Article Title

"Where's my Fool?": Lear Motifs in Rigoletto


Barbara Berry


Several times during his career, Verdi considered writing an opera on King Lear, discussing his ideas with his librettists as to how the play should be adapted. Each time, for different reasons, he abandoned the project, twice in favor of a play by Victor Hugo. Nevertheless, the powerful main character and varied dramatic situations in King Lear continued to engage his interest, while, at the same time, the sheer size and scope of the play seemed to have inhibited him from realizing it as an opera. This article explores the psychological mechanisms that prevented Verdi from how writing an opera on the play that so interested him over many years, and proposes that Rigoletto, based on Hugo’s play Le Roi s’amuse can be considered as a transformed King Lear. The discussion centers on the techniques of coherence in the two works, how the ‘Fate’ motif in the opera is comparable to literary motifs in King Lear, and how both works share what are described as “hermetically sealed spaces” in which much of the central action unfolds.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.