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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: May ::
Re: King Lear
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0566.  Thursday, 15 May 1997.

[1]     From:   James Edward Moore <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 14 May 1997 15:09:42 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0563 Q: King Lear

[2]     From:   Roger Schmeeckle <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 14 May 1997 14:46:30 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0563  Q: King Lear

[3]     From:   Derek Wood <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 14 May 1997 21:57:41 -0900 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0563  Q: King Lear

[4]     From:   Michael Skovmand <
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        Date:   Thursday, 15 May 1997 11:35:02 MET
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0563  Q: King Lear


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James Edward Moore <
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Date:           Wednesday, 14 May 1997 15:09:42 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 8.0563 Q: King Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0563 Q: King Lear

I wouldn't necessarily say that Lear is a melancholy man. I feel that
his old age has driven him into a state of depression, yes, and maybe a
state where his mind is not completely in tune with reality. I mean he
is after all giving his entire throne away to his daughters kind of
abruptly, but as for melancholy, I always thought that Lear was pushed
over that edge by his two older daughters who betray him. I think he is
a man full of love for his family, and that love is betrayed, being
betrayed, maybe all Lear can deduce from the rest of his life is
melancholy because what he loved the most has betrayed and left him. I
feel sorry for him. I know this will probably not be very helpful, but I
just thought I'd speak a little about how I feel about the issue.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roger Schmeeckle <
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Date:           Wednesday, 14 May 1997 14:46:30 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 8.0563  Q: King Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0563  Q: King Lear

To admit that Lear is a nature completely transformed is not opposed to
the claim that Lear is purified by suffering.  Both statements are
true.  Of course his vital forces are extinguished.  He dies.

Lear is an angry, not a melancholy man.  This gives me an occasion to
mention one of my pet hypotheses, seemingly so far out that I do not
recall ever hearing of anyone else's having noticed it.  I stress the
hypothetical aspect.

Hypothesis:  Shakespeare, at some point, had the idea of a series of
serious plays, what his editors would later label as tragedies, based on
the seven cardinal vices.  The result was the seven plays usually
regarded as the mature tragedies.  Hamlet, melancholy; Lear, anger;
Othello, envy; Macbeth, avarice; Antony and Cleopatra, lust; Coriolanus,
pride; and Timon of Athens, gluttony.  Admittedly, the last is rather
difficult to sustain.

I would qualify this hypothesis by saying that the original plan, if
such it was, often became subordinated to other factors in the working
out of it, Shakespeare being the inspired genius that he was.

So Lear is an angry person who commits a gross injustice and suffers the
consequences, paralleled by Gloucester's unjust treatment of Edgar.
Gloucester failed to control his concupiscence, Lear his irascibility.
Both of them undergo purification, reflecting the Christian view of the
world as sinful, purgative, and blessed.  The blessed aspect is
represented by the saintly Cordelia, who forgives her wicked father and
tries to save him.

I would appreciate learning whether anyone has ever made a similar
suggestion with regard to the correspondence between the seven plays and
the seven cardinal vices.

Roger Schmeeckle

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Derek Wood <
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Date:           Wednesday, 14 May 1997 21:57:41 -0900 (PDT)
Subject: 8.0563  Q: King Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0563  Q: King Lear

Have you read Lawrence Babb's "Elizabethan Malady." It's an old but very
helpful book and helps understand what the Elizabethans understood by
melancholy. If you have time to look at Burton's "Anatomy of
Melancholy," you'll find it fascinating and helpful, but it's long. Lear
certainly suffers from several kinds of melancholy as the Elizabethans
understood it, that is an excess of black bile and a condition known as
"melancholy adust." I don't agree with Schucking about his not being
purified. I wouldn't sentimentalise "purified" but he understands an
awful lot about human beings that he was insulated from earlier because
of his powerful pampered cosseted existence.

        Best wishes
        Derek Wood.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Skovmand <
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Date:           Thursday, 15 May 1997 11:35:02 MET
Subject: 8.0563  Q: King Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0563  Q: King Lear

King Lear is not a melancholy man  - certainly not in the Renaissance
humourous sense  - from that point of view he is a choleric  character.
He is a victim of  EARLY RETIREMENT SYNDROME  - he's identified his
person with his role of king, to such an extent that he is  incapable
of  distinguishing between  filial and dynastic relations, and
insensitive to  the  consequences  which the transfer of power and the
division  of the kingdom will have upon the persons involved. The play
is Lear's ' reality therapy'.  How's that for a ten second
interpretation?

Michael Skovmand
University of Aarhus
Denmark
 

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