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King Lear
by William Shakespeare

Completely re-edited, the New Folger Library edition of Shakespeare's King Lear is based on the best early printed edition of the play. Includes a section on reading Shakespeare's language, information on his life, explanatory notes, annotated reading lists, and a Modern Perspective essay which assesses the play in light of today's interests and concerns.


Topic: October: King Lear (4 of 41), Read 62 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Tuesday, October 01, 2002 12:36 PM This is my first reading of KING LEAR. I was taken right in and even without seeing it I was very moved. I could have done without Gloucester’s maiming, though. The opening scene suggests that King Lear is a “yes man” monarch and has a penchant for flattery and unquestioning obedience. On my cynical hand I think: don’t they all? It comes with royal territory. On the other hand I think: no, most leaders have better judgement than that. Lear is particularly flawed to misread his own kin so utterly. Also, his daughters’ attitudes toward him suggest that he was not a great leader. Even Cordelia, the loyal one, doesn’t give him a good review. The others just hide their loathing, probably a long standing choice. It causes me to wonder what kind of reign Lear had. Most likely tyrannically tinged. After a President leaves office it must be a blow for him to discover how much of the “high regard” was due to the position of power and how much due to the individual. The character of the fool necessitates an actor to bring him to life for me. Here’s a role where interpretation is everything, it seems. On the page his humor just lays theres like a bad joke. Robt
Topic: October: King Lear (5 of 41), Read 61 times Conf: Classics Corner From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Tuesday, October 01, 2002 01:06 PM Oh my, oh my. I'm behind again. I've read this one several times, but a reread is due if I'm to say anything at all coherent. I wonder if I could read while driving. Ruth
Topic: October: King Lear (6 of 41), Read 57 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Felix Miller mighty_marvell@bellsouth.net Date: Tuesday, October 01, 2002 08:09 PM Robert said: I could have done without Gloucester’s maiming, though. Yes, well "Out, out, vile jelly!" can turn your stomach, for sure, Along with Ruth, I will have to read this again to post coherently. The physical blinding of Gloucester does parallel the mental blindness of Lear, though. Neither of them could "see" their children realistically. Lear lost his wits, so poorly used in judging his daughters, and Gloucester lost his eyes, through which he "saw" the bastard son he acknowledged in the first scene. Didn't quite see well enough, however. But I am jumping the gun. "The play's the thing!" (now I am hopping around in the plays.) Felix Miller
Topic: October: King Lear (7 of 41), Read 62 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Wednesday, October 02, 2002 04:05 AM Edmund certainly was a bastard. I was surprised that he regretted his treachery when he was dying, so black was his heart throughout the play. His final glimmer of light suggests to me that he had allowed his rage and resentment of the social inequities toward illegitimacy to corrupt an underlying decency placing the cause of his villainy at the feet of social injustice. If he had not been repentant I could have just written him off as a bad egg who exemplified the stereotype of bastard. Robt
Topic: October: King Lear (8 of 41), Read 60 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Wednesday, October 02, 2002 07:24 PM The play opens with Kent and Gloucester discussing how King Lear will divide his kingdom. They speak of two inheritors, Cornwall and Albany. Things seem to be going smoothly as it appears that Lear will divide his kingdom evenly between the two. The King enters and we find that he has three daughters and the King now says that he will divide his kingdom into three. It would seem, then, that Kent and Gloucester were expressing the rule that only a married daughter can inherit. By asking each of his three daughters to describe their love for him, Lear is looking for some justification to make an exception to the rule of inheritance. He needs to find this exception because although Cordelia has two suitors no husband has yet been chosen. Lear is anxious "to shake all cares and burdens off [his] state." We learn that it is Lear's heartfelt wish to leave the throne and live with Cordelia. As anxious as he is for this to come about, he does not force his will on Cordelia either by pressuring her to choose a husband or by forcing one on her. Even though this would mean that he could leave everything to Cordelia, or more precisely, to her husband. So Lear has shown Cordelia respect commensurate with his affection. All Cordelia has to do is go along with Lear's request as part of the formal ceremony of the division of Lear's kingdom. When Cordelia cannot bring herself to do this it strikes Lear as a betrayal of his affection and the destruction of his plans to live out his life with her and everything comes crashing down. In scene 2 Edmund enters and also mentions rules of inheritance but as they apply to him ,a bastard. He mentions the unfairness of society but he has a plan to put his father in a position to find an exception to the rules. In the letter "from Edgar" which he is "caught" reading by his father, it says that the rules of inheritance are the "oppression of aged tyranny." Although, this is a ploy by Edmund the words are ironic as we have just seen old Lear try to circumvent the laws of inheritance only to be rebuffed by his youngest daughter. Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: October: King Lear (9 of 41), Read 58 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Felix Miller mighty_marvell@bellsouth.net Date: Wednesday, October 02, 2002 08:33 PM There are many readings of any Shakespeare play, so Cordelia as the precipitating character in the tragedy is certainly defensible. I don't agree with that view, but I have been wrong so many times, it is no indicator of anything. Cordelia does remind me of another Shakespeare character who places strict virtue above other considerations. Isabella, in Measure for Measure refuses to sleep with the corrupt Angelo although the price of her brother Claudio's life is forfeit by that act. I suppose that there could be a feminist reading of both these plays, where the female refuses to play the male's game. But for me, the plays of the sixteenth and seventeenth century are best considered in light of the values of those centuries. Lear wants the perks of kingship without the responsibilities. This attitude generally results in chaos in Elizabethan drama. Think Richard II, consider how Henry V reformed in order to wipe out the excesses of Prince Hal. Monarchy may be merely pagentry for the 21st century, but it was serious government for the time in which Shakespeare wrote. The action of King Lear is precipitated by Lear's fault, not Cordelia's. Felix Miller
Topic: October: King Lear (10 of 41), Read 53 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Wednesday, October 02, 2002 10:30 PM What virtue is Cordelia trying to protect? Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: October: King Lear (11 of 41), Read 52 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Thursday, October 03, 2002 12:16 AM Honesty. Robt
Topic: October: King Lear (12 of 41), Read 51 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Thursday, October 03, 2002 02:01 AM I don't think that it would have been dishonest for her to say that she loved her father. I would say, rather, that she was concerned with the appearance of sincerity. I would compare Cordelia to Juliette rather than Isabelle. Both hold to principles while being unaware of a larger social context. This can be attributed to the fact that they are both young. In the end, both die as a result. In this case, the social context (the law of inheritance) extends beyond King Lear who is trying to find a way around it but Cordelia does not see it and sticks to a principle. Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: October: King Lear (13 of 41), Read 47 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Thursday, October 03, 2002 10:04 AM In Act 1, scene 1 I get the impression that Cordelia has a conflict about articulating something to her father; some objection. She makes two asides during her sisters’ silver-tongued insincerities: “What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent.” “Then poor Cordelia! And yet not so, since I am sure my love’s more ponderous than my tongue.” These lines suggest to me that she’s going to profess her love and nothing more, no objections and no overblown rhetoric, believing that the actual love she has for her father will communicate more effectively than what she has to say. Another reason I think Cordelia has an objection to her father, in addition to her aside about being silent beyond expressing love, is that she is unable to express anything at first, indicating internal conflict, then states: “Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave my heart into my mouth.” What is she unhappy about? She can’t say. She decides it is inappropriate to say at this time. She then professes her love for her father: “I return those duties back as are right fit: Obey you, love you, and most honor you.” The further reserve in Cordelia’s speech strikes me as having two causes. 1) She loves her father despite the fact that he has been difficult. I deduce this from Lear’s subsequent behavior and her expression of being unhappy about something. 2) She is making a point not to say that she loves her father to the exclusion of everything else, in the way her sisters have, thereby hoping to distinguish herself from the insincere flattery and dishonesty Goneril and Regan have just committed and which Cordelia finds repulsive. It is a game she refuses to play and out of respect for her father she will be candid even if it jeopardizes her inheritance. Also, she must have confidence in her relationship with the King of France to give her the courage not to flatter. I don’t think Cordelia expected her father to banish her, although she must have been all too familiar with his temper. Robt
Topic: October: King Lear (14 of 41), Read 47 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Thursday, October 03, 2002 12:18 PM "Then poor Cordelia..." being the youngest she would have always been last in order. I expect that her elder sisters were probably married in birth order and, true to form, Cordelia is the last to be married. Speaking last makes it difficult for Cordelia to sound sincere. "Unhappy that I am..." I took this to mean "I regret" or that she is uneasy in the situation or that she is unhappy about having to go last but not that she was unhappy with her father. "She is making a point not to say that she loves her father to the exclusion of everything else..." This is true but she refuses to make any expression of love at all. Her answer is "Nothing." (This is also Edmund's answer when his father asks him "What paper were you reading?" "None" would be more appropriate. sc 2 lines 30-31) All she had to do was to say openly how she truly loved her father and things would have proceeded well for everyone. Instead she holds to the proverbial principle that true love does not need words. If her inheritance were all that were at stake, it would not have been so bad but her refusal to give Lear the pretext he needs to extend the inheritance to her makes him look foolish and leaves him to face the resulting rancor of the elder sisters without refuge. Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: October: King Lear (15 of 41), Read 47 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Thursday, October 03, 2002 02:17 PM Dean, My reading is that Cordelia did profess love to her father in a reserved manner which ended up infuriating him; but she did speak of obedience, love and honor and said nothing treasonous or disrespectful. Perhaps there was a certain amount of rebellion in her answer, a refusal to comply with his elaborate requirements of verbal love, and maybe she was finished with being under his thumb and desired to rule France instead. Maybe she wanted to piss him off. However, I hold King Lear responsible for the termination of their relationship. He was the one who banished her and precluded any possibility of Cordelia taking care of him in his final years. Lear’s fit of rage was what set his own course of destruction into motion. Even more disastrous than his temper was his misjudgment of character. Labeling Cordelia the villain and the other two daughters the heroines was what really did him in. Cordelia was not responsible for Lear’s tragedy. Even if she has had gushed out an acceptable answer to the King I still think this senior citizen was headed for trouble. Robt
Topic: October: King Lear (16 of 41), Read 49 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Thursday, October 03, 2002 06:01 PM Do you pity or feel sorry for Lear ? pres, who believes A lesson in folly is worth two in wisdom.

