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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: December ::
Re: Edgar and Edmund
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2362  Monday, 02 December 2002

[1]     From:   Tony Burton <
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        Date:   Friday, 29 Nov 2002 08:52:10 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2344 Re: Edgar and Edmund

[2]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Saturday, 30 Nov 2002 10:09:58 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2344 Re: Edgar and Edmund


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tony Burton <
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Date:           Friday, 29 Nov 2002 08:52:10 -0500
Subject: 13.2344 Re: Edgar and Edmund
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2344 Re: Edgar and Edmund

The recent exchange of thoughts between Carol Barton and Ed Taft about
Cordelia's "stubbornness" versus her single-minded determination to look
out for number one in the matter of her anticipated marriage all sound
overly twenty-first century in respect of motivation, and suggest things
that might play today but would I believe have been small beer to a
Jacobean audience.  (This is not to say that a modern audience would
never relate to the play on those terms.)

When Cordelia asserts what we may loosely call her personal integrity
(trying to include both Barton and Taft in my tent), she comes close to
the Lutheran "Here I stand"  "I can do no other" assertion of
individual, inner necessity in the matter of right and wrong.  Not a
merely "stubborn" rebellion against established authority but a
declaration of something that was then irresistibly dawning in western
consciousness and, for those who felt it, well worth property, life, or
any species of painful martyrdom.  That was an issue that was hot
politically, theologically, and "psychologically" at the time,  and the
opposite posture  -- to accept established authority where it existed,
even it involved hypocritical assertions of loyalty --  was not entirely
wicked, even though it is the one with which the distinctly unlovely and
wicked Goneril and Regan associate themselves.

Shakespeare may have taken the safest road in dressing the confrontation
as the familiar and inevitable domestic crisis of a father-daughter
conflict over when to let the bird fly, a theme to which he returns
again and again in many permutations of precocity on the one hand and
excessive control on the other.  However, I believe that to explain
Cordelia's obstinacy as either pure frowardness or calculated
self-interest flies very much against what I feel as the prevailing
quality of sincerity and natural nobility that characterizes her, and
reduces her to an unlovely and uninteresting vixen-type that leaves
"King Lear" without its haunting power.

Tony B

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Saturday, 30 Nov 2002 10:09:58 -0000
Subject: 13.2344 Re: Edgar and Edmund
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2344 Re: Edgar and Edmund

"Nothing will come of nothing", says Lear, in his best Aristotelian
vein, not understanding that this is precisely the argument Cordelia has
offered him.

Lear articulates his politics in terms of natural law, but fails to
understand that natural law does not give Kings unlimited power.

martin

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