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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: April ::
Re: Cordelia; Lear; The Fool
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0480.  Monday, 21 April 1997.

[1]     From:   Stephanie L. Paulsen <
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        Date:   Sunday, 20 Apr 1997 22:08:07
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0471 Re: Cordelia

[2]     From:   Helen Vella Bonavita <
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        Date:   Monday, 21 Apr 1997 11:58:11 +0800 (WST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0471  Re: Cordelia

[3]     From:   Robert G. Marks <
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        Date:   Monday, 21 Apr 1997 19:20:01 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0461  Re: Cordelia

[4]     From:   Robert G. Marks <
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        Date:   Monday, 21 Apr 1997 20:24:22 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0468  Re: Cordelia

[5]     From:   Chuck Nickerson <
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        Date:   Sunday, 20 Apr 1997 16:00:02 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0472 Lear Distress

[6]     From:   Robert G. Marks <
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        Date:   Monday, 21 Apr 1997 21:26:27 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0472  Distressed by *Lear*

[7]     From:   Robert G. Marks <
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        Date:   Monday, 21 Apr 1997 14:51:14 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0455  Re: The Fool

[8]     From:   Robert G. Marks <
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        Date:   Monday, 21 Apr 1997 15:39:43 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0461  Re: The Fool; Cordelia


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie L. Paulsen <
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Date:           Sunday, 20 Apr 1997 22:08:07 EST
Subject: 8.0471 Re: Cordelia
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0471 Re: Cordelia

This may sound simple to those of you who have written about Cordelia's
refusal to humor her father - how it makes her less of a person and how
it seems to diminish her love for Lear - but I don't think the issue is
that of her coldness or her stubbornness. I think more of her for
refusing to flatter her father in order to gain more political power and
for jeopardizing her marital prospects in order to be honest. I agree
that it sounds odd to say she takes half of her love with her when she
marries, but if you consider that statement to be saying that she feels
that her father and her husband will both be equal in her esteem (even
though once married she is completely subject to the will of her
husband) then it makes sense. Besides, what happens to the rest of the
play if Lear has no reason to disown his daughter? She has to say
something to make him angry.

Sincerely,
Stephanie Paulsen

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Helen Vella Bonavita <
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Date:           Monday, 21 Apr 1997 11:58:11 +0800 (WST)
Subject: 8.0471  Re: Cordelia
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0471  Re: Cordelia

I see the scene between Lear and his daughters as one where *identity*
is all-important. Lear seems to me to be demanding that his daughters
define their whole existence in terms of himself - they are competing
for the identities as rulers of parts of Britain - which he alone as
King and father can give. Cordelia is the only one who refuses to buy
into this game. Her insistence on the love and duty which she will give
her husband asserts her identity as a person independent of Lear,
desiring to assume another, wider identity than that simply of Lear's
daughter. The result of her integrity is, of course, the identity of
Queen of France which is immediately supplied her, one which she has won
with minimal help from her father.

To me, this is crucial when looking at her conduct later on in the
play.  When she and Lear are brought before Edmund, Cordelia shows
herself willing to fight on: "Shall we not see these sisters and these
daughters?" (I hope that quotation's correct; I don't have the text by
me).  Lear's response, urging them away to prison together, in fact begs
for what he desired at the beginning of the play - to have Cordelia's
love and being focused solely upon himself, in his retreat. And
Cordelia, in her silent assent, gives in to him, as she did not before.
In this sense, her death can be seen as being in some way
self-inflicted; she reverts to her original identity of "Lear's
daughter" and in her refusal to go beyond that, dies.

Just my two cents' worth....
Helen Vella Bonavita
University of Western Australia

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert G. Marks <
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Date:           Monday, 21 Apr 1997 19:20:01 -0700
Subject: 8.0461  Re: Cordelia
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0461  Re: Cordelia

Monday, 14 Apr 1997 13:32:17 -0900 (PDT) Derek Wood
<
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 > Re: SHK 8.0431  Re:"Lear" (Cordelia) quoted
Gregory McSweeney SHK 8.0431:

> >>.... It's a conscious decision on Cordelia's part to showcase her own superior morality over that of her siblings.