Topic: October: King Lear (17 of 41), Read 50 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Thursday, October 03, 2002 08:00 PM Pres, I often use those terms synonymously. I definitely felt sorry for King Lear. Even though he brought some of his suffering upon himself I never felt that he deserved what happened to him. Robt

Topic: October: King Lear (18 of 41), Read 53 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Bob Markiewicz bobmark226@aol.com Date: Thursday, October 03, 2002 09:54 PM As usual, an aside from your discussion, but a word or two of what this work means to me. I've never loved it. I appreciate its greatness. I think part of the problem was that it was thrust upon me in my honors English program, in high school, at too young an age. It's an old man's play, no matter how much you dissect it. You can play with it, but you're never in the heart of it until you have some deeper understanding of the vicissitudes of age. On the other hand, I'll never forget seeing the opening of it at the NewYork State Theater at Lincoln Center. its premiere event. Paul Scofield, Irene Worth, Diana Rigg, all in serious Peter Brook leather. BOB

Topic: October: King Lear (19 of 41), Read 53 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Thursday, October 03, 2002 11:31 PM BOB says: I've never loved it. I appreciate its greatness. My feelings, though what I appreciate is its reputation of greatness. More an actors' play than a great text. A classic tragedy - the flaw that fells greatness, brings pride down. But for myself, I have to dig to find sympathy for Lear. He is not the victim of fate, he is the victim of pride. Too close to the bone. pres, who believes A lesson in folly is worth two in wisdom.

Topic: October: King Lear (20 of 41), Read 46 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Friday, October 04, 2002 01:27 PM Robert, I agree that King Lear's reaction to Cordelia response "soaked his chips." Even, if things had gone differently, the division of his kingdom was a bad idea from the start. Whether we or the stars are responsible for our fate is a theme in the play. Gloucester turns to astrology for explanations. Edmund, however, speaks against it (Act 1 sc. 2, ll. 110-124) thereby distancing himself from his father. This also made him more unsympathetic to the Elizabethan audience who were taken by this system of superstition and prejudice. Dean All roads lead to roam.

Topic: October: King Lear (21 of 41), Read 46 times Conf: Classics Corner From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, October 04, 2002 02:45 PM We should feel sorry for Lear in spite of his having brought this on himself. That’s the genius of the play. If we didn’t feel sorry for the guy, this would be a mere morality play in which the bad guy gets his comeuppance and all’s right with the world. The flawed hero (and I use “hero” in terms of meaning a central character, not necessarily defined by heroic deeds) who gains our sympathy is what lifts this play from melodrama to tragedy. The fool best describes Lear’s predicament at the end of Act 1, Scene V – “Thou shouldst not have been old before thou hadst been wise.” Ruth

Topic: October: King Lear (22 of 41), Read 45 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Felix Miller mighty_marvell@bellsouth.net Date: Friday, October 04, 2002 08:40 PM Lear goes through so many changes in the play, from petulant monarch to penitent prisoner, that there is something to pity or empathize with by the time he tells Cordelia that "We two will sing like birds i' the cage," and not be dislodged until they are "fired hence like foxes." Of course, Lear and Cordelia are not permitted this quiet end. And I do find Lear pitiable and worthy of sympathy at this extremity. Felix Miller

Topic: October: King Lear (23 of 41), Read 44 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, October 06, 2002 09:24 AM This is my first reading of Lear since college and I wondered how it would weather. I find it to be even more classic than I would have thought. Lear, himself, is a tragic personality, perhaps a bit exaggerated, that I see at intervals throughout life. The personality is generally male though I've seen a few female ones and I always feel sorry for them in the end, just as I feel pity for Lear. They are also, frequently, parents. They generally love intensely, but that love is tied up with their own ego to such an extent that one might doubt that it could actually be called love. They alienate those loved ones through their own needs and, sometimes, like Lear actually see the errors of their ways in the end when it's often too late. I find it even sadder when they never realize and go to their grave none the wiser leaving carnage in their wake. I had forgotten how much I loved the Fool from my previous reading. Robt said that his lines fell flat and would probably be better in a live production. I'm sure they would be delightful live, but I love him in print as well. He functions as a bit of a Greek chorus, if I understand that role correctly, and I always love that kind of voice. Here, though, he has a bit of ironic sympathy and love for Lear throughout which makes him even more attractive to me. I'm still puzzling over the initial scenes with Edgar, Edmund and Gloucester. Why does Edgar believe Edmund so easily in Act 1, Scene 2? He seems to have had a good relationship with his father prior to this and yet he goes into hiding with no effort to find out if Edmund is right. Was this just theatrical license? Barb

