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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: March ::
Defects in King Lear
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0569  Monday, 1 March 2004

[1]     From:   Thomas Larque <
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        Date:   Friday, 27 Feb 2004 16:10:55 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0554 Defects in King Lear

[2]     From:   Peter Bridgman <
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        Date:   Friday, 27 Feb 2004 16:21:19 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0554 Defects in King Lear

[3]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Friday, 27 Feb 2004 11:34:01 -0500
        Subj:   Defects in King Lear

[4]     From:   Peter Webster <
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        Date:   Friday, 27 Feb 2004 09:22:38 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0554 Defects in King Lear

[5]     From:   Scott Sharplin <
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        Date:   Friday, 27 Feb 2004 11:25:22 -0700 (MST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0554 Defects in King Lear

[6]     From:   Rolland Banker <
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        Date:   Monday, 1 Mar 2004 03:34:33 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   SHK 15.0542 Defects in King Lear


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Larque <
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Date:           Friday, 27 Feb 2004 16:10:55 -0000
Subject: 15.0554 Defects in King Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0554 Defects in King Lear

 >To add to Bradley's list, what happens to Lear's 100 knights?

I doubt this question would have puzzled Mediaeval or Renaissance
audiences much.  Lear's knights - massively outnumbered by the armies
held by Goneril and Regan, and thrown out into the cold without food,
pay, or any sort of comforts - presumably did what countless defeated
armies did in the period.  Deserted and went home to the family farm, or
whatever relatives and possessions they previously left behind them to
follow Lear and take a career in his army.  The play itself implies that
some of them may have ended up in Dover joining forces with Cordelia,
but the rest will surely just have gone home.

Thomas Larque.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Bridgman <
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Date:           Friday, 27 Feb 2004 16:21:19 -0000
Subject: 15.0554 Defects in King Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0554 Defects in King Lear

 >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

Well said.  The play's distant prehistoric setting and the Cinderella
opening are surely indications that the story should be taken as allegory.

Peter Bridgman

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Friday, 27 Feb 2004 11:34:01 -0500
Subject:        Defects in King Lear

Judi Crane asks:

"Why does it matter what Bradley thinks?  Is he even considered anymore
as anything other than as a quaint relic?"

Wow! Any list of the top five Shakespeare critics would include Bradley.
His contributions are immense, especially to our understanding of the
histories and the tragedies. Even when he's wrong, he is wrong in
important ways that set the stage for future criticism. New criticism is
in large part a reaction to Bradley, and in large part, it is Bradley,
with his emphasis on character, who emerged victorious, even though the
"debate" occurred after Bradley's death.

Bradley doesn't write about running images or image clusters. He writes
about characters and what makes them tick. That's why his criticism
endures and will continue to do so.

Ed Taft

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Webster <
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Date:           Friday, 27 Feb 2004 09:22:38 -0800
Subject: 15.0554 Defects in King Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0554 Defects in King Lear

What "defects?"

This is a play that reflects life and lives perfectly.

I worked with a director of genius, Earl McCarrol, and he said something
like (mind, this was 1976):

"This is a play that unfolds with the roughness, the uncertainty of
everyday life.
It is titanic in scope, but it is a family drama. It has all the stops
and starts and imperfections of getting through the day.
Old age, madness, impotence, sexual jealousy, simple stupidity,
unanswered acts of cruelty and kindness, blunders, happy happenstance -
just a regular day in the life and lives.
But they are gods, as should we all be.
It has a lot of words, a lot of ideas, so shut up and talk."

"Shut up and talk" is the best advice for anyone to receive, I think.

I played Edgar in this production, and I remember the silence, the
stunned silence, the tears in the eyes of the audience, and then, the
slow applause that built to a peak. People were too exhausted by the
shared journey of the play to get to their feet.
I remember seeing a woman in the front row get up and go up the aisle
just as I was beginning to say the best closing lines of any play.
I later found her outside the theatre and asked why she had left, and
she told me the play was just too strong to bear, and that the final
moment would have "killed her." She came back to see the production two
more times, and it was at the third performance that she finally was
able to deal with the emotions that were, for her, personal, direct,
poignant, and perfect.

