Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: April ::
Re: The Button
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0657  Monday, 3 April 2000.

[1]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 31 Mar 2000 05:43:14 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0635 Re: The Button

[2]     From:   Frank Whigham <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 31 Mar 2000 09:53:02 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0635 Re: The Button

[3]     From:   Larry Weiss <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 31 Mar 2000 13:37:54 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0635 Re: The Button


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 31 Mar 2000 05:43:14 +0100
Subject: 11.0635 Re: The Button
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0635 Re: The Button

>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.

I used to think there were three stage possibilities here, but I'm
forced (reluctantly) to recognise that there are four:

[1] A button on Lear's codpiece (which I have to confess I find a mite
improbable)

[2] Concealing just +which+ button from the audience (somewhat of a
cop-out)

[3] A button on Lear's jerkin

[4] A button on Cordelia's bodice.

After pondering Mike Jensen's post, I think the weight of evidence
points to [4] -- undoing Lear's button would mean a fairly drastic
switch from a focus on Lear to a focus on Cordelia-"Do you see this?
...  Look there, look there."

Part of why I'm (VERY reluctantly) forced to agree Mike's point is that
it seems to me that a Lear who dies (falsely) imagining that Cordelia is
alive makes for an even more unredeemedly pessimistic play than
otherwise-I can sympathise with Sam Johnson in being unwilling to
re-read it.

But Sean's right in that the interpretation of the scene arises from a
larger reading of the whole play-this occurs at the very end, after a
sense of the character of Lear will have been built up over almost five
full acts.  Similar cruces due to "lost" stage directions in +Hamlet+
arise much earlier.

But in both cases (1601 and 1608), +something+ must have been enacted on
the stage of the Globe -- and something has to be enacted on stage
today.

As a further point, there are fairly distinct differences between the Q
and F texts of +Lear+ at this point.  Q has ...

"Pray you, undo / This button. Thank you, sir.  O, O, O, O!"

While F has the more familiar reading ...

Pray you, unbdo this button.  Thank you, sir.
Do you see this?  Look on her, Look, her lips.
Look there, look there.

Which would suggest a revision to reinforce the "Cordelia" reading.

Robin Hamilton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Frank Whigham <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 31 Mar 2000 09:53:02 -0600
Subject: 11.0635 Re: The Button
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0635 Re: The Button

The word "button" is fairly uncommon in Shakespeare: LION finds only
five other uses in the plays:

     The Comedie of Errors 4.1....
     ...On whose hard heart is button'd vp with steele: A Feind,...

     Love's Labours Lost 4
     ...let me take you a button hole lower: Do you not...

     Romeo and Juliet 1.1
     ...very butcher of a silk button, a Dualist, a Dualist: a...

     1 Henry IV 2.4
     ...rob this Leatherne Ierkin, Christall button, Not-pated, Agat
ring,
     Puke stocking,...

     Hamlet 2.2
     ...we are not the very Button. Nor the Soales of her...

In view of this fact, it is useful to hear an echo of Lear's earlier use
of the word:

     Ha! Here's three on's are sophisticated! Thou art the thing itself;
     unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal
as
     thou art. Off, off, you lendings! Come, unbutton here.

If this first use is Lear's cry of outcast solidarity with Poor Tom,
then its echo seems to serve at the play's close as some bitter gesture
of despair-perhaps that Lear ever was duped into accepting comfort and
shelter.

Frank Whigham

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 31 Mar 2000 13:37:54 -0500
Subject: 11.0635 Re: The Button
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0635 Re: The Button

Robin Hamilton recalls

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

The ambiguity is even more delicious (and, I think, deliberate) when we
consider that the actor who played Cordelia almost certainly doubled as
the Fool.

Trying to puzzle out what roles were doubled can be great fun.  For
example, Laertes disappears for almost four acts.  I have to believe
that some economic use was made of the actor-Rosencrantz or Guildenstern
seem highly probable doubles.  Has anyone commented on this?
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.