Topic: October: King Lear (24 of 41), Read 41 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Felix Miller mighty_marvell@bellsouth.net Date: Sunday, October 06, 2002 11:23 AM Good question you raise about the quickness of Gloucester to believe in Edgar's guilt. The only explanation I can come up with is that Gloucester is as quick as Lear to rush into decisions which involve his family and ego (I like your comments on Lear as a type, also.) Lear and Gloucester are both excessively emotional when they perceive any slight or ingratitude from their children. Why does Othello accept so completely the unfaithfulness of Desdemona, on the word of Iago buttressed by one little handkerchief? This is a tragedy, and the primary and precipitating tragic figures share the same hasty blindness of judgement. Felix Miller

Topic: October: King Lear (25 of 41), Read 36 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, October 08, 2002 01:40 PM Oh dear. This story/play is probably one of Shakespeares more popular ones, especially in the last fifty years... I believe its popularity has a lot to do with our cultures search for self worth and self love...our trend to analyze our family dynamics... oh dear... this is the story of a man who is a father and not mature enough to take responsibility for setting the tone...the relationship to his wanting to be king but without the responsibility mirrors the way he has been a parent...these two are linked themes... King Lear has been so popular because we have a culture in at least a couple of generations of parents being selfish(the me decade?) and the offspring rebelling against the kind of lost parenting and challenging authority in the sixties and seventies between generations. Bob, as much as I can see how you would call this an "old mans play" and I think you have a point...I believe it is much more a fathers play, a parents play. Dean Dean!!! Darling... what about Cordelia. she is the child any parent would want...at least a parent who was responsible and accepted that being a parent is a duty...King Lear rejects the idea of nature giving him the responsibility to "set the tone" within his family. It is also his responsibility to set the tone for his country with his actions and leadership. He is tragic because he does not accept his role that nature has given him as a parent. Cordelia rocks. br> What more love could a parent want from their child? And what more brilliant loving clever and witty Shakespearean way to express ones love? No...Dean this terrible story is due to the Kings lack of accepting his place in the world, lack of accepting that he is the "grown up". How did Shakespeare predict that this would be the story of parents and children throughout THIS century?

Topic: October: King Lear (26 of 41), Read 37 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Tuesday, October 08, 2002 01:52 PM Candy and everyone -- I just read through this thread a day or so back and -- wanted to comment that I had gained a great deal from the discussion of this play which has bearing on the book that was proposed as a companion reading for Lear -- the book didn't make the cut when it came to voting however -- but it definitely would fit the discussion. The book was Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres -- I didn't fully understand the references to it's ties with Lear until reading the thoughtful analysis of the play offered here. In the Smiley book it would definitely be about the father's story but I think that it is about age as well. Just wanted to say thanks folks. Dottie Lady Croom: It is a defect of God's humour that he directs our hearts everywhere but to those who have a right to them. Act Two Scene Six, Arcadia, Tom Stoppard

Topic: October: King Lear (27 of 41), Read 39 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, October 08, 2002 02:21 PM Dottie, I am sorry, I have not read A Thousand Acres, I'm wondering if I saw the movie, I don't think so, though now I remember it has been recommended to me on a number of occasions. I think why I tend to differentiate between King Lear being about age versus responsibility is 1) is although he daughters are grown ups, Cordelia is mature...it is Lear who sets the tone and the demands as he is the father, and sure, that makes him older. Lear seeks response rather than action of his own. 2) The significance of this play for this century has everything to do with a younger generation looking to see who is responsible and who is acting in our world. Much of the sixties and seventies had a younger generation dealing with the fallout of a "lack" of responsibility to the world, to the environment to each other, that the younger generation looked back on their parents as not taking responsibility or accountability for their involvement in how we live...in running the world or in taking care of the world, ourselves and future generations...during that "revolution" in the sixties and seventies...we heard the older generation say things like"my kids don't love me" and "they are just rebelling for the sake of rejecting our authority"...the older people sounded very much like the irresponsible and immature King Lear...although I do not say I am with out compassion for Lear, I do feel his pain and his mistakes...

Topic: October: King Lear (28 of 41), Read 37 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Felix Miller mighty_marvell@bellsouth.net Date: Tuesday, October 08, 2002 09:09 PM I did read A Thousand Acres and found it a very good book. My enjoyment of it was tempered by an annoying fascination with correspondences between characters and incidents in the book, and the same in the play. By the end of the book, I finally acknowledged to myself that the the book was the book, and the play was the play, and I should treat each as an independent work. There are many readings of Lear's character, from failed parent to sexually predatory parent, and each must rest on the skill of the presenter. I found A Thousand Acres a compelling work, with its own story to tell. Felix Miller

Topic: October: King Lear (29 of 41), Read 37 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, October 08, 2002 09:38 PM I was thinking that a kind of King Lear could be the Ang Lee film, The Ice Storm. That is just gross Felix that someone would read Lear as a sexual predator...that just shows how out of tune people are with the fact of responsibility of parenting that they could warp a story like King Lear into that kind of an agenda. Felix, its not so much that I meant to say Lear is a failed parent...I think thats too simple, I think he may be more like an average parent...and that is exactly why he is so valuable a character...to us we can see how misguided it is to expect to force our children to serve us, rather than the other way around. The sections in the beginning where the sisters REPORT their love, and Cordelia is so cautioned by their statements, the first sister says she loves her father so much she has no words...yet proceeds to ramble on with many a word. Cordelia represents how love can not really intellectualize or verbalize itself...(outside of poetry and art, I guess) So...its not like I see Lear as a failed parent per se...I don't think its difficult to read the play and see that Lear is cut off from common sense, cut off from nature...he is not connected to his world, and cannot recognize love...and Cordelias love seems plain on the page to me, at least... Was it Robert who mentioned Edmund? I think Edmund is one of the most repulsive characters in Shakespeare, not as bad or gross as Richard III but feebler and almost as revolting... What about the early discussion of the planets and the eclipses and how these forces were tearing apart parents and children, he eclipses were believed to be death to family? I'll try to post that here in a bit...

Topic: October: King Lear (30 of 41), Read 39 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, October 08, 2002 09:43 PM This reminded me of the "blank" of Emily dickinson... Kent:My life I never held but as a pawn To wage against thine enemies; nor fear to lose it, Thy safety being the motive. Lear:Out of my sight! Kent: See better Lear and let me still remain The true blank of thine eye. (Kent within a minute of the play sees that Lear is blind to life...) ****** One other thing about Cordelia, I love that the French guy doesn't care that she has no dowry...she has said she is only half a lover to any future husband because half her heart is her fathers...yet this guy still takes her, I believe we see how he sees what a great person she is...

Topic: October: King Lear (31 of 41), Read 40 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, October 08, 2002 10:00 PM Glouchester: These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us: though the wisdom of nature can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself scourged by the sequent effects:love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide:in cities, mutinies; in countries, discord; in palaces, treason; and the bond cracked twixt son and father. This villain of mine comes under the prediction; theres son against father: the king falls from bias from nature; theres father against child. We have seen the best of our time:machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous disorders, follow us disquietly to our graves.- Find out this villain, Edmund; it shall lose thee nothing; do it carefully.-And the noble and true hearted Kent banished!His offense, honesty!-Tis strange. Edmund:This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune-often the surfeit of our own behaviour,-we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars:as if we were villains by necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treacherers by spherical predominance, , drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on: an admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star! My father compounded with my mother under the dragons tail, and my nativity was under ursa major; so that it follows I am rough and lecherous.-Tut, I should have been that I am, had the maidenest star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing.(Enter Edgar)Pat!-He comes like the catastrophe of the old comedy:my cue is villainous melancholy, with a sigh like Tom o'Bedlam.-O, these eclipses do portend these divisions!fa,sol,la,mi.

