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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: June ::
New and Improved Lear
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1154  Monday, 27 June 2005

[1]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Friday, 24 Jun 2005 14:39:02 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1147 New and Improved Lear

[2]     From:   David Basch <
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        Date:   Friday, 24 Jun 2005 15:57:05 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1147 New and Improved Lear

[3]     From:   Stephen C. Rose <
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        Date:   Friday, 24 Jun 2005 14:10:38 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1147 New and Improved Lear

[4]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Friday, 24 Jun 2005 20:14:00 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1147 New and Improved Lear [*Designations*]
/Designations

[5]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Saturday, 25 Jun 2005 11:27:16 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 16.1147 New and Improved Lear


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Friday, 24 Jun 2005 14:39:02 -0400
Subject: 16.1147 New and Improved Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1147 New and Improved Lear

 >While Shakespeare's assumptions do tap a universal morality, that
 >morality is encompassed in biblical morality.

And, of course, biblical morality (at least the second half of the
decalogue) reflects universal (or at least Occidental) morality.  This
issue has been around for quite some time:  "Teach me Euthyphro, is it
pious because the gods ordain it or do the gods ordain it because it is
pious."

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Basch <
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Date:           Friday, 24 Jun 2005 15:57:05 -0400
Subject: 16.1147 New and Improved Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1147 New and Improved Lear

I very much appreciate John Paul Spiro's point by point comment. Others
on the list can therefore see clearly our differences. I will be
studying his comments but there are a few things I would point out right
away.

For one, the Bible is based on universal morality, moral obligations
that all men must obey, Jew, gentile, pagan, etc. These show up in
Genesis as what are known as the seven Noahide laws, inferred from what
the people prior to the giving of the Law were punished for. Not
surprising, among them are stealing and murder. Don't the Catholics also
believe in the "natural" or universal laws of mankind? Some of the laws
in the Hebrew Bible are meant for Jews only and gentiles get no points
for observing them, like purification through the sprinkling of the
ashes of the red heifer or observing the seventh day Sabbath.

The story of Job is set in an undisclosed time in an unknown city, UZ,
and Lear is given a similar setting. This conveys the idea that what is
being dealt with are the universal moralities of human societies. Job
could be considered the most righteous and does not even need to be
Jewish. In fact, it is a Jewish teaching that a gentile who observes the
universal laws is on a higher plane than an Israelite high priest who
violates those laws.

Lear's faults are characterlogical faults, as are Cordelia's, and are
not scriptural ideas read back into earlier times but part of the wisdom
of the human heritage. The scriptures compile this wisdom and give it a
divine sponsorship. Thank heaven the scriptures were given and were made
central to many societies for they were enriched by them, getting
compiled wisdom that served as a short cut in recognizing it as most
valuable to good functioning.

I think Shakespeare's views encompass at least the universal morality
and that is not hidden from readers so I think John-Paul Spiro is being
humble indeed if doesn't think he can glean Shakespeare's views on this
from the message of his works.

John-Paul Spiro seems to be missing is a feeling for loving ties. Has he
ever had a loved one in his life that he wishes to treat gingerly rather
than instantly educate to his standard of super morality? Being kind,
especially to loved ones, is basic and doing this seems to lie outside
the bounds of embarrassing those loved ones in public. Not only is
Cordelia "over righteous," but she is "wise over much" too, the two
things that Ecclesiastes warns about as leading to self destruction.

Everyone has heard the cautionary warning, "Don't be a wise guy," and
while some learn this from the Bible it can also be learned from life,
probably through painful experience. Cordelia's over wise thinking shows
in her grave error that thinks that love is limited only to one target
at a time.  In her youthful zeal, she fails to recognize that she can
love her husband and her father at the very same time, and probably a
couple of kids too. She thought she was right and allowed that to bowl
over her father instead of responding in love and humility.

The point again about these things in Lear is that these are dealing
with universals of relations and examining them through their breaches
and upholdings. Shakespeare is a great teacher about them for showing
the dire possibilities when these things are scanted.

