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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: January ::
Re: Edgar, Gloucester, and "Dover Cliff"
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 8.0135.  Tuesday, 28 January 1997.

(1)     From:   Derek Wood <
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        Date:   Monday, 27 Jan 1997 14:03:32 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0130  Edgar, Gloucester, and "Dover Cliff"

(2)     From:   Roy Flannagan 614 593-2829 <
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        Date:   Monday, 27 Jan 1997 12:35:32 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   RE: SHK 8.0130 Edgar, Gloucester, and "Dover Cliff"

(3)     From:   Ed Friedlander <
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        Date:   Monday, 27 Jan 1997 12:33:06 CST
        Subj:   Edgar, Gloucester, and "Dover Cliff"

(4)     From:   David Evett <R0870%
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        Date:   Monday, 27 Jan 1997 17:16 ET
        Subj:   SHK 8.0130  Edgar, Gloucester, a

(5)     From:   David M Richman <
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        Date:   Monday, 27 Jan 1997 21:31:28 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0130 Edgar, Gloucester, and "Dover Cliff"


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Derek Wood <
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Date:           Monday, 27 Jan 1997 14:03:32 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 8.0130  Edgar, Gloucester, and "Dover Cliff"
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0130  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
> --Ron Macdonald

I have always thought that the point of this scene was that the discrepancy
between what is seen and what is said should be absolute. That is, Edgar should
make no concession to Gloucester's other senses. The road is flat, there is no
sea to be heard, no cliff: there are only lies. Even the apparent truths are
lies: "in nothing am I chang'd But in my garments." Is that true or false?
Presumably Edgar's voice "_is_ altered" so we can hear the lie he tells. The
scene is like a control case in a medical experiment. In this case it is the
placebo that is the successful cure. But the experiment must be carefully
controlled. Nothing must be allowed to "contaminate" the lie. No truth, anyway.
The whole play has been about people who mysteriously lack the equipment to
protect them against the lie or the illusion. Kent and Cordelia have no problem
diagnosing the lie for what it is; Lear and Gloucester do. So we have a test
case. The only equipment necessary here to fragment Edgar's illusion is an eye.
It's missing so the illusion works. And if we thought simplistically that lies
were by definition bad, we get our come-uppance in this scene. The lie is done
to cure the old man's despair and it does. So many lies are nourishing and
supportive in the play, Caius's disguise for instance. Perhaps even Cordelia's
answer to Lear in the love auction is of this kind. What is truth? Too much of
that stuff would leave "the minds of a number of men poor shrunken things, full
of melancholy and indisposition." More evidence that Bacon did write _Lear_, I
suppose.

        Best wishes,
        Derek Wood.

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roy Flannagan 614 593-2829 <
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Date:           Monday, 27 Jan 1997 12:35:32 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.0130 Edgar, Gloucester, and "Dover Cliff"
Comment:        RE: SHK 8.0130 Edgar, Gloucester, and "Dover Cliff"

On Gloucester's fall from the cliff of Dover.

Is it Rumpole of the Bailey, Leo McKern, who does the scene in the BBC (or was
it the Olivier-directed film?)?  Anyway, he was directed to kneel, then, when
he is supposed to jump, he falls forward on his face. It is a funny image, and
the audience laughs (pretty necessary, considering the horror he and we have
been through); but the audience also realizes the despairing and blind old man
still believes he has jumped to his death.

    Roy Flannagan

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Friedlander <
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Date:           Monday, 27 Jan 1997 12:33:06 CST
Subject:        Edgar, Gloucester, and "Dover Cliff"

Not a farce.

It's the first time in the modern era that we're shown, on stage, that God is
make-believe, and that our only help is the not- ubiquitous goodness of other
human beings.

(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <R0870%
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Date:           Monday, 27 Jan 1997 17:16 ET
Subject: Edgar, Gloucester, a
Comment:        SHK 8.0130  Edgar, Gloucester, a

As I have observed in print (_Lit. and the Visual Arts in Tudor England_,
Edmund's speech is, as far as I know, something quite remarkable: the first
extended piece of landscape description in English organized _vertically_, and
one much more visually accurate and acute (especially as regards spatial cues)
than almost all previous surviving published versions of the various landscape
topoi. As I didn't write then, but think now, the  practical imperatives of the
dramatic moment, the need to make the illusion _work_, on both on-stage and
off-stage audiences (for I must say I like the idea that the theater audience
is not in on the game), seems to have impelled a greatly gifted poet to
transcend his models again.

Spatially,
Dave Evett

(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David M Richman <
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Date:           Monday, 27 Jan 1997 21:31:28 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.0130 Edgar, Gloucester, and "Dover Cliff"
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0130 Edgar, Gloucester, and "Dover Cliff"

It wasn't my intention to underplay the Edgar-Gloucester ambiguities either in
my posting or my production.  If I gave that impression, I apologize.

Indeed, the ambiguities are a cause of the unease I referred to.  Does the
audience believe Gloucester's "Methinks the ground is even"--or Edgar's
"Horrible steep."  Is it the senses (the ground may indeed be even) or the
"imaginary forces" that hold sway?  "When we do talk of vertiginous depths,
think you see them!"  It is the disparity that makes the scene interesting.
Another question:  Gloucester thinks Edgar is better spoken, and Gloucester
doesn't hear the sea.  Edgar tells his father that his other senses suffer
through his eyes' anguish.  Granted that the audience knows, when Edgar tells
it, that "Why I do trifle with his despair is done to cure it."  Does the
audience suspect Edgar of such trifling before he himself reveals it?

As with most things, the questions are more interesting than answers that can
never be determined with certainty.  Thanks for this discussion.

David Richman
University of New Hampshire
 

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