Topic: October: King Lear (32 of 41), Read 42 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Wednesday, October 09, 2002 02:21 AM Isn't Cordelia being a bit too literal? If I say that I love my spouse with all my heart does that mean that it would make me a liar if I were to then say that I love a parent or a sibling? Cordelia seems to think that love must be apportioned like a pie and that all the ratios must add up to one. I see this as characteristic of youthful innocence which sees all loves as exactly the same. I would guess that the word "nature" appears more often in this play than in any other of Shakespeare's works. It is given personal, social and moral connotations in its various occurrences throughout the play. It was not the eclipses (natural) which broke up the families but the laws of inheritance (unnatural). Dean All roads lead to roam.

Topic: October: King Lear (33 of 41), Read 39 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Wednesday, October 09, 2002 07:33 AM Felix, excellent point about this immediate acceptance of lies about loved ones being part of the tragedy. Maybe this was a bit of a court moral that Will wove among his plays? Candy, I honestly think that the failed parent theme is only a part of the overall fatal flaw of Lear, his enormous ego. Anyone who doesn't pledge eternal undying love, no matter what, is cast out of his life. Since children strike us at our most vulnerable point, they elicit the strongest reaction. However, Kent's fate was similar to Cordelia's that day. And, I think this is why it is a story for the ages. It seems to me that ego needs have been a pretty big part of history. Dean, I think that the point about Cordelia was that she was plain spoken. If she had professed her undying love for Lear that day, she would have avoided a lot of problems. But, then Cordelia wouldn't have been Cordelia. Barb

Topic: October: King Lear (34 of 41), Read 40 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, October 09, 2002 08:38 AM Dean and Barb, both tight thoughtful posts here...very much giving me much to think about. Dean, excellent observation that the word nature may be used more than other of his plays here in this one...and I like your point about Cordelia serving up portions of love. I guess that does make her seem immature...but Dean after all, she IS a young person. We shouldn't put an old head on a young body(and why would you want to?)...all the more reason that Lear is sad to not be a self sufficient adult and not pathetic looking for his own attention and love. I think it would be totally embarrassing and uncomfortable to have someone demand I tell them how I love them. Although I am much older than Cordelia, if someone cornered me to get all mushy and declare my love...I wouldn't do half as well as Cordelia at the situation. I think the idea of Cordelia portioning off her love is not that...but rather the very real situation that our families are our first loves and our "blueprint" for how we move as intimate animals through the world. She merely states that she can not imagine having enough love to give as she loves her father so much. Is that really so strange? I have often felt and wondered, is there a limit to how much we can love people in our lives...I feel it is infinite...but it is still a kind of philosophical puzzle, at least to me. How I love my children...is a really big challenge to any one else I can imagine loving...after the kind of parental love that is really very special...can one still have even MORE love within? Yes, but at times it has seemed impossible to love that much. (I'm really not sure you can love anyone as much as you can love your child. It is one of lifes most profound experiences, no?) Barb, I agree, I don't see Lear as a "failed" parent...but rather a failed person...if the foundation is no good nothing from leadership to parenting will be good. Lear has a lack of character...and perhaps saying he has too big an ego is one way to articulate his weak character. I don't feel he is hateful, and I care about Lear, but I care about him because it is easy to see what blindness and selfishness he has...it is easy to see the connection between his poor character and his attitudes and actions and demands for love. As much as he is a failed person...Edmund is an actual snake...making Lear an opportunity for potentiality, there is only one thing worse than being like Lear, being like Edmund.

Topic: October: King Lear (35 of 41), Read 42 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, October 09, 2002 08:42 AM p.s. Dean, I need to give some more thought about the idea that it was the inheritance that tore up Lears world or not. Although I do not feel it was the eclipses(I just liked that notion and kind of backdrop and metaphor...)portending tragedy...I am not sure I can read the tragedy as economical in a kind of Marxist reading...heh heh...and I feel if we are to say that is the root of the tragedy, then we are working ona political economical agenda of the play...and is that Shakespeare or us or both?

Topic: October: King Lear (36 of 41), Read 40 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Wednesday, October 09, 2002 12:41 PM I find no fault with Cordelia for acting her age. Yes, she is plain spoken which I would say is another characteristic of youth. Cordelia makes an error in judgement because she is young. Lear and Gloucester make errors in judgement in spite of their maturity. By the way, Shakespeare took the plot for the Gloucester story from Sir Philip Sidney's romance "Arcadia." The laws of inheritance are directly mentioned in the play and are the larger social context in which the players move. Each player deals with the situation in er own way and each reacts to the other players in er own way. Dean All roads lead to roam.

Topic: October: King Lear (37 of 41), Read 40 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, October 09, 2002 01:21 PM Sir Phillip Sydney is some of my favorite reads, especially ARCADIA. Right, I didn't mean to distract from Lear with my defense of Cordelia...I accept that Cordelia is young and perhaps immature. No big deal, thats normal. It is disturbing to see an adult act like Lear. Dean...I am still chewing on stuff here...thanks for hanging in and being so articulate...back about the inheritance bits...

Topic: October: King Lear (38 of 41), Read 38 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Wednesday, October 09, 2002 03:13 PM Thanks, Candy. I am enjoying your and everyone else's comments. Dean All roads lead to roam.

Topic: October: King Lear (39 of 41), Read 40 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, October 09, 2002 05:31 PM http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft9310/articles/schwehn.html http://absoluteshakespeare.com/guides/king_lear/king_lear.htm

Topic: October: King Lear (40 of 41), Read 25 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Sunday, October 13, 2002 04:07 PM I just spent the morning reading this again. Tonight I have the movie version with Lawrence Olivier, Dianan Rigg and I think John Hurt. The ending is so painful and I can barely ever get through it without a lot of onion eyed business. (unfortunately, I was in my local coffee shop while reading this, not only did I risk looking like a pretentious twit reading Shakespeare at a coffee shop-does it get WORSE!? heh heh but I start bawling) I especially wanted to read this again to chew on Dean's idea that the inheritance starts the problems...and to answer Press question, do we feel sorry or pity for Lear. Dean, I felt confused because I was trying to understand..is the idea of the inheritance start the problems, therefore, we shouldn't have this estate kind of business? Or our laws hold us protected in some ways, but harm us in others...so I was wondering if I would see this conflict in some new way. I guess what I mostly see and feel is that the inheritance Lear wanted to divide FAIRLY. I am reminded of the adage(which I love) "no good deed goes unpunished." In so many ways, Lear was doing the best he could. It is so sad that his attempt at fairness with his family, despite whether all of his daughters were "loving"or not...is huge with me. In this way, YES Pres, I do feel sorry for him, ultimately. Each time I come to the end...I am burnt out with sadness for him. Its not fair. Also, what moves me in the play...is this bit: Lear(to Cordelia): "No, no, no, no! Come, lets away to prison. We two alone will sing like birds in the cage When thou dost ask me blessing, I'll kneel down, And ask of thee forgiveness, so we'll live, and pray, and sing, and tell old tales, And laugh, at gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues talk of court news, and we'll talk with them too. Who loses and who wins, whos in and whos out. And we'll take upons the mystery of things as if we're Gods spies. And we''ll wear out in a wall'd prison packs and sets of great ones that ebb and flow by the moon." I take this to mean, that Lear has learned that it might be better to sit on the sidelines of politics and news...and watch it go by rather than be one who effects history or events. Maybe, like taking time to smell the flowers...after all his attempts at fairness completely backfired...he sees that sitting back is a kind of action too of enjoying? I have heard that the Olivier movie is really good...I don't know if I can take much more depression from this story, but here goes nothing... Dean, apologies if I completely missed your poinnt about the Lear money...but thank you for inspiring me to take it more seriously...your articulation combined with that essay linked above about "love and justice"I take that conflict in a new way...as representing our attemts to be fair... Later, Candy

