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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: March ::
Re: The Button
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0635  Friday, 31 March 2000.

[1]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Mar 2000 06:04:05 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0625 Re: The Button

[2]     From:   David Bishop <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Mar 2000 13:52:06 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0625 Re: The Button

[3]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Mar 2000 11:21:30 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0625 Re: The Button


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Mar 2000 06:04:05 +0100
Subject: 11.0625 Re: The Button
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0625 Re: The Button

> 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?

There'sa swatch of disputed readings around this point -- "My poor fool
is hanged" -- Cordelia or the (literal) Fool?

Robin Hamilton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Mar 2000 13:52:06 -0500
Subject: 11.0625 Re: The Button
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0625 Re: The Button

Call it my fantasy, but I hear Lear's request to undo this button,
probably of his cloak, as, unconsciously, a request to drop these
lendings-his body-and let his soul finally fly free. I think there was a
belief that at death the soul flies up, or is carried up, out of the
mouth, and that may be what Lear sees: Cordelia's soul leaving her mouth
and flying toward heaven.  Directing it, I would have him point to her
mouth, watch the invisible soul fly upward, and fall back dead. Her soul
flying upward to heaven would be proto-Christian: the foreshadowing of
the "good news" in the fact that despite Cordelia's horrible death her
soul is saved. Even if it were possible, though, I wouldn't make this
explicit by making the soul visible, like Tinkerbelle. The promise
remains only a hint, possibly a hallucination.

David

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Mar 2000 11:21:30 -0800
Subject: 11.0625 Re: The Button
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0625 Re: The Button

Robin Hamilton draws attention to the importance of which button Lear
asks to be undone:

> 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.

Could we have it both ways?  Would trying to actually help another
person, and needing the help of another other person to do it, show that
he's moving away from the crass manipulation of the opening scenes?
Helping Cordelia to breathe is surely as much evidence of the "New
Reformed King Lear" as courteously conscripting a valet would be.

But I can only agree that it's a crux which isn't really solved by stage
directions.  A serious interpretation of the last scene would either
have to decide on characterological grounds, find a reading that works
in either case, or collapse into mere relativism and undecidability.

Cheers,
Se

 

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