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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: June ::
Re: Edmund
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1078  Wednesday, 4 June 2003

[1]     From:   Michael Shurgot <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Jun 2003 11:29:42 -0700
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.1055 Re: Edmund

[2]     From:   John-Paul Spiro <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 03 Jun 2003 15:28:36 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1055 Re: Edmund


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Shurgot <
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Date:           Tuesday, 3 Jun 2003 11:29:42 -0700
Subject: 14.1055 Re: Edmund
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.1055 Re: Edmund

Dear Colleagues:

Edmund Taft writes of Edmund just before he dies: "I happen to think his
show of goodness is genuine, and here's why. Just before Edmund decides
that he means to do some good, he says:

        Yet Edmund was beloved.
        The one the other poisoned for my sake
        And after slew herself. (5.3.244-46)

He is referring, of course, to Regan and Goneril. This is the first time
in Edmund's life that he feels truly loved, and the feeling transforms
him into the person he would have been, had his father shown him real
love."

But, how can we possibly know that at this moment in a play, created by
an author, a character is experiencing love for the first time? We know
nothing of Edmund other than what the play tells us, and the play tells
us only that he is a bastard who is not welcomed by his father. We must
deal with the black marks on the white page, and none of these marks
tell us anything about an imagined life before the play, other than his
relationship with his father. We cannot argue about what we do not know,
about what does not exist as part of what the author has told us about
his/her characters. A character is not a somebody who walks into our
house one day with 25+ years of having actually lived on this planet
while experiencing "life," which in his/her particular life may or may
not have included being loved.

Kind regards,
Michael Shurgot

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John-Paul Spiro <
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Date:           Tuesday, 03 Jun 2003 15:28:36 -0400
Subject: 14.1055 Re: Edmund
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1055 Re: Edmund

Edmund Taft writes,

>I happen to think his show of goodness is genuine, and here's why. Just
>before Edmund decides that he means to do some good, he says:
>
>         Yet Edmund was beloved.
>         The one the other poisoned for my sake
>         And after slew herself. (5.3.244-46)
>
>He is referring, of course, to Regan and Goneril. This is the first time
>in Edmund's life that he feels truly loved, and the feeling transforms
>him into the person he would have been, had his father shown him real
>love. The actor playing Edmund (to answer another of your questions)),
>needs to begin crying with the earlier lines, "I was contracted to them
>both . . . ." and continue his tears through line 260 -- that will get
>across to the audience what is actually happening.

Edmund's discovery of "being loved" comes from seeing two people kill
each other for him.  If this is love, it is only exhibited through
annihilation and competition, which are the only things Edmund
understands.  He thinks that willingness to kill and die are the only
ways of expressing love.

Mr. Taft continues,

>In my view, both Edmund and Edgar (Ed and Ed) are similarly motivated by
>rage against the father, Gloucester. Neither fully acknowledges his
>motivation, but Edmund comes a lot closer to doing so than Edgar, who
>has to hide his anger under pious commonplaces and nostrums. There are
>two keys to Edgar: (1) his actions toward his father (as opposed to his
>words), and his name, Edgar, which contains the word _rage_. The rage is
>directed toward the letter that is left out, d, for Dad.

So the key to understanding Edmund is to see that he is "dumned," which
is a combination of "damned" and "dumb."  He is also "numded" or
"denumd," unabled to feel.  He uses language to "mudden" or "enmudd"
others' meaning, ultimately so he can "un-medd," that is, destroy his
own identity ("un-me") and counteract the palliative, redemptive power
of Cordelia's tears ("un-med").

John-Paul Spiro
CUNY Graduate Center

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