Topic: October: King Lear (41 of 41), Read 22 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Sunday, October 13, 2002 06:22 PM Thanks, Candy. I have enjoyed all of our discussions about Shakespeare. I agree that Lear tried to be fair and that is what makes his story so tragic. Personally, I have never liked the expression about good deeds being punished. Bad things happen to everyone regardless of their morality. Dean All roads lead to roam.
From: Janet Mego vsjego@cs.com Date: Thursday, October 17, 2002 07:44 PM Whatever else King Lear does, it brings you back to the inescapable struggle for power between parents and children. It suggests that the basic human relations in begetting and dying can be intolerable. . .Lear is hardly the only parent to demand too much love from his children. Did I not want my sons to accept my reading, my culture, my tastes--a demand for love in its way as relenttless as any other? And who hasn't had moments in which he wished his parents gone, as Goneril, Regan, and Edmund did? I know there were days when I wanted my mother off my back, out of my life. Shakespeare begins with such awkward stuff and splits the earth wide open with it. So writes David Denby, in a spectacular article in the Oct 3, 1994 issue of The New Yorker, titled "Queen Lear." I serendipitously came across it as I was going through my Hamlet folder today, preparing to teach that play. The article traces the author's initial superficial assessment of the play to his experiences studying it further (with a college professor bent on "yanking his students from their high-school reading habits to graduate-level subtleties") and finally, to the author's own very personal and moving (I thought) self-analysis as he remembers his own mother, her demise into a dementia similar to Alzheimer's, and her death. I want to post another section of the article so that you can see how really riveting it is: Lear was . . .about deep recognition--an experience accompanied by pain as well as pleasure. "The play starts out bad, and gets worse and worse," Tayler [the teacher] said in his baritone murmur. "What we've got here is delay, protraction, until moments of supreme recognition." And we read through the scenes of the shattered Lear at the end of the play encountering his old friend Glouchester, now blinded, and, soon after, Cordelia. Tayler, following the philosopher Stanley Cavell, focused on a plangent exchange between Glouchester and Lear. Glouchester says, "O let me kiss that hand," and Lear says, "Let me wipe it first; it smells of mortality." "I'm sorry, this stuff gets to me," Tayler said haltingly, looking down for an instant. "Lear feels shame. Shame is one of the biggest emotions." He paused for a second, and then glared at some of the men in the class. Now he was almost shouting: "You're breaking out with pimples; your girlfriend comes upon you when you're masturbating. It's SHAME!" The men looked up, electrified but silent. "Shame, the most basic emotion. Look, in the beginning of the play, Lear wants to be LOVED. Lear says, 'Which of you shall we say doth love us most?' But what won't he give? In order to receive love, you have to be seen through, and not just seen. YOu have to let people see your murderous impulses as well as your benevolent ones. En route to recognizing Gloucester and Cordelia, Lear has to go through a process." And Tayler quoted the amazing speech in which Lear, for years the head of state, now questions the legal basis of authority: Thou rascle beadle, hold thy bloody hand! Why dost thou lash that whore? Strip thy own back. Thou hotly lusts to use her in that kind For which thou whip'st her. The usurer hangs the cozener. Through tattered clothes small vices do Appear; Robes and furred gowns hide all. "See?" Tayler said. "Lear has truly recognized himself. You recognize something in yourself and you punish someone else for it. You want to f--k that whore, but instead of doing that you punish her. This is a play about shame and love and recognition. I know most of you think you have no trouble recognizing love, but at the deepest level, the recognition is always dearly bought. We all want love, but how much are we going to go through to get it? Will we risk being seen through? In order to be truly recognized and loved, you're going to have to get past this point of shame--you have to get to the point where Penelope and Odysseus recognize each other. And to get to that point, it's going to hurt. Afterward, Lear, Gloucester, Kent, and Cordelia--the good people--know the truth and die." So that was why the ending as Shakespeare wrote it is necessary and inevitable. "It's about stuff that really matters," Tayler said. "Love and shame, and about being willing to be seen through as well as seen." I thought this was fascinating. I'm not sure I understand all of it. But I had to share it. It's a passionate assessment--and after all, if Shakespeare isn't about passion and the deepest depths of human feeling, then what is it about? Janet
Topic: October: King Lear (43 of 60), Read 25 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Felix Miller mighty_marvell@bellsouth.net Date: Thursday, October 17, 2002 09:05 PM Very good quotes and observations, Janet. I especially like the passage about authority. It is the lines that precede the passage you quote that stay with me: And the creature run from the cur? There thou mightst behold the great image of authority: a dog's obeyed in office. Lear mistook his authority for his own, not that of his office, of king, so he thought that he could relinquish the responsibility, and the power would remain with him, he would still be king, with the reservation of a hundred knights, while the business of the kingdom went on. The stature of the person wielding the power is dependent on the office, not on the person. Lear still does not quite recognize that his actions have precipitated the chaos enveloping him. Felix Miller
Topic: October: King Lear (44 of 60), Read 30 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Friday, October 18, 2002 06:42 PM JANET, FELIX, Telling posts, all of them. The Denby quotes really make you rethink your ideas of the play. Felix points out an essential point concerning Lear's fall from position and power and so into madness. One thing that bothers me about intense readings of Shakespeare is that by so reading we may be bringing much of ourselves upon the stage and so screening S's intentions. In short, I think S. would say to us that the story is there, it represents life, you only have to recognize it, not dissect it. Of course, teaching is about recognizing, but recognizing is about the thing as it is, not about what we may think is concealed therein. *** Don't be so judgmental. They might be very nice creepy weirdos. pres
Topic: October: King Lear (45 of 60), Read 30 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Friday, October 18, 2002 08:29 PM On 10/18/2002 6:42:00 PM, Pres Lancaster wrote: >One thing that bothers me >about intense readings of >Shakespeare is that by so >reading we may be bringing >much of ourselves upon the >stage and so screening S's >intentions. In short, I think >S. would say to us that the >story is there, it represents >life, you only have to >recognize it, not dissect it. >Of course, teaching is about >recognizing, but recognizing >is about the thing as it is, >not about what we may think is >concealed therein. > Pres -- I thoroughly agree with that -- despite my credentials to the contrary. I think this is applicable to our debate on the unreliable narrator over in short stories as well. If I simply read the story, I don't see an unreliable narrator -- though arguably anyone telling a story of his own life is an unreliable narrator -- our views are skewed when it comes to our own lives. Still -- whether Nabokov or Shakespeare -- the universals are clear, recognizable. Dottie "...;if you walk a singular path, you carry always a certain grief, and one does not mourn in public." Truman Capote, about Garbo, in 'New York'(1946), in The Dogs Bark
Topic: October: King Lear (46 of 60), Read 32 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Janet Mego vsjego@cs.com Date: Friday, October 18, 2002 09:02 PM Interesting observation, Pres, re going beyond S's intentions. Brings to mind an interview I once read in which literary critic Nevil Coghill spoke with T. S. Eliot. Coghill asked him if a play could mean something the author had not intended, based on a reader's individual interpretation. Elliot's response? "Of course, it must, mustn't it?" Also consider: Shakespeare seems to delight in pesenting his audiences with unanswered questions. Who was the third witch in Macbeth? Does Banquo's ghost really appear, or is it M's conscience personified? Is Hamlet really insane, or just pretending? Does his father's ghost really appear in the second scene, or is it Hamlet's insanity speaking? In the first scene, others can see this ghost, but in the second, his mother cannot. Why is this? What does it mean? There are mysteries upon mysteries, unanswered questions abound. Why does Iago give no answers when asked about his motivations? My own personal theory is that S wanted--invited, perhaps, audiences to bring a variety of interpretations BASED ON THEIR OWN personal "universes," to coin a renaissance concept (the theory was that each man represented a world in and of himself--a tiny universe, as it were.) And possibly, renaissance man that he himself was, open to all sorts of possibilities in the world around him and in Man himself, the Bard considered each thinking man (or woman, perhaps) to have independent, valid ideas of his (or her) own. Food for thought? Janet