And then Derek adds:

> I too have had trouble dealing with Cordelia's stubbornness, as uncompromising as her father's, ....

I am of the conviction that it's not Cordelia who is showcasing her
superior morality, but Shakespeare.

There's no doubt that Cordelia's morality is superior to her sisters'.
But the question is, does it measure up to the standard espoused by
James I before whom Shakespeare originally performed his version of the
ancient tale?

It's my conviction that in serving her father as his Fool without any
acknowledgement, even by today's critics(!), she more than adequately
satisfies James I's idea of how a Christian prince(ss) should behave.

        To conclude then, both this purpose of conscience and the
        first part of this booke; Keepe God more sparingly in your
        mouth, but aboundantly in your heart: be precise in effect,
        but sociall in shew: kythe [make known] more by your
        deeds then by your words the loue of vertue and hatred of
        vice: and delight more to be godlie and vertuous in deede
        then to be thought and called so; expecting more for your
        praise and reward in heauen then heere: and apply to all
        your outward actions Christes commaunde, to pray and
        giue your almes secretly: so shall ye on the one part be
        inwardly garnished with true Christian humility, not
        outwardly (with the proud Pharisie) glorying in your
        godlines: but saying, as Christ commandeth vs all, when we
        haue done all that we can, Inutiles serui sumus. And on the
        other part, ye shall eschew outwardly before the world the
        suspition of filthie proud hypocrisie and deceitfull
        dissimulation.
                                     _Basilikon Doron_

Her service of Lear as his Fool would also be an exemplification of the
Stoic idea expressed by Seneca in his brief chapter (9) from Book 2 of
_On Benefyting_ translated into English by Arthur Golding as late as in
1578:

        Therefore all Authors of wisdomme teache, that some
        benefites must bee bestowed openly, and some secretly.
        Openly, which are a prayse too attein: as rewardes of
        Chiualrie, and honour, and whatsouer else becometh more
        honourable by beeyng knowen. But as for the thinges that
        auaunce not a mannes credit or estimation, but releeve his
        weaknesse, his want, or his shame: they must bee giuen
        secretly, so as they may bee knowen too none but those
        that take good by them. Ye and sometymes euen he that is
        too bee holpen must bee beguyled, so as he may haue the
        thing, and yet not knowe of whom he had it.

Cordelia does this if she is Lear's Fool. If she wasn't the Fool,
Shakespeare missed a wonderful opportunity to exemplify what James and
Jacobean audiences would have been looking for.

If you would like to read more, email me about acquiring my book
_Cordelia, King Lear and His Fool._ It incorporates _Basilikon Doron_
and other important sources of Shakespeare's _King Lear._

Sincerely,
Bob Marks

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[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert G. Marks <
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Date:           Monday, 21 Apr 1997 20:24:22 -0700
Subject: 8.0468  Re: Cordelia
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0468  Re: Cordelia

I like what someone pointed out to Susan Mather <
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she reported Tuesday, 15 Apr 1997 23:24:25 -0400 (EDT) Re: SHK 8.0461
Re: The Fool; Cordelia

> Goneril and Regan really say absolutely nothing to their father.  Goneril says,
> "Sir, I love you more than word can wield the matter,....  A love that
> makes breath poor and speech unable." (I. i. 50, 55) & then Regan says,
> "In my true heart I find she names my very deed of love"(I. i. 65-66)
> Well then why are they still talking?

What they say is so palpably flattering. I believe that James I would
have valued Cordelia's decision not to try to out do her sisters'
flattery of their father who now wants more of her than her sisters have
already delivered.

Shakespeare's choice of "Nothing" as Cordelia's response to her father
also opened up the very popular dramatic idea of getting something from
nothing. Fool will later ask Lear "Can you make no use of nothing,
Nuncle?" Lear has essentially reduced Cordelia to nothing -
"little-seeming substance" and "nothing more". If she is Lear's Fool, as
I believe she is, then Lear is making use of nothing!

The trouble with so much criticism of _Lear_ is that most of it is made
in light of the feelings that we bring to the play rather than the
feelings Shakespeare's original audiences would have brought to it.

I also like Susan's concluding comment

> What I always find ironic is that critics who
> write about the stubborn, frigid, cold, unfeeling Cordelia I keep
> reading about in articles are so very much like Lear in their judgment
> of her.

