The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0414 Monday, 28 February 2000.
Date: Sunday, 27 Feb 2000 18:22:15 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Bloom's Edgar and Lear
Bloom's chapter on King Lear makes a persuasive argument for just how
much the play is Edgar's play. Though I do not dispute the conclusions
(having delivered a paper on the tragic dimension of Edgar a decade
ago), I do have a problem with his reading of "He childed as I
He argues (p. 485) that the phrase is "neither a parallel between two
innocences (Lear's and Edgar's) and two guilts (Lear's elder daughters'
and Gloucester's) because Edgar does not consider his father to be
guilty." Instead, he insists, the parallel is between Lear-Cordelia and
Edgar-Gloucester. He goes on: "There is love, and only love, among
those four, and yet there is tragedy, and only tragedy among them," etc.
Looking at the context closely (Edgar's soliloquy at the end of III, vi
in the quarto or conflated editions), one has to refute the
interpretation of this line. However convenient the phrase is for
capturing the admission or recognition of own's own errors, too late to
prevent the tragedy, isn't Edgar at this point in the play mirroring the
surface parallel that Lear assumed, that Tom's was brought to his state
by giving all to his daughters, and speaking of both Lear and himself as
wrongly hunted down, pursued? Edgar's entire empathy in the speech is
for the king, hoping for his safe escape, recognizing Lear's more acute
suffering of the mind. That he does not yet think of his father's just
witnessed daring deed, to get the king to Dover, as a gesture that will
endanger Gloucester (cause Lear's enemies to pluck out his eyes) is what
makes Edgar's too late concern for Gloucester so effective in IV, i.
Edgar, indeed, repeats the cycle of hoping for the right action or
thought at the right moment, having it come back at him. He attempts to
"cure" his father of his despair, but does not, until too late, reveal
who he is. His parenthetical "O fault" when he confesses this error
concisely echoes Lear's repeated admissions of error.
So "He childed as I fathered" is rich with overall thematic import, and
I suppose might be used out of context to assert the "love" and
"tragedy" parallels in the play. Yet, since Edgar at this point neither
knows the effort Cordelia is making nor recognizes the sacrifices his
own father is making (nor foresees the guiding of his father that he
will undertake), the way the line reads best is to mate himself and Lear
as sufferers. The recognition of his errors in judgment will, for
Edgar, come later, and expose the flaw in the parallel he assumes at
this moment. This mistake-making capacity is so central to Edgar's
tragic dimension that Bloom gets it right everywhere else. But his
reading of Edgar's "He childed as I fathered" doesn't work for me.
Jacksonville State U.