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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: March ::
Re: The Button
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0625  Thursday, 30 March 2000.

[1]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 29 Mar 2000 13:47:40 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0621 Re: Jacobean Dress

[2]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 29 Mar 2000 14:23:09 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0621 Re: Jacobean Dress

[3]     From:   Lawrence Manley <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 29 Mar 2000 14:31:16 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0621 Re: Jacobean Dress

[4]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 29 Mar 2000 11:37:33 -0800
        Subj:   SHK 11.0621 Re: Jacobean Dress

[5]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 29 Mar 2000 21:17:02 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0621 Re: Jacobean Dress

[6]     From:   Graham Bradshaw <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Mar 2000 16:15:52 +0900
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0621 Re: Jacobean Dress


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Wednesday, 29 Mar 2000 13:47:40 -0500
Subject: 11.0621 Re: Jacobean Dress
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0621 Re: Jacobean Dress

Terence Hawkes observes

> It seems to me that Lear's 'Pray you, undo this button' refers to a
> button on Cordelia's garment.

Near the neck, I presume.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 29 Mar 2000 14:23:09 -0500
Subject: 11.0621 Re: Jacobean Dress
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0621 Re: Jacobean Dress

I can't recall ever having seen a production in which it was not
interpreted to mean a button at the king's throat, as though the stress
were making him feel choked, Terry (for whatever that's worth).

Carol Barton

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lawrence Manley <
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Date:           Wednesday, 29 Mar 2000 14:31:16 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 11.0621 Re: Jacobean Dress
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0621 Re: Jacobean Dress

> It seems to me that Lear's 'Pray you, undo this button' refers to a
> button on Cordelia's garment.

And so not referring us back to 3.4.108, "Off, off, you lendings!  Come,
unbutton here"?

Lawrence Manley

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Wednesday, 29 Mar 2000 11:37:33 -0800
Subject: Re: Jacobean Dress
Comment:        SHK 11.0621 Re: Jacobean Dress

> It seems to me that Lear's 'Pray you, undo this button' refers to a
> button on Cordelia's garment.

I once saw it played that way.  I believe it was either the Olivier or
BBC Shakespeare video versions, I can't remember which, and may be wrong
about even that.  I found it more moving than when Lear is concerned for
his own button, but that is an unpersuasive personal response.  It fits
with the request for the looking glass several lines earlier (V.3.261),
the feather (265), and the rest of the speech that Terry quoted in part,

Pray you, undo this button: thank you sir.
Do you see this? Look on her, look her lips.
Look there, look there!

Lear keeps trying to find life in Cordelia.  Asking for help with the
button may be an attempt to let her lungs breathe free, and that is his
concern with the mirror and the feather.

Can it be that Terry Hawkes and I agree on something?  Must be a
misunderstanding.

Cheers,
Mike Jensen

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 29 Mar 2000 21:17:02 +0100
Subject: 11.0621 Re: Jacobean Dress
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0621 Re: Jacobean Dress

> It seems to me that Lear's 'Pray you, undo this button' refers to a
> button on Cordelia's garment.

Perhaps-but the text doesn't allow a definition.  'Bout all we know is
that on stage, SOME button is undone-Lear says, "Thank you, sir."  Could
be Lear's (on his jerkin-I refuse to allow the buttoned codpiece
reading!) or Cordelia's.

But it IS significant ... If Lear is asking for his own button to be
undone, he's asking for help, a New Reformed King Lear.  If it's
Cordelia's, then he imagines she's still alive-an Old Deluded Lear.

One of those rare moments when the written text doesn't fairly precisely
define the stage-directions-except in +Hamlet+, but that's another
matter.

Robin Hamilton

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Bradshaw <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Mar 2000 16:15:52 +0900
Subject: 11.0621 Re: Jacobean Dress
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0621 Re: Jacobean Dress

With respect to Professor Hawkes's reasonable but not conclusive
suggestion that "Pray you, undo this button" refers to a button "on
Cordelia's garment", couldn't it be Lear's garment?

Or, to put a different question that may matter more in dramatic terms:
isn't Lear's request so piercing because this king has previously
commanded, not requested, let alone "prayed"?

Cheers, Graham Bradshaw
 

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