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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: May ::
Re: King Lear's Daughters
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1244  Monday, 6 May 2002

[1]     From:   R.A. Cantrell <
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        Date:   Friday, 03 May 2002 11:43:18 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1234 Re: King Lear's Daughters

[2]     From:   Nancy Charlton <
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        Date:   Monday, 06 May 2002 03:21:43 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1234 Re: King Lear's Daughters


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           R.A. Cantrell <
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Date:           Friday, 03 May 2002 11:43:18 -0500
Subject: 13.1234 Re: King Lear's Daughters
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1234 Re: King Lear's Daughters

> The play is essentially a
> brutal fairy tale written for a specific company of highly competent
> professional actors in the early 17th century whose composition often
> influenced what stories their master story-teller decided to dramatize
> for them.

Hear, hear. Enthusiasm often causes us to lose sight of (for want of a
less contentious term ) reality. The above may be appropriately amended
to fit all the plays. One must also keep in mind that the overarching
impulse behind all of Shakespeare's work was to get his living.

All the best,
R.A. Cantrell

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Nancy Charlton <
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Date:           Monday, 06 May 2002 03:21:43 -0700
Subject: 13.1234 Re: King Lear's Daughters
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1234 Re: King Lear's Daughters

Michael Shurgot asked:

>. . .Lear is 80 because
>Shakespeare wanted a very old, biblical-like patriarch ("As full of
>grief as age, wretched in both"), who thinks he can command the heavens
>to do his bidding, and then rages when he finds he cannot. And isn't the
>age 80 biblically significant? I seem to remember reading that
>somewhere.

The significance of "eighty," or more likely "fourscore" in the KJV, is
summed up in Psalms 90, verse 10:

"The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if  by reason
of strength they be fourscore years, yet it is their strength, labour,
and sorrow; yet it is soon cut off, and we fly away."

As I understand it, "seven" in the OT is symbolic of completeness--seven
days of creation, for example. Eight, being seven plus one, is symbolic
of superabundance and/or renewal. Multiples of 10 or greater serve as
intensifiers, to that 70 in the verse quoted is the span of a complete
and not foreshortened life span, and beyond that is partly lagniappe and
partly good management "by reason of strength."

Since Shakespeare's use of biblical material is mainly in allusions, it
would stand to reason that his audience would attach significance to
Lear's age in much this way. However, the audience and WS himself
probably were unaware that the two instances of "strength" in this
passage are renderings of two different words. The first "strength"
means just that: might, power, muscle. The second occurs only here in
the whole OT, and it means arrogant pride. Not unlike hubris, and
certainly like Lear.

Nancy Charlton

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