Finally, I think that Cordelia's "no cause" refers to the fact that she
thinks her father has given her "no cause" for hatred. She can only come
to that wise conclusion when she realizes her over reaching and errors
in thinking, a wisdom brought about by the dire consequences that
followed her actions. She has learned to simply love her father and not
try to educate him to her grand scheme of thinking that turned out to be
an error, but would have been unwise and unkind even if it had had some
real wisdom behind it.

David Basch

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen C. Rose <
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Date:           Friday, 24 Jun 2005 14:10:38 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 16.1147 New and Improved Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1147 New and Improved Lear

Apropos of nothing, it seems we sometimes forget that WS is writing
plays and that plays require tension, story, conflict and so forth.
Cord's initial in-your-faceness is in lovely tension with the
hypocritical gushing of her sisters and we know Lear is going to be
completely idiotic.  Exaggeration is permitted.

The old and unimproved Lear is gripping in part because it is a story in
which the initial conflict between Lear and Cord. will result in their
co-deaths. And it will seem to be ok- though Samuel Johnson didn't think
it was.

How that can be is the action and issues of admirability or culpability
need to be seen in the context of the need for the story to work.

Cheers, S

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Friday, 24 Jun 2005 20:14:00 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 16.1147 New and Improved Lear [*Designations*]
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1147 New and Improved Lear [*Designations*]
/Designations

John-Paul Spiro writes, "We should be aware when we are judging the
characters in a play with a morality external to them.  Shakespeare is
at pains to show that Lear's Britain is not Judeo-Christian.  We can
read Judeo-Christianity back into the play, just as, for example, many
Christians read Christianity back into the Hebrew Scriptures, but when
we do so we are imposing a morality that would be foreign to the
individuals who perform the actions we judge."

The last sentence of John-Paul Spiro's thought above is precisely why
the Old Testament is the first part of the whole Holy Bible and is
followed by the New Testament and why, I believe, those who wish us to
call the Old Testament, suddenly, the Hebrew Scriptures, err so openly.

Point one: Christians do not read Christianity back into the Hebrew
Scriptures. [see proof in point two]

Point two: Christians do read the New Testament and note that Jesus
claims his Jewish ancestry from King David.  They also note that Jesus
is the one who refers to the Old Testament in support of his ministry of
the Gospel, his teachings of the Word of God.  Christians are not doing
something suddenly on their own.  The combined Old and New Testament
Bible has a history thousands of years old and Christians of today are
cognizant of what Christians have known during two thousand years: Jesus
was a Jew who brought his ministry to his own people, and embraced
publicans and sinners from all walks of life, including his Roman
occupiers, who he felt most need healing and salvation from his
teachings.  Christians are following the teachings of Jesus who as a Jew
is pointing back to passages in the Old Testament which he claims to
fulfill.  It is ludicrous to divorce the New Testament from the Old in
the Holy Bible, because Jesus was a Jew who claimed his Hebrew
Scriptures foretold his coming as the Anointed One, the Messiah, thus
John-Paul Spiro's thought is a total misread of The Holy Bible [ ! ]
One cannot forget that Jesus at his age of majority was in his Holy
Temple arguing with the Rabbis and also drove the money-changers from
his House of God.

Hardy should take note.  Perhaps this response needs double publication,
under Lear and under Designations.

Bill Arnold
http://www.cwru.edu/affil/edis/scholars/arnold.htm

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Saturday, 25 Jun 2005 11:27:16 +0100
Subject: New and Improved Lear
Comment:        SHK 16.1147 New and Improved Lear

"Shakespeare is at pains to show that Lear's Britain is not
Judeo-Christian." (John-Paul Spiro,  SHK 16.1147  Friday, 24 June 2005)

How come, then, it is revealed that there are "steeples" to be drenched
in Lear's Britain, just at the point when he makes his most impassioned
plea to an anthropomorphized Nature?

m

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