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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: April ::
Re: Edgar and Edmund
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1128  Thursday, 25 April 2002

[1]     From:   David M Richman <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 24 Apr 2002 11:40:42 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1117 Edgar and Edmund, Some More

[2]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 24 Apr 2002 12:03:10 -0400
        Subj:   Edgar and Edmund, Some More

[3]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 24 Apr 2002 10:37:02 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1106 Re: Edgar and Edmund

[4]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 24 Apr 2002 13:52:15 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1117 Edgar and Edmund, Some More


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David M Richman <
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Date:           Wednesday, 24 Apr 2002 11:40:42 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 13.1117 Edgar and Edmund, Some More
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1117 Edgar and Edmund, Some More

Steve Urkowitz is wise in all things.  Still, and with immense respect,
I wouldn't agree that Edgar is **solely** gentle to his blinded father.
As I have argued in a previous post, there is a smidgen of "hire the
handicapped; they are fun to watch" in the tragicomic lurch toward
Dover.  Having said that, I do agree that the overwhelming impression,
especially in F, is of both competence and benevolence.  I, even sharing
Gloucester's disability, would feel easier under Edgar's reign than that
of other Shxprian rulers--or even some real ones.  If Edgar runs for
U.S. President in 2004, I will vote for him.

David Richman

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Wednesday, 24 Apr 2002 12:03:10 -0400
Subject:        Edgar and Edmund, Some More

Dear Steve:

Do me the favor of reading my earlier SHAKSPER post on Edgar's failure
to acknowledge his real motivations, and study 5.2 very, very carefully.
Then we can discuss the issue intelligently with each other.

--Ed(mund)

PS The historical Edgar's performance is hardly germane. Edgar is a
character in a play, not a real-life person.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Wednesday, 24 Apr 2002 10:37:02 -0700
Subject: 13.1106 Re: Edgar and Edmund
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1106 Re: Edgar and Edmund

Martin Steward writes,

>"Which of you shall we say doth love us most," asks Lear of his
>daughters as he prepares to abdicate his regal responsibilities in
>favour of retirement, "That we our largest bounty may extend / Where
>nature doth with merit challenge?" (I.i.51-53). Making it clear that he
>will "say" who loves him most, he appears to understand that he cannot
>look into their hearts and know for sure; in other words, he seems ready
>to accept that "nature" will be overcome by the "merit" of his
>daughters' depositions.

This I don't quite understand, perhaps in part because there's a
possible pun on "depositions".  Moreover, the "merit" seems to be
ascribed to "nature", i.e., what nature will use to make its challenge.
In other words, I'm not sure that the distinction is very clear, at
least not to me.  I should mention that the Q text simply reads "where
merit doth most challenge it".

In any case, as you quite rightly point out, the love test is circular:
Lear both demands and judges the statements of love.  He can't see into
his daughter's hearts, but he can evade the problem altogether by
judging them on the basis of statements which he has elicited.  Another
way to put this is that he can avoid the ethical problem of
communication with the Other by making communication solipsistic.
Whether he's judging his daughters on earned "merit" or inborn "nature",
he's not really judging them as anything but extensions of himself.
Cordelia's silence flouts this effort.  By surprising him, it breaks
through his narcissistic effort to treat others as extensions of
himself.  His problem is not in coming to some sort of Socratic
self-recognition, but in acknowledging other people.

His refusal to beg might be taken not only as a refusal to recognize the
political reality of his position, but also, and more fundamentally, a
refusal to recognize his reliance on others.  He prefers "to abjure all
roofs".  Even more generally, he's unwilling to accept anything from
without, a pure gift.  Not only does he refuse to beg from Regan and
Goneril, but he refuses to expect help from Cordelia, and, in the storm,
asks nothing of the heavens.  The absence of forgiveness, which Annalisa
points out, proceeds not only from an unwillingness on the part of many
characters to recognize their own sins, but also from the pagan setting
of the play, in which a pure donation like creation or grace is
impossible, "nothing can come of nothing", and there is no forgiveness
to be asked for.

I still disagree with Ed, by the way, about Edgar, but will leave the
argument in the (more capable) hands of Steve Urkowitz.

Begging your forgiveness,
Se

 

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