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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: February ::
Defects in King Lear
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0554  Friday, 27 February 2004

[1]     From:   Frank Whigham <
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        Date:   Thursday, 26 Feb 2004 07:49:59 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0542 Defects in King Lear

[2]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Thursday, 26 Feb 2004 09:26:19 -0500
        Subj:   Defects in King Lear

[3]     From:   Judi Crane <
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        Date:   Friday, 27 Feb 2004 10:51:05 +1100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0542 Defects in King Lear

[4]     From:   Roger Schmeeckle <
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        Date:   Thursday, 26 Feb 2004 16:00:23 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0542 Defects in King Lear


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Frank Whigham <
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Date:           Thursday, 26 Feb 2004 07:49:59 -0600
Subject: 15.0542 Defects in King Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0542 Defects in King Lear

Stephen Booth deals richly with this issue, as I recall, in his *King
Lear, Macbeth, Indefinition, and Tragedy*.

Frank Whigham

 >(d) The strange obscurity regarding Edmund's delay in trying to save his
 >victims....

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Thursday, 26 Feb 2004 09:26:19 -0500
Subject:        Defects in King Lear

A.C. Bradley's list of "defects" in King Lear have often been commented
and enlarged upon, especially by Kristian Schmitt (sp?) in a series of
books on "unconformities" in Shakespeare's plays. To add to Bradley's
list, what happens to Lear's 100 knights? Why doesn't Lear go back to
his own castle if he is not welcome elsewhere? And so on.

One suggestion: some of the defects seem to be related to imperfect
acknowledgement, either of the self or of others, which Harry Berger
sees as a central organizing idea in the play.

Ed Taft

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Judi Crane <
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Date:           Friday, 27 Feb 2004 10:51:05 +1100
Subject: 15.0542 Defects in King Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0542 Defects in King Lear

 >In a review of Jonathan Miller's current production of King Lear the New
 >York Times describes Lear as "famously complex and allegedly unplayable".
 >
 >Certainly the history of Lear productions has reflected this
 >description. There are so many questions about the text.
 >
 >A.C. Bradley gave us a list of defects in the play including the
following:
 >
 >(a) Why does Edgar not reveal himself to his blind father, as he truly
 >says he ought to have done? The answer is left to mere conjecture.
 >
 >(b) Why does Kent so carefully preserve his incognito till the last
 >scene? He says he does it for an important purpose, but what the purpose
 >is we have to guess.
 >
 >(c) Why Burgundy rather than France should have first choice of
 >Cordelia's hand is a question we cannot help asking, but there is no
 >hint of any answer.
 >
 >(d) The strange obscurity regarding Edmund's delay in trying to save his
 >victims....
 >
 >I'm wondering if anyone has seen any answers to Bradley's defects? Do
 >SHAKSPERians share Bradley's concerns? How would they answer Bradley?
 >
 >Bob Marks
 >Sydney

Answers are really very simple
a) it's a play
b) it's not 'real' so
c) the truth and logic of the dramatic rather than the 'real' world apply
d) the answer to why things happen or don't happen in a play is because
the playwright decides what the logic (or otherwise) of the text is
e) why does it matter what Bradley thinks.  Is he even considered
anymore as anything other than as a quaint relic?

Cheers,
Judi

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roger Schmeeckle <
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Date:           Thursday, 26 Feb 2004 16:00:23 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 15.0542 Defects in King Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0542 Defects in King Lear

I wish to speak to one of Bradley's alleged defects, d) in your list.

 >A.C. Bradley gave us a list of defects in the play including the
following:
 >
 >(d) The strange obscurity regarding Edmund's delay in trying to save his
 >victims....
 >
 >I'm wondering if anyone has seen any answers to Bradley's defects? Do
 >SHAKSPERians share Bradley's concerns? How would they answer Bradley?

I have not recently read Bradley, so I invite correction if I
misunderstand or misrepresent him.

First, why the above question is a problem for Bradley.  IMHO, it is
because of the tendency of most scholars and critics to analyze the
plays in terms of the plot and characters at the expense of the overall
structure of the play, i.e. Shakespeare's play considered in its
totality.  For instance, Macbeth becomes a play about an ambitious
usurper, but is not seen thematically as a play about kingship.

If we consider all the characters of Lear, they can be regarded as
constituting a spectrum, from the damned (I am tempted to say on the
left, but that might be misunderstood) at one extreme (Cornwall, the two
older sisters, et al) to the holy and virtuous at the other (Cordelia,
Kent).  In between are those who undergo purgative suffering, in the
course of which they know themselves more truly and achieve
reconciliation with those they have wronged.

If one accepts such a scheme, Lear represents one whose position and
power conceals from him his anger, and Gloucester represents one whose
passion is lust.  Edmund represents the purely worldly person, whose
every act is directed towards achieving some worldly end, to replace his
brother as the heir, to seduce the sisters, etc.  It is only when he
realizes that he is about to die, that he seeks to do some good, since
there is no reason any more to do otherwise.  One might compare it to a
deathbed conversion, part of the spectrum of human nature in a Christian
world-view.

Roger Schmeeckle

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