the name of Gloucester, whose illegitimate son, Edmund, is causing all sorts of trouble between Goneril and Regan, and the two families’ affairs (literally) explode.

Amidst a classic case of sibling rivalry driven by a hunger for power that leads to much drama and many frivolous deaths, Moore adds his own personal, 21st century flair; scenes are added and he does not do a retelling of the paint-by-numbers variety.  The story is told through the voice of Pocket, King Lear’s court jester, and immediately turns tragedy into comedy.  Being serious is not one of Moore’s trademarks, and this much is evident in Fool.  He’s all for poking fun at the bad and the ugly, utilizing sarcasm to its highest degree in the most typical tragic settings.

“Fool” is brilliant in its charisma and characterization.  Moore’s writing style is like no other: catchy, humorous, snarky, vulgar and ridiculous all in one.  It’s almost guaranteed to make you laugh, even at the story’s worst moments. The bottoms of nearly every page contain sarcastic and informative footnotes detailing words and phrases, providing pure entertainment; they keep the reader engaged not necessarily in the story, but in the general premise.  (For instance, “sirrah,” as Pocket’s footnote explains, is the equivalent of addressing someone as “dude.”)

The characters speak for themselves – in the way they act, talk and interact; they have clear, distinct personalities that come alive and are anything but dull.  Moore takes Shakespeare’s original “Lear” cast and accentuates their quirky, and quite possibly crazy, personalities through witty dialogue and obscene plot twists, both of which act as catalysts for the ridiculousness of the story’s events.

While the plot does drag a bit, such moments do not last long.  Moore’s pace is typically fast and witty at all times. But there’s such a thing as too witty, and Moore pushes that limit to an extreme length. The vulgarity and wit seem overdone at parts, taking away from, and overshadowing, the actual plot.  Pocket often babbles and adds commentary where commentary is unneeded.  He also gets his own story, which does not always blend in nicely with the rest of the plot; instead it comes off as an intermission of sorts to Lear’s story.  His footnotes then turn into paragraphs, which only makes them drawn out and distracting.  Don’t feel bad for skipping a few and returning to them later.

Still, “Fool” is extremely unique and entertaining as a retelling of “King Lear.  Shakespeare fan or not, it is an enjoyable, humorous story.

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