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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: April ::
Re: The Ending of *Lear*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0336.  Tuesday, 25 April 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Elizabeth Y. Zeria <
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        Date:   Monday, 24 Apr 95 10:45:10 EDT
        Subj:   Re: The Ending of *Lear*
 
(2)     From:   John Boni <
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        Date:   Monday, 24 Apr 1995 11:27:15 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   *Lear* Ending
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Elizabeth Y. Zeria <
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Date:           Monday, 24 Apr 95 10:45:10 EDT
Subject:        Re: The Ending of *Lear*
 
> The fact that Tate's version of _Lear_ played for nearly a
> century and a half ought to tell us something: the play
> obviously works with a happy ending. Nothing in the play
> (except the ending as Shakespere gave it to us) necessitates
> Cordelia's death--which is what (to my mind) makes it so
> heart-rending when it happens: waste to no purpose.
>
>                                Yours faithfully,
                                David Wilson-Okamura
 
No, I don't suppose anything in the play *necessitates* Cordelia's death, but
much in the play suggests a reading which does...which suggests that while her
death is indeed a waste, it might at least have thematic purpose.  With so much
of the text suggesting that the value of virtue (love, honesty, etc.) lies not
in any honor or material reward it might bring -- that virtue so motivated or
valued is really no virtue at all -- then it would seem Cordelia's death serves
to prove her value, or her virtue's value.  Part of the reason I find her death
so heart- rending is because it *is* so apt, and such a waste; because it is
only at that moment that I (and perhaps Lear) most fully realize her worth and
her virtue.
 
Your fellow reader,
Liz Zeria

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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Boni <
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Date:           Monday, 24 Apr 1995 11:27:15 -0500 (CDT)
Subject:        *Lear* Ending
 
I have some disagreement with Charles Boyles' comment on the ending of *Lear*.
 
Boyle writes:
 
*It might be said, however, that Edgar does speak with her "lips" when he
advises us, "The weight of this sad time we must obey, Speak what we feel, not
what we ought to say." This is the advice Cordelia followed when she
precipitated the whole tragedy, she spoke truth to power.*
 
However, in my view, speaking what she feels is precisely what Cordelia is
unable to do in Act I, when she says, "I cannot heave my heart into my mouth,"
and then adds, "I love your majesty [not a very intimate term] according to my
bond, no more nor less."  Unable to speak what she feels, Cordelia speaks what
she *ought* to say.  Strictly speaking, she is right. Shakespeare seems to
enjoy playing off the legalistic against utterances based upon feeling and
generosity.
 
In Act V, in jail, Cordelia is able to speak what she feels.  It would apear
that both she and Lear have grown through suffering.  Their exchange of
feeling, imperfect as it maybe on Lear's part, itensifies the horror of the
ending.
 
It is interesting to ask students what Cordelia *should* have said to Lear in
Act I, and to point out the double "ought."  We ought to speak what we feel,
not what we "ought" to say.
 

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