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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: February ::
Re: Place of Performance
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0457  Monday, 18 February 2002

[1]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Friday, 15 Feb 2002 14:42:29 -0500
        Subj:   Place of Performance

[2]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Friday, 15 Feb 2002 18:10:55 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0437 Re: Place of Performance

[3]     From:   John V. Knapp <
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        Date:   Sunday, 17 Feb 2002 16:42:49 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Response to Re: SHK 13.0437 Re: Place of Performance


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Friday, 15 Feb 2002 14:42:2
Subject:        Place of Performance

Mr. T (Hawkes) writes,

"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?"

I'm afraid that "idle prurience" has gotten the better of me, Terry. I
wonder, for example, why Regan marries Cornwall, the "fiery Duke," who
is clearly meant to be a Lear look-a-like while Goneril goes in the
other direction, choosing a Casper Milktoast like Albany, the exact
opposite of Lear? Both the middle and the older sister seem to have made
their marriage choices on the basis of their ongoing emotional bondage
to their father.  Moreover, the opening scene can surely be seen as
Cordelia's attempt to escape from Lear; she wants to marry, and Lear
seems bound and determined to stop her at any cost -- I wonder
(pruriently) why?

Lear himself expresses his " darker purpose" by asking for a huge map
that exposes all of Britain and lays it bare before his daughters'
astonished eyes (and the eyes of two husbands), the map itself being
divided into three private parts, one for each of them if they love him
enough.  More to the point, later in the scene Lear announces that a
hundred knights will visit the homes of Goneril and Reagan by turns once
a month, a phallic phalanx invading the house of each daughter in turn,
or so it seems.

Edmund ("Fine word," Edmund!) inflates before our eyes in 1.2 ("I grow,
I prosper.") and  replicates Lear in his prime, full of macho arrogance
and pride. He proves to be irresistible to both Goneril and Regan, as if
their sudden love for Edmund replicates an initial love in their past
that has determined their emotions in the present.

I really think a social worker's report is called for, don't you Terry?
I suspect that the death of Mrs. Lear is the cause of this problem,
don't you? As for Goneril wearing woman's clothes, well, some things
just can't be explained.

As always, I remain,

Pruriently yours,
Edmund

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Friday, 15 Feb 2002 18:10:55 -0800
Subject: 13.0437 Re: Place of Performance
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0437 Re: Place of Performance

Martin suggests, tongue-in-cheek,

>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.

This is true enough, though the setting of Merry Wives is certainly
middle-class and urban.

Of course, *we're* doing the reading, so we can decide that we are more
interested in the domestic tragedies of the Lear and Gloucester families
than in the political ramifications of these actions.  Nothing demands
that we see the domestic as a diminutive of the political, and not the
political as a mere metaphor for 'domestic' issues of love, betrayal,
loyalty, etc.

Cheers,
Se

 

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