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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: November ::
Re: Various Comments on LEAR
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0864.  Thursday, 21 November 1996.

(1)     From:   Tom Clayton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Nov 1996 08:40:11
        Subj:   RE: SHK 7.0858  LEAR: Kindness and Madness

(2)     From:   Miles Taylor <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Nov 1996 09:07:44 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0858 LEAR: Kindness and Madness

(3)     From:   Andrew Walker White <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Nov 1996 20:22:07 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Kosintsev Lear


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Clayton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Nov 1996 08:40:11
Subject: 7.0858  LEAR: Kindness and Madness
Comment:        RE: SHK 7.0858  LEAR: Kindness and Madness

I missed the antecedent(s) to these comments, so this may be impertinent both
ways; but one possible cause of Lr. 3.97-106's being omitted is that the lines
are not in the Folio, and, since *The Division of the Kingdoms* came out the
two-text Lr. has had considerable effect on scholars, critics, and persons of
the theater, with the F text usually privileged over Q because revised, to some
extent by Shakespeare (just what and how much is by no means settled for
certain). The effects of omission are certainly as Roger Gross says, and some
if not all of the causes probably are, too. One of more of the Folio revisers
of Lear, the one(s) who eliminated the moralizing and some of the laudable
actions by way of moral example, seems to have been a proto-Kott. If he was
Shakespeare, then Kott has a distinguished and authoritative predecessor. A
question to be asked.

Cheers,
Tom

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Miles Taylor <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Nov 1996 09:07:44 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 7.0858 LEAR: Kindness and Madness
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0858 LEAR: Kindness and Madness

Roger Gross wrote:

>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.

While I am not wholly unsympathetic to psychoanalytic readings of characters,
it strikes me that the line quoted above from Lear does little to explain his
madness.  Years before, Richard II delivers an equally poignant speech on the
disconnect between the king's two bodies, as does Henry V the night before
Aginscourt.  So too does the king of Sicily in Beaumont and Fletcher's
Philaster (c. 1608):

"Alas, what are we kings?
Why do you gods place us above the rest,
To be serv'd, flatter'd, and ador'd, till we
Believe we hold within our hands your thunder?
And when we come to try the power we have,
There's not a leaf shakes at our threatenings."

It seems to me that this "education" of kings in their own humanity or
mortality is a fairly common trope; I imagine there are dozens of other
examples.  In Richard II, not only does it not drive him mad, but I would say
it leads him to a new clarity in his thinking.  Can't we say this, too, for
Lear?

Being that I am presently steeped in the Merchant of Venice for a class I'm
teaching, I see an odd parallel between Lear and Shylock.  Shylock occasionally
borders on madness when he talks about Jessica; Lear loses all three daughters
who are supposed to prop him up in his old age. Shakespeare's fathers seem more
than ready to go off the deep end when their daughters betray them or go
against their will.  This double rejection of masculine and paternal
prerogative seems more threatening to the social fabric than the education of a
monarch in his own humanity.

Thanks for hearing me out,
Miles Taylor

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew Walker White <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Nov 1996 20:22:07 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Kosintsev Lear

This is just a note to express my joy at discovering the Kosintsev film version
of King Lear, recently made available through The Scholar's Bookshelf, located
at 110 Melrich Road in Cranbury, NJ, 08512.

The Russian versions of Shakespeare are fascinating to watch, not the least
because of the none-too-subtle commentary on the Soviet regime under which they
were produced.  And, needless to say, there's no need for subtitles for those
of us who know the material by heart.

The Kosintsev Hamlet, featuring Innokenti Smoktonovski, is also available but
for a price far more dear.  I'll try to pass that information along for those
who are interested, as soon as a Russian friend of mine returns it next week.

Andy White
Urbana, IL
 

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