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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: January ::
Re: Cordelia and the Fool, and Doubling
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 8.0125.  Sunday, 26 January 1997.

(1)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Friday, 24 Jan 1997 22:32:40 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0119  Cordelia and the Fool, and Doubling

(2)     From:   Thomas Larque <
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        Date:   Saturday, 25 Jan 1997 16:42:35 -0800
        Subj:   RE : Cordelia and the Fool

(3)     From:   Derek Wood <
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        Date:   Saturday, 25 Jan 1997 17:39:49 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0119  Cordelia and the Fool

(4)     From:   Pat Dunlay <
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        Date:   Sunday, 26 Jan 1997 09:17:12 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0119  Cordelia and the Fool


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Friday, 24 Jan 1997 22:32:40 -0500
Subject: 8.0119  Cordelia and the Fool, and Doubling
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0119  Cordelia and the Fool, and Doubling

Marie Myers sent me three interesting references, re: doubling, offlist, and
with her permission, I list them here:

Alois Brandl, "'Doubling' in Shakespeare," T.L.S. (13 Feb 1931).

Robert Y. Turner, "Significant Doubling of Roles in Henry VI, Part

Two," Library Chronicle 30:2 (Spr 1964).

Stephen Booth, "Speculations on Doubling in Shakespeare's Plays," reprinted in
King Lear, Macbeth, Tragedy and Indefinition (1982).

I like Syd Kasten's suggestion that Cordelia and the Fool are not just doubled;
Cordelia has disguised herself as the Fool, just as Kent has disguised himself
as Caius and Edgar as Poor Tom.  I think that could be dramatically effective
on stage, and as Theodore Spencer wrote back in 1942: "in the world of
<italic>Lear</italic>, goodness has to hide."  So the Fool disappears from the
play because he is played (in the fictional world of the play) by Cordelia who
then assumes her former role.

Sounds good to me.

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Larque <
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Date:           Saturday, 25 Jan 1997 16:42:35 -0800
Subject:        RE : Cordelia and the Fool

I have always been fascinated by the idea that Cordelia and the Fool might have
been doubled, and was (secretly) disappointed when in my own studies I came
across the evidence about Armin which seems to prove fairly conclusively that
it wasn't done.

Never-the-less, there seems no reason why such a doubling shouldn't be used in
modern productions ... and I am hoping soon to find a production that actually
uses this doubling to see how well it works in practice.  Normally I read about
productions using this doubling after they finish, and am annoyed at having
missed them.

The idea that Cordelia and the Fool might be the SAME person isn't a new one.
I remember reading something about a new play called CORDELIA (based on KING
LEAR) which suggested that Cordelia - like Kent - returned in disguise to help
her father.  This might have appeared at last year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Within the play itself, however, it is fairly clear that this was not what was
intended.  Since Shakespeare's theatre used doubling, Cordelia (if playing the
SAME CHARACTER in different costume) would have needed a little speech to tell
the audience that this is what was happening.  Kent transforming to Caius, and
Edgar changing into Poor Tom, both get these speeches.

Even more problematic for this interpretation are the Knight's lines in Act 1,
Sc. 4.  "Since my young Lady's going into France, Sir, the Fool hath much pined
away".  This seems to make clear that people knew the Fool BEFORE Cordelia went
to France (in order to make the comparison between his moods).  Why would a
Royal Princess disguise herself as the Court Jester while still her father's
favourite?  Besides, wouldn't anybody have noticed?  Kent and Edgar have both
been driven away from the Court before they return as their disguised
characters.  Imagining prevevious events, it seems unlikely that Cordelia could
disappear in the middle of a Royal Banquet to return disguised as the Fool on a
regular basis.

There are also problems about the consummation of the marriage between Cordelia
and France, and the arrival of the French army - but these are (theoretically)
not insurmountable.

That Cordelia disguises herself as the Fool is an interesting theory, but (I
think) one for use in adaptations rather than interpretations of the play.
Shakespeare probably intended the paralells between Cordelia and the Fool, but
I don't think they can have been meant to be the same person.

THOMAS LARQUE.

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Derek Wood <
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Date:           Saturday, 25 Jan 1997 17:39:49 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 8.0119  Cordelia and the Fool
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0119  Cordelia and the Fool

Syd Kasten wondered about Cordelia doubling with the Fool. How do we deal with,
"Since my young Lady's going into France, Sir, the Fool hath much pined away?"
The fuss with Goneril seems to have begun when Lear struck some one "for
chiding of his Fool." So Cordelia cross-dressed pretty smartly and Shakespeare
cheated us a little whhile he played fair with Caius and Poor tom. Mind you,
Syd's insight would give a whole new dimension to feminist studies of WS if the
queen of France is allowed by her husband into service as a clown,
unaccompanied by her ladies. And would he overlook some of her filthy humour? I
always thought Cordelia was a problem for feminist readings anyway, if she
organised the whole CIA type infiltration of English ports by special agents
and then led an invading army into the country i.e. those readers who claim
that powerful women are demonised in Shakespeare: Gonerils and Mrs Macbeths and
the like. But if Cordelia organised the raising of the army, its logistics,
embarkment and supplies from her unprivileged position in Goneril's house, she
would be something of an administrative genius. Eat your heart out, Portia. Her
congratulation of Kent for his goodness (4.7) smacks a little of self-praise,
though and is her recollection of her cross dressing distasteful if she is
commiserating with Kent when she says, "These weeds are memories of worser
hours; I prithee, put them off."

I hope we are not getting into the same world as Lady Macbeth's children, are
we?

        Best wishes,
        Derek Wood.

(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pat Dunlay <
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Date:           Sunday, 26 Jan 1997 09:17:12 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 8.0119  Cordelia and the Fool
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0119  Cordelia and the Fool

In response to Syd Kasten, I have read numerous essays and heard lectures that
s suggest that the Fool and Cordelia are one, but have never heard such a
concise and plausible explanation. Disguise is a major theme in Lear, so why
wouldn't Shakespeare round out the play with a third character disguise.  I
guess in this case, it would really be an exchange as we must believe that the
Fool did really exist in Lear's court prior to Cordelia's banishment.  Does the
Fool's calling Lear "nuncle" suggest any possibility of actual relationship?
Could that have been the reason that Cordelia could disguise herself as the
fool - because they are cousins, or(darest I throw this one out) half siblings?
It would be within the character of Corelia to remain so loyal to Lear that she
literally shadowed him. There have been a number of productions that have cast
the two with the same actor, which would certainly create the illusion of
another disguise. I like the idea and am eager to hear the ensuing discussion.

Pat Dunlay
 

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