Topic: October: King Lear (47 of 60), Read 30 times Conf: Classics Corner From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, October 18, 2002 09:14 PM Duchamp put forth the idea that the artist was only the medium, that a work of art was completed by the viewer. Don't you think this applies to literature as well as the visual arts? Ruth
Topic: October: King Lear (48 of 60), Read 26 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Saturday, October 19, 2002 12:03 PM RUTH says: Duchamp put forth the idea that the artist was only the medium, that a work of art was completed by the viewer. Don't you think this applies to literature as well as the visual arts? Putting aside the ideas that the artist is only the medium and that the work of art is completed by the viewer, one must grant that each sees a different object or action. The portions of our view that we share with each other is a measure of our common "culture", just as are the parts we don't share. Think of a believing Catholic and an atheist before a breathtakingly superb Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Both are overwhelmed by the painting, but for different reasons. But it seems to me that a play, performed, is different. Obviously, each playgoer brings a different culture with him to the performance. But performance has been added to text (you could almost say that text has been created by the performance), and in a good performance you are caught up in the aliveness. And the "now" of what is happening precludes asking at the moment the questions we ask ourselves afterwards when we turn to the text. In other words, do we read the play text to winkle out an understanding of "how it all happened" or to experience, again, to the extent possible, the event of living the experience. It occurs to me that the professor described in Denby's article, quoted above, is trying to conjure up, not the building blocks, but the sense of a performance. Hard work, that. *** Don't be so judgmental. They might be very nice creepy weirdos. pres
Topic: October: King Lear (49 of 60), Read 25 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Saturday, October 19, 2002 02:44 PM Oh these have been some wonderful posts to catch up on. Janet, I really enjoyed those quotes and the memories that Denby shared of his professor. I feel each of reads one whatever ever level we desire to explore ina text. I see what Pres means by not reading too much into a story, or not to project oneself into a story...and that is probably wise...but ALSO some people have written about "close reading"of texts. I feel the Taylar(sp?) of Denbys memory was teaching his students to bring it home. To engage and go as deep as one was able or willing to go into a story. I don't think there is any thing "wrong"with close reading and embracing a text. Especially fiction or plays, the very nature of being an actor is to get inside the play and character and bring it home. Having sat in several first year university classes int he past six months, and from book clubs...it has been interesting to witness the various levels of reading that people do. If I were a teacher, those students who attempted and accomplished "close readings"would be the ones to watch. Last week, my room mate said to me in the middle of a discussion...we move in the world with two emotions love or fear...and I took this very much to heart in connection with Lear. I linked this notion right into this story...how do I want to move through the world, by fear as my motivator? Or love? Glochester and Edgar both say how important it is to live in the world by FEELING. So sad coming from Glo. as he has been blinded and this attitude is very literal and drives home a lesson to him. I see "learning"from texts and from school and study as being much more processed and built into our memory when we engage with our emotions into a story. We remember more about it, and learning is dependant on our engagement with life and our stories. Anyway, obviously I got pretty cranked up by those quotes and memory Janet, thanks a lot! The Olivier version was awesome! Anybody else checking it out? Cheers, Candy Don't be so creeped out and weird. They may be very nice judgmental snobs.
Topic: October: King Lear (50 of 60), Read 25 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Saturday, October 19, 2002 03:11 PM Oh, thank you for quoting from this Denby article, Janet! It made me remember that Ernie Belden gave me his copy of Denby's Great Books after he read it and I forgot to read the chapter on Shakespeare after finishing Lear. Well, guess what? The chapter is that article that was in the NYer. I will finish reading it this weekend. I'm sort of in the middle of this argument about projecting our own meanings into literature. If it is done in moderation, I think it enhances our understanding of the subject. I have what I sense to be an absolute gut level understanding of Lear because of the people I have known who have essential qualities that seem to be identical. If I take that too far, I can distort the play because my experiences with those people are far too personal. However, if I just recognize that basic generic quality, it does extend my own appreciation of the experience. Couldn't Shakespeare's habit of leaving many things open ended have to do with his ability to survive as a court playwright as well? Some of his meanings that we sense could be dangerous to his livelihood, I would think, depending on how the Court perceived them. Barb
Topic: October: King Lear (51 of 60), Read 26 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Saturday, October 19, 2002 03:22 PM I think there is a difference between projecting oneself into/onto a text and close reading...I think there is one thing worse than someone projecting oneself onto a text, and that is someone not engaging with the said story emotionally...and everyone has their own level of interest or style of engagement? No? Candy Don't be so creeped out and weird. They may be very nice judgmental snobs.
Topic: October: King Lear (52 of 60), Read 24 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Felix Miller mighty_marvell@bellsouth.net Date: Saturday, October 19, 2002 07:11 PM On the subject of imposing our own reading on plays, poems, novels, or any work of art, I think that the reactions and "readings" of the reader/perceiver is as much a part of the work as the "intention" of the artist. All works of art are like templates which must be completed by the reader/viewer/audience. I do not believe that any artist, even Shakespeare, is so totally in control of his work that things unperceived by him do not creep into the work. Surely, there is a limit here. I once took a course from a professor of English who railed against his advisor who was a Shakespearean scholar. Seems the younger academic wanted to read Shakespeare as a Bhuddist-influenced playwright. Human experience being much of a muchness, some parallel ideas may have crept into Shakespeare, but the advisor was unwilling to buy into the idea that Shakespeare was influenced by the tenets of Bhudda. Lear is open to many interpretations, perhaps even to those unconsciously intended by Shakespeare. Felix Miller
Topic: October: King Lear (53 of 60), Read 24 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Janet Mego vsjego@cs.com Date: Sunday, October 20, 2002 10:48 AM Barb, Isn't serendipity wonderful? Glad my experience (stumbling across this article accidentally--and after I had wondered where on earth I'd put it!) was a catalyst for your realization. And you make an interesting point about S's open-endedness being possibly a Court Playwright's defense mechanism. Like making Banquo a "good guy" when in historical fact he was in on the murderous plotting--S worried that King James, related to Banquo, would have a hard time with his ancestor's portrayal as bad guy. But I think the open-endedness is more than that. Felix--well, what's WRONG with a Buddhist reading?!? Just kidding. But I do tell my kids that within reason, if you can find enough evidence for it, it might be defensible. There's perhaps a fine line to be tread between stretching things and digging between the lines. But also. . . . . .Pres, consider that the play's performance is the ultimate vehicle for evoking a variety of interpretations. After all, no two performances are alike. The author knows ahead of time, when he decides to make his story a play (rather than a novel or other form), that any visualization of his own that occurs through the act of writing, before the act of performing, is subject to distortion upon the director's whims, the actor's nuances and manipulations. Perhaps that is why he or she has chosen the play as the "thing"--the best vehicle possible for applying a potential drama to individual sensibilities. Ruth, therefore, I think drawing a parallel between the visual arts (and the interpretation of that painting or print by the viewer as the work's completion) to that medium of the play, perhaps very apt indeed. The play has a strong visual component not present in the same way in other literary forms. And will be performed and interpreted visually in ways that number to infinity. (All this is perhaps a glossed-over cop-out on my part: I really love discussions of this nature, esp. regarding Shakespeare, but don't have the time to go back a do another close reading of LEAR justice. >Sigh<) Janet
