The Madness of George III is a masterpiece of storytelling. It covers a short period—the summer of 1788 to the winter of 1789. As George III developed a host of agonizing bodily ailments and took leave of his senses, the Prince of Wales, courtiers and parliamentarians all tried to take advantage of the unstable political situation.
Tom McCamus as George III captures the physical torment, the mania, and the horror of being treated by physicians whose methods were primitive at best and brutal at worst. Machiavelli could have written the script for the conduct of the entourage that sought to benefit at the King’s expense.
It’s an intense play, with moments of humour and endearment. The humour stems from the ministrations, musings, and examinations by the physicians. The endearment is present between “Mr. and Mrs. King”, Queen Charlotte and King George III, who first met on their wedding day. They developed an enduring love that produced fifteen children. Unlike the regents before him, George III was known to be a faithful husband.
The Madness of George III is one of four Shaw plays that will linger in my memory. The other three are: Saint Joan, Middletown, and 1837: The Farmers’ Revolt. With only one more play to see, I can declare it’s been a fine season. Thank you Shaw Festival.
The Madness of George III is playing at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-On-The-Lake until October 15, 2017.
Bonnie Lendrum is the author of Autumn’s Grace, the story of how one family manages the experience of palliative care with hope and humor despite sibling conflicts, generational pulls and career demands. Autumn’s Grace is a powerful commentary on the need for well-organized and well-funded palliative care in private homes and in residential hospices. It’s a gift to friends and family who want to prepare themselves to help fulfill the final wishes of someone they love.