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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: April ::
Re: The Fool; Cordelia
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0461.  Monday, 14 April 1997.

[1]     From:   Brian Turner <
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        Date:   Sunday, 13 Apr 1997 11:09:34 +1200
        Subj:   Re: The Fool

[2]     From:   Derek Wood <
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        Date:   Monday, 14 Apr 1997 13:32:17 -0900 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0431  Re:"Lear" (Cordelia);


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Turner <
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Date:           Sunday, 13 Apr 1997 11:09:34 +1200
Subject:        Re: The Fool

There are perfectly good dramatic reasons to explain the disappearance
of The Fool.  To quote Kenneth Muir in his introduction to the Arden
edition: "He fades from the picture when he is no longer needed, since
Lear can act as his own fool."

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Derek Wood <
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Date:           Monday, 14 Apr 1997 13:32:17 -0900 (PDT)
Subject: 8.0431  Re:"Lear" (Cordelia);
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0431  Re:"Lear" (Cordelia);

>>....I think the Fool is a better "child" to Lear than Cordelia can bring herself to be; her reticence in the early play to declare her love completely - if not as fulsomely as her sisters do, strikes me as a sort of standing on principle at the expense of the filial relationship. It's a conscious decision on Cordelia's part to showcase her own superior morality over that of her siblings. Her father's emotional needs at this point are excessive and exasperating, to be sure, but Cordelia is unwilling here to humour the old guy, for fear that she might be perceived as sycophantic or greedy....<<


Yes, I too have had trouble dealing with Cordelia's stubbornness, as
uncompromising as her father's, though to be fair, he is different in
that he does not hear what she says or listen to her words, demanding to
be offered up a verbal incense of loving cliche's, a pre-set bunch of
tired, formulaic flattery. But why does she not humour the old fool: few
people know better than she what he needs. It would take thirty seconds
of playing the old man's game: not long to hold your nose. If the
tragedy comes about because Lear uses power perversely and then
abdicates power irresponsibly, Cordelia is equally guilty.

What makes me hesitate about going further on this road is the presence
of France and Burgundy. They've been sniffing her over for about two
months. Soon she must leave her father's home for ever with a man she
hardly knows. It must be terrifying. What love means, how it can be
located, tested, verified, that's "the entire point." No doubt Burgundy
was a charming man, a gracious, refined courtier.  He clearly had been
satisfied with the dowry offered by Lear ("I crave no more") so all he
awaited was Cordelia's decision. For France, "She is herself a dowry."
Cordelia's stubbornness, "Which often leaves the history unspoke That it
intends to do," actually does the job. Her unspoken question is
answered: Burgundy is  anatomised and revealed to her. "Since that
respect and fortunes are his love, I shall not be his wife." The same
stressed, anxious, self-punishing precision ("What shall Cordelia
speak?"), which so disastrously infuriates her father, delivers her a
husband who comes through the ordeal so splendidly, more romantically
than any golddigging Bassanio, with only love and respect for the
"unpriz'd precious maid."

Is there a case for Cordelia?

Best wishes,
Derek Wood,
St. Francis Xavier University.
 

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