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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: April ::
New on the SHAKSPER Fileserver: FAIRES ANDGODS
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0415.  Thursday, 3 April 1997.

From:           Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:           Thursday, April 3, 1997
Subject:        New on the SHAKSPER Fileserver: FAIRES ANDGODS

As of today, SHAKSPEReans may retrieve "'Faires and Gods':  A
Socio-Religious Context for _King Lear_" (FAIRES ANDGODS) from the
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"'Faires and Gods':  A Socio-Religious Context for _King Lear_"

by Jessica Wylie

The action of _King Lear_ predates Christianity, a simple fact of
chronology which profoundly complicates the play, depriving it of the
familiar moral context of tragedies like _Hamlet_ which rely heavily on
Christian doctrine to order the action and its consequences.  In _Lear_,
heaven and hell are bodily conditions rather than incorporeal
projections; Lear wishes to make his paradise on earth in the homes of
his daughters and finds just the opposite in the same.  This pagan
universe provides the perfect backdrop to the sense of chaos and despair
created by the action, a chaos which culminates in the seemingly
senseless death of the play's one consistently sympathetic character,
Cordelia.  But pre-Christian England has been imagined as the home of
two very different kinds of paganism, and both can be seen to have a
part to play in influencing the action and outcome of _King Lear_.  As
he prepares to commit suicide by throwing himself from what he thinks is
a high cliff, the king's faithful courtier, Gloucester, blesses his
guide with the words, "Fairies and gods/Prosper it with thee!"
(4.6.29-30).  These are the powers which hold sway in Lear's England,
and the pattern of conflict between them provides a possible order to
the chaos of Lear's tragedy.
 

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