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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: March ::
Re: Lear's Fool and Dante
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0373.  Thursday, 20 March 1997.

[1]     From:   Tiffany Rasovic <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Mar 1997 12:57:50 -0800
        Subj:   RE: SHK 8.0372  Qs: Lear's Fool and Dante

[2]     From:   Sean K. Lawrence <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Mar 1997 12:34:08 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0372  Qs: Lear's Fool and Dante


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tiffany Rasovic <
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Date:           Wednesday, 19 Mar 1997 12:57:50 -0800
Subject: 8.0372  Qs: Lear's Fool and Dante
Comment:        RE: SHK 8.0372  Qs: Lear's Fool and Dante

I, peon and potential graduate student, did my senior essay on Lear's
fool and Feste.  I suggested links between Erasmus (see The Praise of
Folly)  and Shakes' use of fools and foolish characters as transmitters
of reason - by virtue of the fact that they necessarily stand outside of
conventional modes of reasoning which might be staid, corrupted,
unexamined, etc.....I racked my brains and my bibliography to find the
source of some very useful biographical info that characterizes the
traditional curricula in schools such as the one attended by the Bard,
as well as giving evidence that Shakes was indeed familiar with much of
the literature of Italy...so, unless I've been having dreams about this
evidence due to my own love of Dante, Erasmus, et al, the "proof"  is
out there.

Yours, TR

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean K. Lawrence <
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Date:           Wednesday, 19 Mar 1997 12:34:08 -0800
Subject: 8.0372  Qs: Lear's Fool and Dante
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0372  Qs: Lear's Fool and Dante

Hi, Roger.

My main issue with your Dante/Lear reading would concern its ending:
Dante, of course, ends up in Paradise, ending in the presence of the
transcendently blissful "Love that moves the sun and the other stars."
Lear, of course, ends up dead and, moreover, deceived into thinking his
daughter's alive, though I suppose his doubts might be seen as evidence
of breaking through to the other world in which she is alive.
Nevertheless, the world at the end of _King Lear_ is enormously
different from the rose of Paradise.

Perhaps this underlines the absolute division between earthly reason and
divine grace, also enunciated in the disappearance of the fool (or
Virgil).  In other words, Lear may have escaped the world, as Dante does
in leaving the garden at the end of Purgatorio, but his ontological
status following this escape can only be understood as absence.
Shakespeare, unlike Dante, makes no effort to express the structure of
Paradise, or any sort of afterlife, in language.

One could also argue that since the play is set before the birth of
Christ, no entry into Paradise can be contemplated within the world of
the play. In any case, the distinction between heaven and earth is
radical: one character having left the world, we are given only the
remaining characters, still trying to figure out their all-too-earthly
lives. I would place the play within the context of a challenge to the
metaphysics enunciated so beautifully by Dante. It is, after all, the
product of the reformation, and of the radical doubts it introduced (if
only later to foreclose). For more on which, see Robert Watson, _The
Rest is Silence: Death as Annihilation in the English Renaissance_.

And I hope you're not trying to turn Cordelia into Beatrice.  The
former's silence and gentle forgiveness ("no cause, no cause") stands in
radical contradistinction to Beatrice's rant in the Edenic garden at the
top of Mount Purgatory, which always makes me imagine one of my old
Sunday school teachers possessed by Lady Thatcher.

Cheers, and good luck,
Sean.
 

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