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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: June ::
Re: Edmund
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1161  Wednesday, 11 June 2003

[1]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Jun 2003 13:21:32 -0400
        Subj:   Edmund

[2]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Jun 2003 10:22:44 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1144 Re: Edmund

[3]     From:   David Bishop <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Jun 2003 02:19:17 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1144 Re: Edmund


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Jun 2003 13:21:32 -0400
Subject:        Edmund

Dear Colleagues:

The June 10 posts on Edmund are thoughtful and a welcome change from the
last time this issue was taken up. As to doubling as a reason why France
is absent in acts 4 and 5: Well, does doubling drive plot and motivation
or is it the other way around? I should think that an author gets the
plot and the motivation right and then looks to see what characters can
be doubled.

Sherri Fillingham suggests that "Lear's just a nice catch." Well,
technically, that's so since Cordelia leads the British army, but Lear
is always at the center of the two daughters' hatred. But if you mean,
would such a gesture on Lear's part work? -- then the answer is no.
Goneril and Regan hate both Lear and Cordelia, and have done so for a
long time. My point is that Lear does NOT act well at the end. He
doesn't seem to mind that his daughter is in prison as long as he can be
with her. And he never even mentions her lost husband. He's not a very
nice guy, Sherri. He's learned nothing. He is as selfish at the end as
at the start, contrary to what some claim.

Mary Jane Miller is completely right about Edmund's conversion. In fact,
I wrote the same thing in my first post in this thread, but not as
cogently.  But I feel that MJ does not come to grips with the
fundamental question of why France abandons his wife. Yes, he values her
for her independence, but is that demonstrated by her return to Lear?
Isn't she a lot like Kent, who is emotionally compelled to return to
Lear's side? Her return shows that she loves Lear but doesn't it also
show her dependency? Why not send the French army and its field
Marshall? Courage is not the central issue here.

Gareth Euridge writes:

""Yet Edmund was beloved."  Surely, a joke, a witty observation, an
ironic pop-psych acknowledgment that, had he only been loved as a child
too . . . ."

Well, yes. We see in Edmund's last minutes the kind of man he might have
been if his father had truly loved him. I guess the only difference
between Gareth and me is that I take this idea a bit more seriously than
he does.

Finally, my long-time friend Dave Evett strives mightily to preserve
conservative orthodoxy, but his questions are not as hard to answer as
he imagines:

 "1. Where does Ed Taft get the idea that Gloucester is 80?"

 Gloucester and Lear are parallel characters. It's usually assumed that
they are both elderly, both about the same age. Their children are about
the same age. Both were white beards. Ergo. . . .

"2.  If Edgar feels such rage at his father why does he put himself
doubly at risk to help Gloucester escape, first by coming far enough out
of his own hiding to associate himself with a proclaimed traitor, and
second by taking on the sworded Oswald armed only with a staff?"

Edgar can't acknowledge fully his rage at his father, though it is well
motivated, if you think about it. So killing Gloucester directly would
be a no-no So would allowing Oswald to kill Gloucester.  Edgar has to
kill his father indirectly, and with deniable plausibility. That's
exactly what Edgar does. Dave needs to juxtapose Edgar's words with his
actions. That will make clear to him what actually is happening.

"3.  Encouraging Gloucester to fall flat on his face is one way to
visualize the fake suicide scene in *Lr*.  There are others.  In any
case, this is Edgar's therapy for Gloucester's self-destructive
despair.  It seems to work.  What would Taft suggest as an alternative?"

Edgar could reveal himself to his father and tell him that he will
guard/hide him. Simple, isn't it?

"4. The "endless journey" seems to occupy no more than a few hours.  It
is undertaken in order to seek the protection of Cordelia's army; the
precaution seems well-advised when Oswald arrives, and the fact that the
pursuit, when it appears, is a solitary household servant and not a
dozen soldiers makes it doubly appropriate."

Try making a blind forced march for a few hours and see how you feel,
Dave! As for seeking the protection of C's army: It makes much more
sense to hide Gloucester in one of the innumerable hovels and wait for
the army to appear. Oswald only finds Edgar and Gloucester because the
latter two are out in the open.

"5. If the purpose of the trip to Dover was to look for protection from
Cordelia, to lead Gloucester away from her army and the battle would
negate the "endless" journey.   Gloucester's response to Edgar's finding
him such shelter as is available is a blessing, not a statement of
anxiety or alarm ("Grace go with you, sir" [5.2.4]).  Edgar tells us
that it was not the stress of the nearby battle but the struggle between
Gloucester's grief at his gullibility toward Edmund's falsehoods and his
joy at regaining his lost son.  Why should we not take this at face
value?"

What else can Gloucester say? He's completely dependent on this "mystery
man." Dave needs to imagine how he would play Gloucester as he listens
to the battle that is occurring right next to him. That imaginative
effort would clear up a lot of his questions.

 --Ed Taft

"Yet Edmund was beloved."  Surely, a joke, a witty observation, an
ironic pop-psych acknowledgment that, had he only been loved as a child
too . . . ."

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Jun 2003 10:22:44 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.1144 Re: Edmund
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1144 Re: Edmund

CAMRY = MY CAR

But I don't own a Camry.

Brian Willis

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
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Date:           Wednesday, 11 Jun 2003 02:19:17 -0700
Subject: 14.1144 Re: Edmund
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1144 Re: Edmund

On the question of why France goes back, I take him at his and
Shakespeare's word: because of something imperfect in his state. If all
kings paid more attention to imperfections in their states, this world
would be a better place.

On another level of explanation, he goes back to help Shakespeare
de-Frenchify the invasion, to show that "No blown ambition doth our arms
incite." It's more personal, or, if political, more British than that.

On yet another level we might bring in doubling, but that seems less of
an inherent problem for the playwright--or at least as much an
opportunity.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

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