I was lying in the sun, visiting with friends on an island in Georgian Bay, when I hit upon the idea of a Native Peoples Lear, either Amerindian or Eskimo; a non-Christian semi-oriental culture introduced to America across the Bering land-bridge and reaching back centuries before the coming of the Europeans, perhaps as far back as the stone age. I settled quite quickly on an arctic Lear situated on top of the world, Eskimo rather than Indian, because of an extra sense of bleak removal and heightened universality. Above the tree line, in the far north, the shapes were more organic, more abstract, an endless horizon shaped by the wind. As Gloucester says 'for many miles about / there's not a bush' (II, iv, 299-300). And the key-word that echoes throughout King Lear is 'nothing'.Gardner discusses the problems in making an Eskimo King Lear. Then he tells how it played:
It was not just another production of King Lear dressed in a safe and borrowed tradition. There were risks involved for players and audience alike. For Canadians, at the time, it meant for a moment that we had made one of the great plays in the classic repertoire our own. There was a thrill to that and I think something almost metaphoric in the choice of setting. We live along a northern frontier. Winter exposure can mean death or madness. As members of a small, proud nation, Canadians (like King Lear) have tasted the threat of being shoved aside, exiled and forgotten. We know, too, a lot about the selfish cruelty of small-mindedness.