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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: March ::
Re: Pessimism in Lear
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0876  Friday, 29 March 2002

[1]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Thursday, 28 Mar 2002 09:12:57 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0863 Re: Pessimism in Lear

[2]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Thursday, 28 Mar 2002 18:00:29 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0863 Re: Pessimism in Lear


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Thursday, 28 Mar 2002 09:12:57 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0863 Re: Pessimism in Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0863 Re: Pessimism in Lear

David,

I agree with you that these plays are not real life. I say that they are
heightened reality, sometimes washing over years in a matter of
moments.  They certainly don't always strive for realism and I'm sure
that their modern audience didn't walk around citing allusions in
everyday speech.

I have been defending Baz Luhrmann for this very purpose. He realizes
that film (and especially Shakespeare in his film) is also a heightened
medium.  He takes the heightened language of Shakespeare, and applies it
to the hyper-heightened visual culture that we find ourselves immersed
in. The result is a marriage of language and visualization. Sometimes it
amazes, sometimes it annoys too, but one can not help but realize that
this is a heightened reality.

Of course, I'm not saying that Shakespeare's heightened reality was
anything like Luhrmann's.  Nevertheless, audiences went to hear jokes
and/or to hear drama of an extraordinary sense, where true love thrives
or is thwarted, and kings fall from the height of power to the level of
the naked wretches in Lear Act III. To expect realism from this often
disappoints the expectee.


Brian Willis

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Thursday, 28 Mar 2002 18:00:29 -0000
Subject: 13.0863 Re: Pessimism in Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0863 Re: Pessimism in Lear

Roger Schmeeckle gives us his optimistic interpretation of Lear, and
then invites us to "Shoot it down if you can, but, if it sheds any light
on a play that ends in darkness, welcome the light". There's no need for
any of us to shoot it down. Shakespeare has done it already in his play.
That's not to say Roger's interpretation is wrong. Lear is the greatest
aporia in world literature, I think. It defeats criticism, because it
offers ideas that undermine one another consistently and unflinchingly.
I don't usually get all romantic and essentialist about plays - but Lear
frightens me because it feels like reality, even though the reality it
describes is far more terrifying than anything I have experienced.
Reading it is one the most peculiar experiences I know, not altogether
pleasant; I always feel the need to run off to Cymbeline as quickly as
possible. Keats writes about it well in that sonnet of his; I guess
because it is the play which best exemplifies that "negative capability"
he described elsewhere.

m

As for it being a Fifth Gospel: well, the Gospels aren't exactly a
barrel of laughs, are they? And they are similarly dogged by the spectre
of aporia...

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