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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: November ::
LEAR: Kindness and Madness
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0858.  Wednesday, 20 November 1996.

(1)     From:   Roger Gross <
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        Date:   Monday, 18 Nov 1996 15:27:04 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   omitted kindness in LEAR

(2)     From:   Roger Gross <
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        Date:   Monday, 18 Nov 1996 15:48:49 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   madness in LEAR


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roger Gross <
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Date:           Monday, 18 Nov 1996 15:27:04 -0600 (CST)
Subject:        omitted kindness in LEAR

Mike Field asks why the servant's kind intent to care for Gloucester is so
often absent from recent productions of LEAR.

My guess is that it all grows from the unfortunate influence of Jan Kott's
book, SHAKESPEARE OUR CONTEMPORARY, which (it seems to me) tries to show that
Samuel Beckett and Shakespeare had the same soul.

Peter Brook, in the midst of his famous Theatre of Cruelty year, was strongly
influenced by Kott and produced a brilliant but misguided LEAR with Paul
Scofield.  In order to make the Kott interp work with the script, Brook had to
cut everything that contradicts the totally negative view, including the lines
Mike refers to and the attempt of the servant to stop Cornwall from plucking
out the other eye.  I think of this as the "as flies to wanton boys are we to
the Gods" version of LEAR.

Since Kott and Brook, it has been fashionable to abuse the text this way. For
reasons I don't get, it seems hip, right for our time.  But what a loss is
there.  Shakespeare's view is so much more profound.

Roger Gross
U. of Arkansas

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roger Gross <
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Date:           Monday, 18 Nov 1996 15:48:49 -0600 (CST)
Subject:        madness in LEAR

Jennifer Kordus asks about madness and abdication in LEAR.  There is something
here but I wouldn't look for it in attitudes of the times; script interp and
your knowledge of human nature will get you farther here.

I would start (and probably end) with the line, "they told me I was everything;
'tis a lie--I am not ague-proof."  Lear had lived a life completely buffered
from social reality; with terrible suddenness and violence, he is made to
confront that reality.  Madness may be a kind of natural stage in the healing
process for anyone so abruptly and mercilessly educated.
 

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