How could we understand that Shakespeare intended for us to understand
that he felt this way about Cordelia too?

You take care too Susan.

Sincerely,
Bob Marks

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[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chuck Nickerson <
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Date:           Sunday, 20 Apr 1997 16:00:02 -0700
Subject: 8.0472 Lear Distress
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0472 Lear Distress

LEAR at its simplest is about giving up control of something you have
built, and still care about. A cracker-jack audience for this play would
be entrepreneurs who have lost control of their companies after taking
them public. Corporate governance is the modern analog of royal
succession. For a factual account of the business analog, see the book
'Barbarians at the Gate'. If you have yet to experience Lear's set of
emotions, enjoy that state while you can.

[6]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert G. Marks <
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Date:           Monday, 21 Apr 1997 21:26:27 -0700
Subject: 8.0472  Distressed by *Lear*
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0472  Distressed by *Lear*

I can't see how any person of feeling, reading _Lear_, can be anything
other than distressed at the conclusion of what is the normal way of
looking at the play. Samuel Taylor, John Keats, Nahum Tate all were.
Thackery thought it "boring." Probably the things that most moderns
appreciate about the play is the evil and madness in the play.

How about James I? What would he have thought of his playwright who took
a fairy tale of Cinderella proportions and turned it into a horror story
which he then presented to him at Christmas time? I can't see him
appreciating it!

Can you imagine Shakespeare explaining to James later at dinner that in
his _Lear_ the Fool "subsumes" Lear or vice versa? Is that the way
Shakespeare usually worked his characters out in his plays?

It seems to me to be much more feasible that Shakespeare would have
hidden Cordelia in the motley of the Fool as he hid so many others of
his characters in various disguises.

By doing this he created something really wonderful which modern
audiences have not yet seen. Cordelia, and abused daughter, going to
heaven at her death to receive her reward for that which she did without
acknowledgment or reward from men - serving her father as his Fool.

It might be objected that _Lear_ is a tragedy and should therefore be
distressing. Lear comes down to us labelled as both a History and a
Tragedy. How are we to regard it? Higgins presented what was undeniably
a tragedy, but it was "The Tragedy of Cordila" who in despair took her
own life and was therefore condemned. The anonymous 1605 version of the
folktale reversed the fortune of Cordella and Leir and called it a
History.  Shakespeare's Quarto version of 1608 is an obvious contrast
with Leir and so is labeled a History also. The Folio version of 1623
recognized the tragic element in Shakespeare's play and so labeled it a
Tragedy. But it is "The Tragedy of King Lear" not of Cordelia, because
even though she dies, it is not by her own hand, as was the case with
Cordila, and she would have been seen as having gone to heaven to
receive her reward, which would not have been seen as tragic.

_Lear_ is not distressing to me. It need not be for you either! And it
is still Shakespeare's finest work.

Not distressed.
Bob Marks

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[7]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert G. Marks <
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Date:           Monday, 21 Apr 1997 14:51:14 -0700
Subject: 8.0455  Re: The Fool
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0455  Re: The Fool

My apologies for the delay in responding to David Evett's comparison of
Fool with Pisanio and Adam.

David Evett wrote in response to SHK 8.0438:
>
> Robert Marks' use of the Fool's unacknowledged disappearance from the
> text as an argument for his identification of the Fool with Cordelia
> ignores the fact that this disappearance is not unique.  Two other
> Shakespearean servants who have demonstrated extraordinary fidelity to
> their masters, in forms contrary to their own self-interest, likewise
> disappear without further notice once the service has been rendered.
> Pisanio in *Cym* is presumably still on stage at the end of the play,
> but despite his material contributions to Innogen's escape from the
> plots of the Queen, Cloten, and Iachimo, once his purely expository
> duties in Act 5 are finished he speaks no more, and is never formally
> thanked or rewarded.  Adam in *AYL* is even more relevant; having left
> his home of 80 years and turned over his retirement savings to Orlando,
> then followed the youngster into the wild woods to the point of
> exhaustion, he's dropped without a word.  On the evidence, we are not
> obliged to suppose that the Fool is not, in fact, still around: it could
> be quite striking and moving for him to come running on at the very end,
> having finally caught up, to confront the tragic loading of the stage,
> especially if cast young.
>
> Servilely,
> David Evett

My response to David is simply to say first that Pisanio and Adam both
have names. The Fool has none - unless we are to understand from "And my
poor Fool is hanged...." that her name is Cordelia.