Topic: October: King Lear (54 of 60), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Sunday, October 20, 2002 12:25 PM You're right, Janet, about a play's visual component tying it to the visual arts in a way that other literature is not. But I was really trying to make a parallel between the visual arts and all literature. Each of us brings to any work of art--visual art, music, literature--the sum total of who we are: how we feel about certain ideas, what has happened to us in the past, our attraction to certain kinds of characters, our familiarity (or lack thereof) with similar works of art, previous knowledge of the work or artist in question--the list is endless. Therefore, we each experience a work of art (and again I'm including visual art, literature and music) in our own unique way. The board is a good example of how a group of people, who have many characteristics in common, can read a book (or play) and each come up with a different experience. Sometimes so widely differentiated that I wonder if we all read the same book. I don't find this disturbing at all. The work of art lives for each of us in its own way. The timeless work of art is that which is so masterfully done that it continues to live for each reader/viewer/listener in a way that is general yet also unique to that individual. Getting off the podium now, Ruth
Topic: October: King Lear (55 of 60), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, October 20, 2002 05:09 PM Wow, I read Denby's chapter on Lear in Great Books today (thank you again, Janet) and enjoyed it enormously. He really catches a lot of what I think Lear is about and then some. If you have the book, I highly recommend that you read or reread that chapter and, if not, it's worth a trip to the library. Two quotes hit me, but there is far more as well: The play is set in motion by an excessive parental demand for love. The demand for love. Could anything be more homely and banal? Little can be said in extenuation of the way Goneril and Regan behave. They want their father dead. But their depredations, and Cordelia's prideful silence, can both be seen as a revolt against the humiliating demand for love. It is an emotion that most of us would find too embarrassing to talk about. But Shakespeare was nothing if not apocalyptic at this stage of his career (Macbeth came next), and once the bonds of family love are broken, everything goes. Everything. ....Lear casts off his old manner, his sanity, his clothes; it is a process, violent beyond belief, of unraveling, unhousing, and undressing, until the king is out in a storm with his few remaining loyal subjects and, for the first time in his life, senses what poor and miserable people must suffer. Barb
Topic: October: King Lear (56 of 60), Read 18 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Monday, October 21, 2002 11:04 AM Great discussion. I’ll weigh in with the bias that a work of art is only complete when it is experienced by the viewer, listener or reader. Art lives in its reception. Art is an experience not an object. Returning to another aspect of KING LEAR, the fool: my initial reaction reading the play, without having seen it performed, was that the fool was being monstrously insensitive to prattle on with obtuse riddles and word games while his King was losing it. He seemed cruel, mocking and inappropriate, making things worse for Lear rather than better-- torture by entertainment, like being forced to watch reruns of “Friends” episodes while having surgery. On further consideration, I think the fool could be played with sensitivity, wit and winsomeness and Shakespeare must have meant it to be so because King Lear, who was trigger-happy with banishments, did not dismiss his sidekick. So, I would prefer the fool to be played as a faithful servant, one who is loyal and protective of the King, and searching for a way to bring Lear into awareness through his satire; a true companion. That’s the only way that the role makes sense to me. Otherwise, it’s just two fools in a forest. The idea that they reverse roles appeals to me: the King is the fool while the fool speaks sported wisdom. I’ve always like it when wisdom comes from the least likely character or when a title is mocked by the person who holds it. So, there is literary eloquence in making the fool to be the King’s shadow, reflecting foolishness or wisdom as befits the moment. I can imagine that this works well as a visual message and so I think I missed a lot by just reading the words on a page. Robt
Topic: October: King Lear (57 of 60), Read 11 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Mary Anne Papale papcons@earthlink.net Date: Monday, October 21, 2002 08:08 PM Robert, something I read this summer (Asamov or Bloom?) speculated that the early productions of KL had Cordelia and Fool played by the same actor. This would have been accepted by the audiences of the time, and it would have added a poignancy to many lines. As luck would have it, I saw KL last month in Stratford, Ont., with Christopher Plummer playing the king. A masterful performance. Plummer himself must be in his 70s, and so gave some credence to the notion that the old king had gone off his nut. Also, my Shakespeare Club is currently doing KL. Last Monday, we read Act I, and the man who playing Fool has chosen to be a wise, seasoned advisor, which seems like the way it should be done. MAP
Topic: October: King Lear (58 of 60), Read 12 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Felix Miller mighty_marvell@bellsouth.net Date: Monday, October 21, 2002 08:34 PM Mary Anne, Twenty years ago, the same idea, of the Fool and Cordelia being played by the same actor, was part of the finest course in Shakespeare (or anything else) I have ever attended. Norman Sanders, who divided his time between the University of Tennessee (Knoxville) and Stratford, England, where he was a power in the theatre company, taught Shakespeare at UT. He pointed out that as far as the text is concerned, Cordelia and the Fool are never onstage at the same time. In the BBC/Time TV production, Cordelia and the Fool do share the stage at least once, but do not have lines at the same time. But the text keeps them separate. In addition, their functions are much the same, to tell truth to Lear. Cordelia is banished for this, but Lear's "all-licensed" fool continues to provide a chorus of reality to Lear's folly. The fool sees more clearly than the king. Felix Miller
Conf: Classics Corner From: Mary Anne Papale papcons@earthlink.net Date: Monday, October 21, 2002 08:42 PM Wonderful points, Felix! Thank you. MAP
Conf: Classics Corner From: Mary Anne Papale papcons@earthlink.net Date: Monday, October 21, 2002 08:55 PM What, you are wondering, would Plummer look like as Lear? http://www.stratford-festival.on.ca/onstage/lear.cfm MAP
Topic: October: King Lear (61 of 67), Read 28 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Alex Seek aseek@ameritech.net Date: Tuesday, October 22, 2002 01:27 PM Hello from the wings so to speak... Just wanted to say how much I'm enjoying such a lucid discussion of such a, er, not- so-lucid play. Thanks.
Topic: October: King Lear (62 of 67), Read 27 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Tuesday, October 22, 2002 03:37 PM Welcome, Alex. Why do you think King Lear isn't lucid? Sherry
Topic: October: King Lear (63 of 67), Read 23 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Tuesday, October 22, 2002 11:34 PM And, welcome from me too, Alex. Everything gets more lucid in a good discussion, I think. I like these speculations about the Fool and about he and Cordelia being connected in some way. Lear even refers to her as "my poor fool" in the death scene at the end. Here's an excerpt from Denby regarding the Fool: When Lear loses everything and fears he will go insane, his loving Fool, who continues to attend him, speaks to him in penetrable riddles: a seeming madness to mirror Lear's madness, a manic yet utterly faithful critique of Lear's action and state. And similarly, Edgar, Gloucester's good son, speaks to his deluded father and to Lear in the character of Poor Tom, a noisy addlepate who thinks that the universe has conspired against him. Shakespeare's poetry of pretend madness is made almost unbearably moving by the deeply loving intention behind it: The Fool and Edgar hope to nurse the two tormented old men back to mental health with their provocations, while hateful Goneril and Regan speak to Lear in the tones of the coldest rationality, trying to check his anguished demands with reason. Barb
