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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: February ::
Cordelia (Lack of Insolence)
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0525  Tuesday, 24 February 2004

[1]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Friday, 20 Feb 2004 12:25:55 -0500
        Subj:   Cordelia (Lack of Insolence)

[2]     From:   Rolland Banker <
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        Date:   Saturday, 21 Feb 2004 02:06:26 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   SHK 15.0480 Cordelia (Loss of Insolence)


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Friday, 20 Feb 2004 12:25:55 -0500
Subject:        Cordelia (Lack of Insolence)

I'm pleased that Terry agrees that my last post "probes unerringly to
the heart of King Lear." That being so, I will give a slightly fuller
explanation of how the past manifests itself in the play. All we have to
do is to read the plot carefully. After Lear instigates a deadly
competition for his love among his daughters, he invades the private
space of Goneril first. He sees no problem with this, as his 100 knights
are all fine fellows, or so he says. But Goneril is aghast at what has
happened and feels like her private space has been made into a brothel.
She is stunned by the very thought of 100 knights invading her, as well
she might be, since the number itself signifies  both the frequency of
violation and the large size of Lear's "train."  She communicates to
Regan what has happened, and the younger daughter is put in an
impossible situation: angry at what her father has done to Goneril, and
enraged that she has been left out (Does my father love me?).

Regan quickly locks up her own private space and proceeds to a neutral
area, Gloucester's palace, where she joins forces with Goneril against
Lear. In this way, she can (1) protest her father's actions and (2) be
part of the action and not left out anymore. Both daughters insist that
if Lear is to stay with either of them, he must "cut" his train. In
other words, he must be partially castrated. Lear, of course, refuses,
and thus the stage is set for the two daughters to effect their revenge:
since he has abused Goneril, now it is time for him to be abused, and so
they cast him out in the storm.

In the storm, he has only male companionship and is reduced to thinking
that man is nothing more than "a bare, fork'd animal," but this is
nothing new, since he always acted that way. But after a while, his
third daughter appears to "save" him, and he begins a "close"
relationship with her, one he wants to be so private that they will be
like two birds in a cage, though Cordelia herself, as Lear's lines
indicate, must see this relationship as like the game of Barley-Brake,
where one child pulls the other into a circle of hell. When Lear and
Cordelia are put in prison, she is all his, and his alone, and the
possibility of marriage for poor Cordelia seems lost.

That brings us to the start of the play. In my view, the past is
reinacted by the plot as it unfolds in the present. Why? For two
reasons: first, old men are creatures of habit. They do again and again
what they are used to doing. Second, pathology replicates itself
forever. Thus, a child who hates his father has similar trouble with
authority throughout his/her life. Or a young girl who is abused finds
that she is either overpoweringly attracted to men like her father
(enter, Edmund) or overpoweringly repulsed by such men (the reason why
Goneril married Albany - he's an anti-Lear.)

What does the plot tell us? It tells us the past we need to know. Lear
violated Goneril first, and she told Regan about it, who vowed never to
let Lear do that to her. But she also felt "left out." Goneril finally
stood up to Lear, with Regan's help, and Lear had to go through a time
of deprivation, without the sexual favors of either daughter. But then
Cordelia came along and was diverted from the normal path of sexual
development and became Lear's favorite, setting up a deadly hatred for
her in the minds of Goneril and Regan. Cordelia remained Lear's
"favorite" even when she was being courted by others, but as the opening
scene unfolds, she makes a successful attempt to break away from the old
man, one that is both courageous and doomed.

Well, there you are, Terry. Maybe the point is that Mrs. Lear is so long
dead that she doesn't make it into either plot: the present as present,
or the present as reenactment of the past?  King Lear has a "double
plot" in more ways than one, Terry.

Your friend,
Ed

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rolland Banker <
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Date:           Saturday, 21 Feb 2004 02:06:26 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Cordelia (Loss of Insolence)
Comment:        SHK 15.0480 Cordelia (Loss of Insolence)

Terence Hawk's imaginative post has unleashed my King Lear comment, sorry.

As I am obsessed with author's motives and being a Bloomian Bardolator
in denial and shaken by recent allegations in the news against dear pure
Harold; my head is simply spinning.

Anyway, about Cordelia and Lear; everybody knows that the Godfather (the
character played by Marlon Brando) written by Mario Puzo, was based on
PUZO's mother, right? If you didn't know, I am telling you here. I saw
this on the History channel in an interview with the author.

Therefore, I conclude that with Lear's irrational tests, wifely absence,
hysteria and wild breakdown; not to mention the overwrought and painful
relationship with Cordelia, that it can only be explained by
understanding that Shakespeare pictured Lear as his mother was in real
life in Stratford. Cordelia is too much like her mother-Lear, and we all
know what that can bring, right? Bickering, jealousy, and irrational
behaviour. Mothers and daughters!

There I hope that clears everything up!

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