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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: February ::
Re: Place of Performance
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0437  Friday, 15 February 2002

[1]     From:   Karen Peterson <
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        Date:   Thursday, 14 Feb 2002 08:26:54 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0426 Place of Performance

[2]     From:   Geralyn Horton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 14 Feb 2002 11:40:11 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0426 Place of Performance

[3]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Thursday, 14 Feb 2002 13:02:05 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 13.0426 Place of Performance

[4]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Friday, 15 Feb 2002 11:09:00 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0408 Re: Place of Performance


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson <
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Date:           Thursday, 14 Feb 2002 08:26:54 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0426 Place of Performance
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0426 Place of Performance

Ed Taft writes,

> Surely the Elizabethan analogy between the family
> and the state is
> relevant here. ...

Highly relevant.  Stephen Greenblatt's fairly well-known essay, "The
Cultivation of Anxiety: King Lear and His Heirs" (reprinted in *Learning
to Curse*, 1990) discusses this.  He cites Gloucester's "anxious
broodings" (I.ii) on the solar and lunar eclipses: "Love cools,
friendship falls off, brothers divide: in cities mutinies, in countries,
discord; in palaces, treason; and the bond crack'd twixt son and
father." Greenblatt glosses this: "The very order of the phrases here,
in their failure to move decisively from private to public, their
reversion at the close to the familial bond, signals the
interinvolvement of household and society" (pp. 84-85).

> In _Lear_, the old king starts off by
> showing us that he
> believes that his family (and his subjects) exist to
> gratify him and
> make him feel good. In fact, he seems to think that
> endless gratitude is
> the only proper response from both his children and
> his subjects.

Indeed.  Beyond the overwhelming folly (in early modern eyes, at least)
of dividing the kingdom, Lear's social/political error is in his failure
to realize that the hierarchical family and state, while demanding
obedience and gratitude from subjects (and children), in turn places
inescapable obligations on monarchs and parents.  This is the
(reciprocal) nature of "the bond" which Cordelia invokes in her response
to Lear's "test".

> It really is the public equivalent of the
> private sin of incest, and
> it is not wrong to wonder how this king has treated
> his daughters in
> private in the past.

Just a bit off topic, but Ed's comment above reminds me.  Recently I
came into possession of a videotape of the 1983 Granada TV "Lear" with
Laurence Olivier and Anna Calder-Marshall as Cordelia.  In the final
reunion-prison scene, it struck me on this most recent viewing that the
interaction between Olivier's Lear and Calder-Marshall's Cordelia
seemed...what?  More steeped in incest-shaded erotic intensity than some
other versions I have seen...?  I'm curious what others who have seen
this production might think.  Is it really there?  Does it work?  Was it
intentional?

Cheers,
Karen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Geralyn Horton <
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Date:           Thursday, 14 Feb 2002 11:40:11 -0500
Subject: 13.0426 Place of Performance
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0426 Place of Performance

> (1) The king's action is far worse, in my view, than is generally
> realized.
>
> (2) It really is the public equivalent of the private sin of incest, and
> it is not wrong to wonder how this king has treated his daughters in
> private in the past.

I think this "wonder" is even stronger in "The Tempest".  Miranda is the
only female on the island.  Her father has a very distant and controlled
relationship with her, considering that he has been her sole caretaker,
her "mother", since they were exiled. He is scrupulous in his care of
her, but he does not venture into intimacy, nor allow her to do so.
Caliban is the only other creature with whom she could be friends, yet
he knows that for Caliban love means lust.   Intimacy might lead
Prospero into temptation, too: damned incest.

I am newly convinced that this is not some sick interpretive imposition
on my part by our local scandal here in Boston, where at least 80 out of
the 700 priests in the diocese are alleged to have molested children
entrusted to their care.  Divine Right, absolute power, is a terrible
trial.

Geralyn Horton
http://www.stagepage.org

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[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Thursday, 14 Feb 2002 13:02:05 -0500
Subject: Place of Performance
Comment:        SHK 13.0426 Place of Performance

Edmund Taft says, of Lear's initial action in the play,

> It really is the public equivalent of the private sin of incest, and it
is not wrong to wonder how this king has treated his daughters in
private
in the past.<

We must beware of idle prurience, Edmund. Isn't it more urgent to ask
what he has done with Mrs. Lear? Where are the reports of Cordelia's
social worker? Why does Goneril, who is male, wear woman's clothes?

T. Hawkes

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Friday, 15 Feb 2002 11:09:00 -0000
Subject: 13.0408 Re: Place of Performance
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0408 Re: Place of Performance

Laura Blankenship wrote that "I don't think that the domestic issues" of
King Lear "are necessarily any less important than the 'larger' issues
of Kingship, etc.". But surely Shakespeare wrote his play called KING
Lear about this particular family because they are the ruling dynasty?
The issue over which the family falls out would not be of much interest
to us if it did not comprehend the ownership of Britain. This would have
been one of the requirements of tragedy as understood by Shakespeare and
his contemporaries.  I admit, however, that I have not yet read the play
Shakespeare wrote about the suburban family whose patriarch was having a
mid-life crisis, "The Tragedy of Smith, Father of Three". One might
consider such a subject for a play (or a novel, indeed) now, of course,
but for various reasons this would not have made sense in 1605. Even The
Merchant of Venice reaches beyond this in political significance.

Martin

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