Topic: October: King Lear (64 of 67), Read 21 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Wednesday, October 23, 2002 08:05 AM I listened to an audiotape of King Lear with Paul Scofield while reading the text. I find that that's the best way for me to get the most out of a reading. The library version of the tape didn't list the other actors, but I especially liked Kent and Cordelia. The fool's voice was light and airy and made some of the craziness in the words come to life. Thanks for posting these nuggets of Denby, Barb. They're really perceptive. Sherry
Topic: October: King Lear (65 of 67), Read 19 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, October 23, 2002 08:04 PM Again, so many excellent thoughts here, thanks. Felix, wnjoyed your comments on how we read...and what we bring to it.. Candy Don't be so creeped out and weird. They may be very nice judgmental snobs.
Topic: October: King Lear (66 of 67), Read 19 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Monday, October 28, 2002 05:46 PM Today I rented the 1970 film KING LEAR directed by Peter Brook starring Paul Scofield as Lear and Irene Worth as Goneril. Stark! Filmed in snow covered Denmark in black and white with no music. I cannot recall any other movie which contains absolutely no music. This film is only for those who are already familiar with the play, otherwise it would be incomprehensible. Not a thumbs up from me overall but it does have some good moments. Irene Worth is the best thing about it. Anyone else seen this? Robt
Topic: October: King Lear (67 of 67), Read 16 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, October 29, 2002 11:56 AM I haven't seen this one. I really enjoyed the Olivier version though.
Topic: October: King Lear (68 of 73), Read 22 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Thursday, October 31, 2002 08:28 AM To round out the Lear lore I rented Akira Kurasawa’s magnificent RAN, based on King Lear but set in 16th century Japan. I’ve enjoyed Kurasawa’s KAGEMUSHA, THE SEVEN SAMURAI and YOJIMBO but this is the best film of his I’ve seen. It’s a very successful adaptation and the traditional Japanese aesthetics are exceptional. The fool is portrayed appealingly as a loyal servant. A dear friend was after me for years to see this and finally I have complied long after he has passed away. Robt
Topic: October: King Lear (69 of 73), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, October 31, 2002 04:00 PM That is awesome you rented Ran. It is something isn't it. I intend to watch again soon too. I still want to read what Northrop Frye has to say about King lear and then see Ran. It is really cool having this discussion to keep egging me into refelction and study on this story...
Topic: October: King Lear (70 of 73), Read 21 times Conf: Classics Corner From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Thursday, October 31, 2002 04:32 PM RAN is fantastic, Robt. Weren't you just bowled over by the sheer visual grandeur of it? Ruth
Topic: October: King Lear (71 of 73), Read 22 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, October 31, 2002 04:43 PM Its been so many years since I've seen it but I see the red and sky still the flags and sets...grandeur is the right word alright!
Topic: October: King Lear (72 of 73), Read 24 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Thursday, October 31, 2002 06:43 PM Grand, grand, grand. I loved the castles, and kimonos and zillions of armored men on horses. And the way that evil woman moved, with such stealth and poise. And the dramatic gesticulations of the tragic old man. Move over Sarah Bernhardt. I know a movie has really gotten to me when I'm acting out the gestures in the privacy of my room. I die, I die, I die and then get up and die again! Robt
Topic: October: King Lear (73 of 73), Read 19 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Friday, November 01, 2002 02:20 PM I'd love to watch that.
From: Sheila Ash sheila_ash@lineone.net Date: Wednesday, November 13, 2002 02:09 PM I've been saving reading this thread till now, as I had coincidently booked theatre tickets to see this for last night. The production in Cambridge, done by the English Touring Company was excellent. It is the second time I have seen this on stage. The first, many years ago, had Brian Cox as Lear and was at The National in London. Last night's production starred Timothy West, whom I have seen on stage before and greatly admire. His portrayal of Lear from proud to broken man was excellent. I think Cox was probably better with the proud part than the broken man of the later part of the play whereas West was superb as the doddering, broken old man. The production was in traditional costume, which were gorgeous, and with minimalist staging. Of course, this is not a play for the squeamish and the "tomato ketchup" was in abundance. The rendering of the dialog from the whole company, without exception, was so clear and articulate that it made it comparatively easy on the ear. Shakespeare is often too quick to follow in my opinion and makes for a difficult first viewing. This was anything but. They caught and delivered the humour in the play really well. I was sitting next to a couple who had never seen Lear and they picked up on the wit. It was first night here in Cambridge for this production; I would not be surprised if it is a great success. Sheila
Topic: October: King Lear (74 of 81), Read 21 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Wednesday, November 13, 2002 04:26 PM Sheila, How was the fool? Robt
Topic: October: King Lear (75 of 81), Read 22 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Sheila Ash sheila_ash@lineone.net Date: Wednesday, November 13, 2002 04:42 PM Robt, David Cardy For the full cast check out http://www.whatsonstage.com/dl/page.php?page=details&id=T789969010 Sheila
Topic: October: King Lear (76 of 81), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Wednesday, November 13, 2002 08:28 PM Sheesh, Robt. At first glance I thought you asked "How was the food?" Ruth
Topic: October: King Lear (77 of 81), Read 16 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ernest Belden drernest@pacbell.net Date: Thursday, November 14, 2002 10:34 PM Hi, I made up my mind about Sept.that I would try to get some background information on Shakespeare's writing. Of course I had read some of the plays but I did not feel involved and "with it". So I got started reading a couple books about S. and I got started on King Lear. However an unexpected health problem made it impossible to continue for a while. So, now I will be ready to make some comments even though nobody may be interested at this point. Ernie
Topic: October: King Lear (78 of 81), Read 14 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Thursday, November 14, 2002 11:31 PM Ernie, I'm still interested. KING LEAR really grabbed me. Robt
Topic: October: King Lear (79 of 81), Read 14 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Friday, November 15, 2002 07:36 AM I'm always interested in what you have to say, Ernie. Sherry
Topic: October: King Lear (80 of 81), Read 12 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Felix Miller mighty_marvell@bellsouth.net Date: Friday, November 15, 2002 08:10 PM What books about Shakespeare were you reading, Ernie? I have found Bloom's Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human very interesting, though I don't always agree with what he says. And King Lear could be discussed for a very long time without exhausting the interest. Felix Miller
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Saturday, November 16, 2002 11:24 AM I agree, everyone! Ernie, please continue to talk about Lear. This is one play that forever holds my interest. Barb
From: Mary Anne Papale papcons@earthlink.net Date: Monday, November 18, 2002 08:47 PM Sheila, Interesting you should mention the humor. In the this year's Stratford, Ont. production, Edmund was played with a great deal of humor, too much for my taste. He is, after all, one of the most wicked of all Shakespeare characters. It really seemed wrong to have the audience laughing out loud at Edmund. But maybe that's just me. MAP
From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Tuesday, November 19, 2002 01:26 AM I agree. A few years ago our local (Vancouver, BC) summer Shakespeare company played Richard III with comic overtones. That didn't seem right either. Dean All roads lead to roam.
From: Sheila Ash sheila_ash@lineone.net Date: Tuesday, November 19, 2002 09:24 AM Oh I didn't mean to suggest that the humour went OTT, it's just that I don't recall it at all from my first production and yes Edmund is and was played a real nasty. You almost felt like boo-ing him off the stage! His dress was in period but reminiscent of a black leather clad biker.... it caught the tone. (No offence intended by me to any bike folks :) Sheila

 

 

 
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