KING LEAR: Hand-Drafted Design Project

written by william shakespeare


Original Synopsis: During the 1600's of Britain, King Lear slowly turns mad after trying to split his kingdom among his three daughter based on their fatherly love for him. His two eldest daughters are blinded by greed while his youngest daughter remains pure and honest. 

Cil's New Synopsis: During the 1650's of Qing Dynasty, China, Emperor Kangxi regrets splitting his power and land with three           princes: Wu Sangui, Shang Kexi, & Geng Jimao who try to overpower him. Similar to King Lear, their version is inspired by China's historic "Revolt of the Three Feudatories Revolt". 

Ground plan of Acts 1-2

The throne platform is a wagon that can be moved on and off stage. The stage floor is elevated to emphasize the height of the throne and the emperor's status. The grand doors, backdrops, and decorative borders are hung in the fly system. Off stage lies the shed that is used in the third act. Four partitions are set on wheels to enable various formations to define the space.

Ground plan of Acts 3-5

In the fly system is a semicircular tent that can be turned 180 degrees to show the inside and outside of the tent. The lattice lamp above casts dark shadows on Gloucester when he is tortured in the play. In the upstage there is a landscape backdrop for the outdoor scenes.

Final Color Model

White Model


To determine the theme and design of Emperor Kangxi's palace, Priscilla researched the symbols used during the Qing Dynasty. They were inspired by the Fu symbol, fire, sun, and dragon to represent the emperor and each prince. The five main elements were also an influence.

They also researched authentic wine vessels, currency, and musical instruments to embellish the emperor's riches and interior palace. To replace the trumpets and drums mentioned in the script, she believed that bronze bells would be appropriate for the Emperor Kangxi's grand entrance.

Lattice screens were an inspiration because they could cast geometric shadows when lit from behind. Also, Chinese architecture was very elaborate with engraved lacquer furniture and various lattice windows and doors. In her initial concept, she looked up types of columns to be used for the scenes held in a hallway. The phoenix and dragon symbol was highly significant as the emperor's symbol on his banner. Its royal colors are red and gold.

When designing Edgar's room, they closely observed different types of lattice doors to recreate a bed chamber seen in 1650's China. The wave motif inspired the border design to signify Albany's castle. The lion statues were a potential set dressing for the emperor's courtroom.