Pisanio is present in just about every scene in _Cym_ and his goodness
and faithfulness is acknowledged repeatedly. 1.1.170; 1.3.21; 1.5.80;
3.2.62; 3.4.100; 3.5; 4.3.12; 5.1; 5.3; 5.5.123. He is there to share in
the reconciliation of his master and Imogem in the denouement of the
play. The Fool is only present in the middle of the play and disappears
.....

Adam does not disappear from _AYL_. He is honourably received into the
company of Duke Senior in the Forest of Arden at 2.7.167, from which he
is no doubt eventually restored to civilization with the rest of the
Duke's party. His service is exemplary and is acknowledged by
Orlando's:

        O good old man, how well in thee appears
        The constant service of the antique world,
        When service sweat for duty, not for meed!
        Thou art not for the fashion of these times,
        Where none will sweat but for promotion,
        And having that, do choke their service up
        Even with the having; it is not so with thee.
                                                2.3.57ff

And notice too that Orlando does not mean to, nor probably does, use up
Adam's retirement funds:

        And ere we have thy youthful wages spent,
        We'll light upon some settled low content.

In the Folio version of _AYL_, as in the Folio version of most if not
all plays where there are Clowns or Fools, Touchstone's speeches are
prefixed by "Clown" or some abbreviation of it. In these plays we know
the name of the clown from stage directions or from how the clown is
addressed. In the case of Touchstone, the Folio shows a stage direction
at the beginning of 2.4, "Enter Rosaline for Ganimed, Celia for Aliena,
and Clowne, alias Touchstone." A few lines into this scene he is called
Touchstone by Rosalind, and then in 3.2 he is twice called Touchstone by
Corin.

My point is that simply because we have a separate speech prefix for
Fool in _Lear_ it does not necessary follow that the Fool is a different
person to Cordelia. The Fool's "And I'll go to bed at noon" is
predictive of the Fool's own departure from the play. We go to bed to
sleep, and sleep in this play can mean die (1.2.50). The Fool will cease
to exist because she is to reappear as Cordelia.

Happily reading King Lear,
Bob Marks

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[8]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert G. Marks <
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Date:           Monday, 21 Apr 1997 15:39:43 -0700
Subject: 8.0461  Re: The Fool; Cordelia
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0461  Re: The Fool; Cordelia

Sunday, 13 Apr 1997 11:09:34 +1200 Brian Turner wrote:

> 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."

SHAKSPEReans,

As much as I respect Kenneth Muir for his scholarship, I do not think
that his statement that the Fool "fades from the picture when he is no
longer needed, since Lear can act as his own fool" is accurate. Lear
sinks much deeper into madness after the Fool's departure, much less
able to out-jest his own heart-struck injuries. Cordelia will command,
long after the Fool disappears:

                        Seek, seek for him [Lear],
        Lest his ungovern'd rage dissolve the life
        That wants the means to lead it.

Granville-Barker wrote concerning the Fool's final words "this is the
last we hear or see of him; and what happens to him thereafter, who
knows and who cares?"

Well many have cared. The question of what became of Lear's Fool is
often asked.  And certainly, Lear cared!  - in his dying moments and the
denouement of the play when I believe that he identified the Fool as
having been Cordelia.

The Fool disappeared at the precise moment that Lear was put into the
litter to be carried to Dover in the care of Kent. The Fool disappeared
because she had to get to Dover in advance of Lear, in the same way that
the disguised Portia and Nerissa leave Venice before Bassanio and
Gratiano to return to Belmont ahead of them. At Dover Cordelia put off
the motley and for the first time put on the Queen's robes newly arrived
from France. Perhaps this trusting of Lear to Kent has its parallel in
the secondary plot, at 4.7.281,282, when Edgar speaks of entrusting his
blind father into the hands of a friend while he goes off to deliver his
letter to Albany and regain his rightful place.

Sincerely,
Bob Marks

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