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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: May ::
Re: Edgar and Edmund
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1264  Wednesday, 8 May 2002

From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Tuesday, 07 May 2002 11:54:42 -0400
Subject:        Edgar and Edmund

Brian Willis is clearly threatened by the interpretation of Edgar that I
have offered over the last few weeks. He can't seem to understand that
the plot is also part of any text or that if a character's words and
actions clash, then there is room for analysis about the reason why this
might be so.

I'm sorry to have contradicted Brian's view of Edgar, but I won't stand
for the false insinuation that my argument is not textually grounded. It
is far MORE  grounded than Brian's, who is willing to consider Edgar's
words but NOT his actions.
Brian offers no reasonable explanations for Edgar's actions in either
5.1 or 5.2, and he has apparently never stopped to consider that
Gloucester's heart breaks because of a conflict between "joy" and
"grief." that grief could be over Gloucester's wrong treatment of Edgar
in the past, or it could be grief over what his son has done to him. (Or
it could be both.) Is his smile a smile of joy or of irony (he got what
he deserved)? Or is it both?

In short, Brian takes a complicated question of interpretation and makes
it into a simple black and white issue. That may make him feel better,
but it does nothing to help us interpret the play.

Nor are the characters as black and white, good and bad, as Brian would
like. Regan is a pathetic copycat who seems doomed to forever try to
outdo her sister. Goneril is fiercely intelligent and seems, somehow, to
have suppressed the feminine side of herself (Gone Girl?) for reasons
that are not immediately apparent, though she may be copying Lear's
masculine example. Regan is an anagram of ANGER, and within the anger is
rage, just like in Edgar's name.

But I won't go on. There's more to this play, Brian, than is dreamt of
in your philosophy.

--Ed Taft

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