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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: May ::
Re: Edgar and Edmund
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1275  Thursday, 9 May 2002

[1]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 8 May 2002 11:46:44 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1264 Re: Edgar and Edmund

[2]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 8 May 2002 16:49:59 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1255 Re: Edgar and Edmund


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Wednesday, 8 May 2002 11:46:44 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 13.1264 Re: Edgar and Edmund
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1264 Re: 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.

??? I'm sorry that you have not read my posts, since in them I have
quoted somewhat extensively from the text. Yes, plot is part of text,
but aren't words that characters speak as important? Especially in a
play that says "speak what we feel, not what we ought to say". Edgar
explains what he is feeling in asides, and then proceeds to care for his
father. Do you blame the Fool for not bringing Lear in out of the rain?
The scene at Dover and the storm are parallels. Gloucester learns his
lesson at Dover, and Edgar wisely realizes that he must taste the very
worst before he can return to laughter. I'll stop because really I'm
repeating myself.

> Brian offers no reasonable explanations for Edgar's
> actions in either
> 5.1 or 5.2,

Hmm, I did but you seem to have dismissed them outright. Did you read
them? They seemed to have reason and Edgar's words attached to them.

Surely you are not saying Gloucester's death is caused by a mixture of
joy at seeing Edgar and grief that his son caused his death? The grief
comes from the wrong that Gloucester has caused his rightful and beloved
son. I think that if Gloucester dies of this mixture of joy and grief
that he would still have died of the same causes earlier if Edgar had
revealed himself then. I also don't think that the original audience
would have attributed Gloucester's death as "cardiac arrest as a result
of extreme physical exertion" and called Edgar a murderer. Gloucester,
knowing his life is over, dies at least in the presence of his beloved
son.

This is not a black and white reading. It's still highly tragic because
Gloucester dies. Edgar is not pure because he learns some harsh lessons
through the course of the play like everyone else. I've illustrated this
through quotation.

Please, I beg of you, I'm dying in anticipation to see you quote from
the text, as I did previously, to reinforce your argument. Your argument
may have some merit, but just as I can't dismiss your claims, you can't
dismiss mine as easily either. They have just as much "reason" as yours.
And they have spoken text to support them.

Brian Willis

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Wednesday, 8 May 2002 16:49:59 -0400
Subject: 13.1255 Re: Edgar and Edmund
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1255 Re: Edgar and Edmund

While I am usually on the side of contrarian readings, I have to agree
with Brian Willis concerning Edgar. The point I made earlier about what
distinguishes Shakespeare's Lear (like Prospero) from other kings who
divided their kingdom or tried to relinquish their royal
responsibilities being the faulty principle by which he chooses his
successors seems obviously doubled in the Gloucester subplot. When
Oedipus wanders the wilderness with his bleeding empty sockets, no one
hesitates to attribute a symbolic connotation to his blindness which
emerges as a unifying theme in Sophocles' Oedipus plays. His metaphoric
blindness with perfect eyesight in Oedipus Tyrannus is contrasted to the
clear vision of the blind seer Tieresias. His poetic justice is not to
die like most tragic heroes but to be self-blinded. Gloucester's
blindness rather than being self imposed is imposed by the Machiavellian
machinations of others (as Prospero was blind to Antonio's evil and
Alonso to Sebastian's).  After allowing himself to be fooled into making
the same kind of bad choice made by Lear between good and bad heirs, he
is visited with an Oedipal punishment i.e. from metaphorical to physical
blindness.

Clifford

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