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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: December ::
Re: Edgar and Edmund
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2373  Wednessday, 04 December 2002

[1]     From:   Claude Caspar <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Dec 2002 10:20:42 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2367 Re: Edgar and Edmund

[2]     From:   Ed Taft <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 03 Dec 2002 11:37:11 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Edgar and Edmund


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Claude Caspar <
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Date:           Tuesday, 3 Dec 2002 10:20:42 -0500
Subject: 13.2367 Re: Edgar and Edmund
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2367 Re: Edgar and Edmund

>>I was fortunate enough to see King Lear at the Stratford Festival this
>>past summer/fall.  This was a production starring Christopher Plummer
>>and directed by Jonathan Miller and was incredible on any number of
>>levels.

I, too, saw this production.  In four days I saw 8 plays, including all
Henry 6 & RIII with much the same actors through three plays, which made
it cohere as never before.  The R & J was just wonderful, especially,
played authentically in an overt sexuality that the hundreds of
uniformed [why they wore ties mystifies] high school girls found daring-
which says much in an age when children are exposed to so much salacious
material even on broadcast television.  Can't wait for next year which
features a number of plays with Greek themes.

I like Plummer- and found his Barrymore performed in Washington, DC,
several years ago very satisfying.  I once wrote a one-man play for an
aging actor who wanted a signature piece, to play into the sunset, based
on DH Lawrence, but that is another story.  At least, I appreciate when
it is done well in the writing & acting.

But, the Lear was disappointing, though professional.  Plummer played it
to his hilt, but he has a short sword.  Lear seems to me to be the
greatest challenge to an actor because extreme limits of range must be
traversed.  Plummer never gave us every inch a King in Act One so that
we could feel the depth of his suffering on the heath; in fact, there
was little difference between the two except in wardrobe. That is a fair
interpretation, but not the best, the deepest.  He was an Apollo with
one string, though he plucked it with variation & resolve.  There was
one "tell" that I am just now finding it hard to recall that really
irked me, though.  A gesture that became annoying, even funny.  And, he
seemed always looking for someone to lean on, literally- and, though not
done without calling attention to itself, was nice in seeing how even in
the first scene his gift-giving "leans" on the recipients.  His giving
is usurious since it demands reciprocation.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Taft <
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Date:           Tuesday, 03 Dec 2002 11:37:11 -0500
Subject:        Re: Edgar and Edmund

My friend Tony Burton surveys the different reactions of Carol and me to
Cordelia in the opening scene of _Lear_ and concludes:

"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, isn't this quite an overstatement? If Carol is right, can't
Cordelia have a bit of a temper and escape being labeled as "unlovely"
and a "vixen"?

Similarly, if I am right and Cordelia wishes to marry and not be trapped
into taking care of the old man full time, isn't that an understandable
reaction that the audience need not deprecate?  Would you really call
such a woman unlovely or uninteresting or a vixen? I wouldn't. In fact,
if I am right, Cordelia becomes a more interesting (and a more human)
person, no?

Cordelia can get in some real zingers, Tony. Look at 1.1.272ff.  In the
space of eleven lines, she insults her sisters and thus INSURES that
Lear's treatment will be as bad as possible.  She's angry at Lear and at
them, and she also insures that she will have to come back and "save"
him. In fact, these latter lines set against her earlier sentiments
strongly suggests that she is pulled two ways: she loves Lear but she
also wants to escape his absolutism and start a new, married life. THAT
makes her interesting indeed!

Finally, a tip of the hat to Terence Hawkes. I gotta hand it to you,
Terry; you've hit the nail on the head AGAIN! You are right: Mrs.  Lear
is indeed the key to the play. It looks like the A.C. Bradley School of
Criticism is finally doing you some good!

When can we expect you to give us some real character analysis?  How
many male children did Mrs. Lear have?  What was her girlhood like?
Inquiring minds want to know!

None of this means she is a bad woman; it means that, like the rest of
us, she's a flesh and blood human being (or a presentation of such).

Best wishes,
--Ed

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