What "defects?"

Respectfully submitted,
Peter Webster

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Sharplin <
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Date:           Friday, 27 Feb 2004 11:25:22 -0700 (MST)
Subject: 15.0554 Defects in King Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0554 Defects in King Lear

Re: the "Defects in King Lear" thread:

Coming from a dramatic (as opposed to a theoretical) background, I can
address all four of Bradley's alleged defects by passing the buck, as it
were, to the actors and director.

It seems to me that all of Bradley's examples, with the possible
exception of the Burgundy crux, are issues that actors would have to
address, and find ways to resolve, on an individual basis. For example,
I can think of several reasons why Edgar would maintain his disguise
after meeting his father. It may arise from a lingering grudge against
the father who so easily came to distrust his loyal son.  It may be a
calculated maneouvre to help Gloucester overcome his suicidal despair.
It may be that Edgar, so psychologically shattered by witnessing Lear's
madness, has retreated into Poor Tom as a sort of alternate persona.

None of these explanations are supported, or refuted, by the text. They
fall, therefore, into the domain of the actors. Hopefully, a good
production of Lear (wherein the actors and director had done this
interpretive work) would convey the chosen explanations so effectively
to the audience that they would never even notice something was amiss.
Textual scholars, lacking the aid of dramatic interpretation, tend to
get hung up on issues which are swiftly and effectively resolved just by
making a definitive choice on stage.

The Johnsonian impression of King Lear, which clearly still exists
today, is that the play is too complex to be performed well. This, too,
is a scholarly fallacy. Lear might be too complex for any one
perspective to comprehend. But theatre is a collective experience,
shared between actors and audience. For every defect that may arise,
there will be someone there who can provide an answer.

Scott Sharplin

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rolland Banker <
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Date:           Monday, 1 Mar 2004 03:34:33 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Defects in King Lear
Comment:        SHK 15.0542 Defects in King Lear

Offhand, I don't have complete textual evidence to go with my opinions,
but perhaps this is a help.

Also the book: "Shakespeare's Politics" by Allan Bloom might answer some
of your question about the political aspects.

1) About Edgar: with the competitiveness between step-children, not to
mention having children from a harlot, brief affair--like Gloucester, or
a serf, as Tolstoy had, there are such visceral, painful, inherent
connections between siblings, that things often go irrationally off
kilter. This concept and the pressure and stress, deceit, and
competition on a family dynamic is not always understood in these
modern, postmodern days or the Victorian age.  To me it is perfectly
plausible, having intimate knowledge of someone in similar straits as
dear Gloucester. As the answer you say is "mere conjecture", I would add
that so many things that normal children do, and the whys and
wherefores, are conjecture to a biological parent in these days, moreso,
in those days without birth control.

2) Sycophancy and the dread of shame of raising one's voice to one's
king is/was not understood in the more enlightened age, in my opinion;
someone who has experienced a long time in a fundamentalist fanatical
situation would find this concept completely plausible. "Kent on thy
life, no more!" says Lear. In an age of sycophancy, this and his
following actions are completely understandable.

3) "The vines of France" says Lear first, "and milk of Burgandy strive
to be interess'd" He says secondly. As King, he speaks a God's word:
First, France as a vine is more fruitful and obviously the better offer.
  Secondly, as God's word depicts, milk is for concord, peace.
Hopefully, Cordelia will learn by going to the second best. That's a
god's way to teach. Just a superficial opinion on my part.

4) Edmund's delay at saving Cordelia's life: He says, "I pant for life:
some good I mean to do, Despite my own nature." This is the key. He had
brainwashed himself so thoroughly and bought into his own self-deceit
about his nature that, it took the deaths of two lovers to awaken him.
Self-deceit is often iron-clad; consider this example: A punk Gothic
teenager is convinced he is dead. A parent says, you are not dead, I am
talking to you. No I am dead he insists. So the parent pokes him with a
pin and causes him to bleed and says, look you are bleeding. Dead people
don't bleed. What do you have to say to that?  The teen answers, well I
guess dead people do bleed.

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