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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: August ::
Re: Edgar
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0618.  Wednesday, 16 August 1995.
 
(1)     From:   John Boni <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 15 Aug 1995 09:50:45 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0617 Q: Edgar
 
(2)     From:   Carmine Di Biase <FCD2@JSUMUS>
        Date:   Tuesday, 15 Aug 95 14:43:37 CDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0617 Q: Edgar
 
(3)     From:   Roger D. Gross <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 15 Aug 1995 16:55:59 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Edgar's last fight
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Boni <
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Date:           Tuesday, 15 Aug 1995 09:50:45 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 6.0617 Q: Edgar
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0617 Q: Edgar
 
John Keough asks, "Isn't it all a bit silly," in regards to Edgar's various
"voices" and his choice (oh, can characters "choose"?) not to reveal himself to
Edmund in the fight scene.  Bradley made a list of the "improbabilities" in
*Lear*, including, as I recall, this one.  He then responds to each.
 
Perhaps our paradigm raises questions that Shakespeare's audience (and the
energies of performance) found less bothersome.
 
On the other hand, Edgar's transformation, from "nothing" (that word so
important in KL) to the new king at the end, requires him to adopt many
identities and to speak what he feels, not what he ought to say.  His
fabrication of Gloucester's "salvation" at Dover causes Glo. to feel saved (at
least for a while).  And his revelation to Edmund caused the latter to do "some
good" "despite [his] own nature," quite a turnaround in a Shakespeare
character.
 
That's enough for me.  But perhaps not enough for other SHASKPEReans.
 
John M. Boni
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carmine Di Biase <FCD2@JSUMUS>
Date:           Tuesday, 15 Aug 95 14:43:37 CDT
Subject: 6.0617 Q: Edgar
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0617 Q: Edgar
 
Spiritual blindness seems to me a pervasive theme in Lear.  I find it
beautifully right that Edgar does not reveal himself to Edmund before he wounds
him mortally.  By this late moment in the play both Lear and Gloucester have
grown spiritually.  They have come to know themselves, and they have come to
know their children.  And at this late moment the roles of the children - of
some of them - and their parents are reversed so that Edmund is now the blind
one.  He must not know who his killer is until he is mortally wounded, because
this period of ignorance - or of moral or spiritual blindness - is Edmund's
ordeal.  Brief though it is, it nevertheless has an improving effect on him.
Even its brevity is right, however.  As he dies he attempts to save Cordelia's
life, though of course it's too late.  And the lateness ensures his proper
fate, if we want to see him as a man condemned to hell in a Christian universe.
 
As for Edgar's voice, I'm happily willing to suspend my disbelief, given that
this is a play in which appearances, more so than voices, deceive.  The eyes
are more often deceived here than the ears.  Your point though is well taken,
because Edgar does weary of the Poor Tom voice he must use. Carmine Di Biase
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roger D. Gross <
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Date:           Tuesday, 15 Aug 1995 16:55:59 -0500 (CDT)
Subject:        Edgar's last fight
 
John Keogh asks about Edgar's fight with Edmund.
 
Why doesn't Edgar reveal himself?  He is a fugitive from justice.  Edmund has
an army.  Edgar's only way of getting a fight is to use the ritual challenge
which is not available to wanted criminals.
 
Why doesn't Edmund recognize Edgar's voice?  The real answer is that it is part
of the license granted playwrights.  Audiences usually don't ask such
questions.  If they do, you have already failed.  The audience intuitively
understands that characters see what they seem to see and recognize what they
seem to recognize and that real-world standards are irrelevant.  If you want a
"realistic" reason, try this: Edgar is wearing a helmet.  If you have ever
spoken with a full helmet on, you know that it's a very strange sound, highly
distorted by the excess resonance.
 
Last reason:  the end of the fight is, melodramatically, a much riper moment to
spring the news on everyone.  Shakespeare has a great talent for recognizing
these moments.
 
Beware applying too strict a real-world standard to Shakespeare.  The plays are
"about" reality but Shakespeare is an ultimately practical writer and he knows
he can get away with whatever will most efficiently and effectively make his
points.  Audiences don't really care all that much about accuracy.  The will
allow you almost any license so long as your story is gripping and your actors
believable and compelling.
 
That last scene in LEAR works beautifully and no one in the spell of a good
performance ever asks questions like the ones you pose.
 
Nuts!  Now I'm getting that old "gotta do LEAR again" urge.
 
Roger Gross
U. of Arkansas
 

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