During Act 4 of a production of King Lear in Toronto, Arthur Leander (playing the lead role) stumbles around on stage with three young girls, one of whom is Kirsten Raymonde. Suddenly, Arthur fumbles his line and clutches his chest; he is having a heart attack. In the audience, Jeevan, a man who is training to be a paramedic, notices what is happening and rushes towards the stage. As the play begins to devolve and the audience starts to panic, Jeevan attempts CPR on the unconscious, not-breathing Arthur.
From the onset of the novel, Shakespeare, theatre, and death are all introduced. This scene contains three of the book’s major characters whose lives, by chance or by fate, meet in this dramatic moment. Like most of the primary characters in the novel, they’re connected through Arthur. Jeevan’s effort to save Arthur’s life shows how characters often rely on the help of others for survival.
A cardiologist from the audience takes over for Jeevan while they wait for an ambulance to arrive. When the medics attempt (and fail) to save Arthur’s life, Jeevan comforts Kirsten and attempts to distract her from Arthur’s death. The two then start to look for Tanya, Kirsten’s wrangler and Arthur’s latest girlfriend.
Arthur’s death is at once personal and a spectacle. His death has a personal impact on the people he knows, like Kirsten, who needs comfort from Jeevan. But the death also occurs on stage, so it is almost like a performance.
After finding Tanya, Jeevan looks for his own girlfriend Laura in the lobby. He is unable to locate her, and so he steps outside and briefly talks with the paparazzi, his former colleagues. He informs them that he is training to be an EMT, and pretends not to know what has happened to Arthur in detail. After finding out that Laura has left him at the show, Jeevan dejectedly wanders into a park in the snow.
The presence of the paparazzi reinforces Arthur’s death as a public spectacle. Mandel seems to be criticizing civilization and its obsession with celebrity and gossip here. Jeevan, a former paparazzo himself, fights against this aspect of civilization by changing careers and omitting information when talking to his former colleagues.