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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: February ::
Cordelia: Loss of Insolence (Studies in the
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0462  Wednesday, 18 February 2004

[1]     From:   Dan Smith <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 17 Feb 2004 14:14:45 -0000
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.0416 Cordelia: Loss of Insolence (Studies in the
Humanities)

[2]     From:   David Crosby <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 17 Feb 2004 16:57:18 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.0439 Cordelia: Loss of Insolence (Studies in the
Humanities)


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dan Smith <
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Date:           Tuesday, 17 Feb 2004 14:14:45 -0000
Subject: 15.0416 Cordelia: Loss of Insolence (Studies in the
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0416 Cordelia: Loss of Insolence (Studies in the
Humanities)

 >"They treat him with remarkable gentleness"

It's true they don't put out his eyes but still...

In Kurosawa's Ran the backstory (of savage conquest [tyranny?] to unite
the country) is part of the final resolution of the drama but in the
original play the nature of Lear's kingship is ambiguous. He could have
been a good king who has been undermined by age and corrupting influence
of power (Shakespeare gives what I believe to be an accurate depiction
of the early stages of dementia). If he had been a good king then
Cordelia might have been expecting a different response. The fool
undercuts this reading - "Thou shouldst not have been old before thou
hads't been wise" I,5,922. echoes Goneril "As you are old and reverend,
you should be wise" I,4,763 but also implies that wisdom was never
conspicuously apparent.

If he has always been a tyrant then Cordelia could have faced similar
public trials which might make her behaviour a courageous stand made for
her own personal integrity. She might also love the private man and hate
the public tyrant.

Dan Smith

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Crosby <
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Date:           Tuesday, 17 Feb 2004 16:57:18 -0600
Subject: 15.0439 Cordelia: Loss of Insolence (Studies in the
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0439 Cordelia: Loss of Insolence (Studies in the
Humanities)

L. Swilley writes:

 >Second, 1) are we to abandon common sense and suppose that real love is
 >*not* ever expansive
 >(a case I tried to make in one of my previous posts on this subject), 2)
 >that anyone who supposes that a woman's normal love and care of a father
 >is *not* the best assurance of her devotion to a husband, and 3) that
 >whoever sees this play does *not* apply common sense in judgement of its
 >points?

Knowing just what is "common sense" and what is not may come easy to
Swilley, but for me understanding a text usually involves trying to
reconstruct the context in which it was created, and the audience to
whom it was addressed. I don't think we can go straight to our own
understanding of certain supposedly timeless truths and then apply them
to the text in question.

 >On that issue of incest:  I guess, after Freud has burdened
 >us with knowledge of the sexual groundings of *every* relationship, the
 >possibility of it in the psychological relationship of Lear to Cordelia
 >cannot be disallowed; but if it is meant here that the relationship
 >between them is also *physical*, I find that quite impossible because of
 >the presentation of Cordelia's character throughout the play.

It has nothing to do with Freud. The point I made is that incest was
alive and well in Shakespeare's Pericles, and that his audience would
know that when, in the first scene of a play, a father seeks to
monopolize and dominate his daughter, we cannot, at that moment, rule
out incest as a motive. I quite agree that the subsequent development of
the two characters leads us in other directions. But a play does not
give us its meanings all at once. They unfold out of the interplay of
character and action that is the heart of playmaking. As Moody Prior
pointed out nearly 50 years ago in _The Language of Tragedy_, the
meaning of images in Shakespeare depends a great deal on where and when
they occur in the course of the play. The same is true for plot situations.

 >I would not presume to say how Shakespeare feels about love; but I *do*
 >say that *every* play makes a moral statement - it cannot avoid it - and
 >that *this* play, however instructive the intention, presents moral
 >problems, and with its ellipses  defines their possible solutions.

My only argument with this is about the way statements are made in
theater.  The moment an audience and actors begin to interact they are
assuming and/or creating conventions of plot, character, situation, and
language, and that these are the aspects of drama that mediate whatever
moral statement we ultimately take away from the theater. What is common
sense for a modern audience may be something altogether different for an
Elizabethan or Jacobean one.

David Crosby

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