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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: May ::
Re: Lear and Suffering
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0844  Tuesday, 11 May 1999.

[1]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Monday, 10 May 1999 09:50:25 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0838 Various Queries

[2]     From:   Richard Bovard <
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        Date:   Monday, 10 May 1999 10:03:38 -0500
        Subj:   Lear and Suffering

[3]     From:   Julia K. Taylor <
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        Date:   Monday, 10 May 1999 14:19:55 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Shakespeare's Worldview in Lear?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Monday, 10 May 1999 09:50:25 EDT
Subject: 10.0838 Various Queries
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0838 Various Queries

Eric Swan writes:

My class just finished up two weeks on studying King Lear, and we ended
with a discussion on the suffering of the characters in the play.
Something that I can not resolve is the fact that everyone in the play
seems to suffer greatly, including the extremely virtuous, almost to a
fault, Cordelia.  Edgar claims in Act 5 Scene 3 that the "gods are just,
we bring punishment on ourselves."  Since that is basically the last
mention of a philosophy in the play, is this how we are supposed to
interpret everything that went on?  Am I to accept this philosophy as
the meaning that Shakespeare was trying to get me to understand?  I am
just having a hard time accepting this explanation as the truth and
reality of justice.

If you think about it in terms of the "sins of the fathers," Eric, even
Cordelia is not as utterly virtuous as she seems: she could after all
mend her speech a little, as requested, but she is as hard-headed as her
father, and as proud and unwilling to bend.  Edgar, though a loving son,
is a gullible one; and Gloucester, like Lear, fails to believe the
evidence of his own heart (and takes on faith Edmund's false witness
against his legitimate brother without questioning it).  More like "what
fools these mortals be," especially when their egos get in the way.

Best regards,
Carol Barton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Bovard <
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Date:           Monday, 10 May 1999 10:03:38 -0500
Subject:        Lear and Suffering

Edgar continues to seek an explanation for his own and others' suffering
throughout the play.  His efforts usually fail before the reality of the
suffering that he experiences and observes.  When he thinks that he has
an explanation, he learns that the explanation is undercut by his next
experience(s).  After he says that "The gods are just," he must tell his
literally heart-breaking tale and then the story of meeting Kent. Then,
swiftly, he experience the news of the dead sisters, the entrance of the
dying Kent, the entrance of Lear with Cordelia, and the news of his
brother's death.  What efforts to explain can help?  His experience is
much like the experience of many readers/audiences.  At the end, we
stumble over "what we ought to say," as does Edgar.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Julia K. Taylor <
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Date:           Monday, 10 May 1999 14:19:55 -0500 (CDT)
Subject:        Shakespeare's Worldview in Lear?

One cannot read Shakespeare without reflecting upon life's important
questions.  So on that note:  what do you think is Shakespeare's
overarching worldview?  Particularly, does he portray a chaotic,
nihilistic universe in Lear, or does he attempt to reinforce the
stability and order of the Great Chain of Being?  From my point of view
he seems to reflect the tension in a time period between the Great Chain
Era and the coming Age of Science, although the age of science hardly
presented a chaotic world either.  Hmmm.  Where does the nihilism come
from?  The Plague?  Arbitrary suffering around him?  Any insights would
be great!
 

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