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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: June ::
Re: Greenblatt; Cordelia/Lear; Stoic Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0699.  Monday, 23 June 1997.

[1]     From:   R. D. H. Wells" <
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        Date:   Sunday, 22 Jun 1997 12:51:24 +0100 (BST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0687 Q: Book on Stephen Greenblatt

[2]     From:   Louis C Swilley <
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        Date:   Sunday, 22 Jun 1997 07:58:32 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0695 Re: Cordelia and Lear

[3]     From:   John McWilliams <
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        Date:   Monday, 23 Jun 1997 10:10:47  +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0697  Re: Stoic Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           R. D. H. Wells" <
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Date:           Sunday, 22 Jun 1997 12:51:24 +0100 (BST)
Subject: 8.0687 Q: Book on Stephen Greenblatt
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0687 Q: Book on Stephen Greenblatt

Jurgen Pieters invites suggestions for essays on Stephen Greenblatt for
inclusion in a collection of essays on his work.

One essay that has attracted considerable interest and is, I have heard,
widely used by academics in teaching Henry V is Tom McAlindon, "Testing
the New Historicism: 'Invisible Bullets' Reconsidered," Studies in
Philology, 92 (Fall, 1995), 411-438.

Robin Headlam Wells

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Louis C Swilley <
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Date:           Sunday, 22 Jun 1997 07:58:32 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 8.0695 Re: Cordelia and Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0695 Re: Cordelia and Lear

> What true lovers "feel," and the Christian meaning of love, are two
> different things.  You seem to be referring to romantic infatuation,
> which, though not bad in itself, is not the same as and should not be
> confused with true love.  I would argue that true love may or may not be
> accompanied by the feelings you describe. Christ said: "If you love God
> keep the commandments;" which is exactly what Cordelia did by honoring
> but not flattering her father.

Love is essentially the wishing all good for another, even at the
expense of one's own pain. This is the kind of love that ideally leads
to marriage; it is not mere infatuation.

My suggestion that Cordelia could say that she loves everything because
she loves her father is not flattery but truth.  The love for human
beings redounds to become the love of all that God has created.  (Read
Richard Wilbur's "Love Calls Us to the Things of This World.")

Of course, there was another alternative: Cordelia might have said,
"Look, Dad, this is really a private, family matter; let's not discuss
it in public."
> I agree that there is an analogy between love for a human being and love
> of God.  But things that are analogous, while similar, are also
> different in some aspect.  In this case, I would say that a Christian's
> love of God should be absolute, unlimited; love for a human being,
> including one's parent, is relative, limited.  Cordelia implies this
> when she mocks her sisters' flattering pretensions by referring to the
> love they owe their husbands. I do not see this as quantifying love at
> all; it is not meant to be taken quantitatively, but figuratively.

Cordelia may be mocking her sisters, as you say (although mockery is not
appropriate to this character, methinks).  To my mind, she is saying
exactly what she thinks: she thinks that love is divisible, quantifiable
- just as her father does - and she is tragically wrong.  To interpret
her remarks about her sisters' carrying "part" of their love to their
husbands and about her own intention of carrying "half" her love to her
prospective husband as "figurative" rather than as literal, is to miss
one of the best points of the play: Cordelia the daughter is
contributing to the tragedy of Lear the father by accepting and
extending his horrific errors that love is divisible and public, and
that the country should be divided, and divided on the basis of private
love - as though the country were private property and not a public
trust. The almost-coincident deaths of Lear and Cordelia at the end of
the play seem to underline their co-responsibility for the tragedy.

> We seem to agree that this is a Christian play.  Christians should not
> love the world, although they are commanded to love all other persons,
> including their enemies.  I do not know what you mean when you refer to
> loving the whole world through her love for her father.  Such a love
> seems contrary both to Christianity and to human experience.

I am using the term "world" as Richard Wilbur uses it in the poem I
mentioned above, not in Wordsworth's sense in "The World is Too Much
With Us," or in the theological sense of "The world, the flesh and the
Devil."  God created the world (as Wilbur and I are using the term); as
God's creation, the world deserves - indeed, commands - our love.

Louis

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John McWilliams <
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Date:           Monday, 23 Jun 1997 10:10:47  +0000
Subject: 8.0697  Re: Stoic Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0697  Re: Stoic Shakespeare

Dear Roger Schmeeckle,

When Ben Schneider talks about all works of art (and in particular
Shakespeare) "tak[ing] sides in some way", I don't think he meant us
simply to go through Shakespeare plays and find bits which might have a
Christian message... and I'm not wholly convinced by a Christian reading
of Pulp Fiction(!) A case of Jesus tinted spectacles perhaps?

             John McWilliams
 

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