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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: February ::
Cordelia (Loss of Insolence)
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0499  Friday, 20 February 2004

[1]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Thursday, 19 Feb 2004 12:57:55 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 15.0480 Cordelia (Loss of Insolence)

[2]     From:   Peter Bridgman <
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        Date:   Thursday, 19 Feb 2004 19:58:19 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0480 Cordelia (Loss of Insolence)


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Thursday, 19 Feb 2004 12:57:55 -0500
Subject: Cordelia (Loss of Insolence)
Comment:        SHK 15.0480 Cordelia (Loss of Insolence)

Ed Taft probes unerringly to the heart of King Lear:

'The whole play reenacts an incest-ridden past, and the consequences of
it in the present.'

It's been pointed out many times that the continued absence of Mrs. Lear
is crucial to this situation. SHAKSPER contributors will be aware that
the authorities have repeatedly failed to make contact with her. Her
social worker reports a context of domestic violence, and multi-agency
assessment was never able to produce closure.  Reported sightings in
-alas- the King's Cross area continue to be inconclusive. Lear's
involvement in the traffic in illegal immigrants (usually disguised as
knights) is of course well established and may be a factor. However, we
must now face the possibility that his crime is even more appalling than
Ed suggests.

Terence Hawkes

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Bridgman <
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Date:           Thursday, 19 Feb 2004 19:58:19 -0000
Subject: 15.0480 Cordelia (Loss of Insolence)
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0480 Cordelia (Loss of Insolence)

 >Why does France, the fairytale prince, abandon Cordelia in her time of
 >greatest need?

While I find this Freudian reading totally fascinating (and I agree the
line about two birds in a cage is rather chilling) I suggest that a far
more mundane reason why a French invasion of England has to fail is that
France was a Catholic country and a successful invasion of England would
have been interpreted by the censors as sympathy for the Armada.  Also,
for Shakespeare's meaning to be read correctly by his intended audience,
it was essential that Cordelia should die.

Because King Lear is a metaphor for Elizabeth's England.  The older
generation in the play, Lear and Gloucester, represent Shakespeare's
father's generation, whose culture has been taken from them.  The
younger generation represent the ruthless new regime.  The good guys -
Kent and Edgar - moving round the country in disguise, and sending
secret letters abroad, are the hunted members of the Jesuits mission.
Men like Shakespeare's cousin Robert Southwell.  It is very interesting
that, written shortly after the Armada, this play sympathises with
foreign invaders.  And the final image of Cordelia lying dead in Lear's
arms, an inverted pieta, represents the status of the Virgin Mary in a
culture that has ripped her image out of every church and banned the
Hail Mary and the Rosary.

This interpretation of course assumes that Shakespeare was a Catholic
writer working in a culture he was deeply at odds with.  But if I'm
wrong, we might ask why King Lear was the favourite play at Douai and
Omer, and at recusant great houses in the North of England.

Peter Bridgman

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