Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: January ::
Edgar, Gloucester, and "Dover Cliff"
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 8.0130.  Monday, 27 January 1997.

(1)     From:   Ron Macdonald <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Saturday, 25 Jan 1997 10:45:28 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Edgar, Gloucester, and "Dover Cliff"

(2)     From:   Thomas G. Bishop <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Sunday, 26 Jan 1997 16:49:28 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: Feigning and Fainting


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ron Macdonald <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Saturday, 25 Jan 1997 10:45:28 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Edgar, Gloucester, and "Dover Cliff"

In his very interesting remarks about Edgar's "climb" up "Dover Cliff," David
Richman seems to take it for granted that the audience is privy to Edgar's
well-intentioned deception from the beginning, and hence the scene becomes a
kind of farce tinged with uneasiness.  But is it necessarily so?  In a theater
without physical scenery, dependent on verbal scene-setting (as many believe at
least Shakespeare's public venues were), doesn't an audience assume the scene
is where the characters say it is unless and until contradictory evidence is
forthcoming?  I think it was Harry Levin who long ago remarked that until Edgar
reveals his deception, we in the audience are just as "blind" as Gloucester,
utterly dependent, as he is, for cues from Edgar about the surroundings.  This
means, at least as I read the scene, that we are fully engaged by Edgar's
vertiginous description of the downward perspective from the top of the "cliff"
("How fearful / And dizzy 'tis, to cast one's eyes so low!"), but disengaged
from his later description of the view up from the "beach" ("Look up a-height,
the shrill-gorg'd lark so far / Cannot be seen or heard").

--Ron Macdonald

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas G. Bishop <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Sunday, 26 Jan 1997 16:49:28 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Re: Feigning and Fainting

David Richman's comments about fooling the blind make good sense, and I suppose
one can get an easy laugh out of Edgar's feigning the climbing of the hill. But
I am also interested in the (for me) more provocative possibility that an
audience might be kept in the dark about whether this was a "real" fake hill or
a "fake" fake hill. Presumably at least some in a modern performance will not
know in advance, and none in Jacobean performances.

The scene is at least set up to suggest such questions at one point: Edgar's
speech describing the top of the cliff is, at least on the page (I suppose one
can variously undermine it on stage) a good approximation of what one might
indeed say. Its effect can be very powerful. A few years ago, in a class
working on this scene, Edgar bad farewell to Gloster and then, without thinking
about it (he assured me), stepped over the imaginary edge of the cliff. The
class gave an audible squeak, followed by a collective sigh as they realized
that this was a "fake" fake line, not a "real" fake line. A fascinating moment
for everyone in the room that made us all think again about everything that had
gone before.

In a play like Macbeth, so concerned with how to read what one sees and how to
cover (and uncover) false faces, the issue seems to swirl around Lady Macbeth's
faint with some point.

Tom
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.