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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: June ::
Re: Lear; Cordelia
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0667.  Monday, 16 June 1997.

From:           Roger Schmeeckle <
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Date:           Saturday, 14 Jun 1997 14:55:28 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 8.0475  Re: Lear; Cordelia
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0475  Re: Lear; Cordelia

Framji Minwalla wrote:

> "Do we pity Lear?  Possibly, yes.  We see him, at the end of the play,
> as 'more sinned against than sinning', as Caroline Spurgeon puts it
> [Shakespeare's Iterative Imagery], 'a human body in anguished
> movement-tugged, wrenched, beaten, pierced, stung, scourged, dislocated,
> flayed, gashed, scalded, tortured, and finally broken on the rack.'

I tried unsuccessfully to locate the Spurgeon citation.  Is it a book,
an article, or a selection in a book by another title?

Whatever the case, to apply this to Lear without qualification is to
fail to relate it to Lear's development in the play.  It represents the
stage of Lear's selfishness and lack of self-knowledge, as commented on
by his wicked daughters.  In the play Lear proceeds from pre-occupation
with self towards concern for others, as evidenced by his recognition
that to continue to harbor resentment leads to madness, to his
realization that he had far too little concern for his subjects, and,
most important of all, his asking Cordelia to forgive him.

Cordelia would have a much better claim to being more sinned against
than sinning, but she doesn't waste emotion on self-pity.

> "Once Lear's wits turn, he finally begins to lay his insides out, to
> inspect more honestly than ever before the world he helped make.  But
> it's not that Lear changes or grows wise;  rather, he becomes more
> aware.  Barbara Everett ("The New King Lear") captures this nicely:
> 'Lear commands attention continually by the degree to which the simplest
> discoveries become, through him, a matter of immediate physical
> experience, felt both intensely and comprehensively.'

I do not understand the distinction you are making between becoming wise
and becoming more aware.  They would seem to be positively correlated.

     Roger Schmeeckle

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