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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: June ::
New and Improved Lear
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1162  Wednesday, 29 June 2005

[1]     From:   Frank Whigham <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 28 Jun 2005 08:00:56 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1158 New and Improved Lear

[2]     From:   Judy Prince <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 28 Jun 2005 09:49:26 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1158 New and Improved Lear

[3]     From:   Peter Bridgman <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 28 Jun 2005 16:51:55 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1158 New and Improved Lear


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Frank Whigham <
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Date:           Tuesday, 28 Jun 2005 08:00:56 -0500
Subject: 16.1158 New and Improved Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1158 New and Improved Lear

 >the multiple expressions of polytheism in "King Lear,"
 >the absence of more concrete Christian references, and the historical
 >source convince me that the play's setting is pre-Judeo-Christian.
 >Elton's case is quite sound.

Quite right (though the force of the anti-blasphemy law and its
resultant edits must be considered too). Any sensible reading must also
account for the careful way that Shakespeare removed most of the
explicit and detailed Christianity from the Leir source play.

Frank Whigham

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Judy Prince <
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Date:           Tuesday, 28 Jun 2005 09:49:26 -0400
Subject: 16.1158 New and Improved Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1158 New and Improved Lear

Today's was an illuminating discussion, all of it.  I'd like to comment
on what Robin Hamilton, in part, led me to think.

Robin asks whose judgement of Cordelia's actions we should accept,
Lear's----or the authority of Kent who, like Cordelia, is prepared to
accept the consequences of his action?

I feel Robin's brought us full circle---through, and perhaps past, the
theologic debate.

I also feel that our response to the Cordelia-Lear tragedy, deep and
stunning, often embraces both of those characters.

As a young woman, I frequently wondered why I wept for Lear as well for
Cordelia.  Now I believe it is because I grieved my own father's seeming
inability to "connect" with me and other family members.  And I've found
that many people, both female and male, respond similarly.  As some of
you've observed, and I think wisely, the playwright's less about angels
sitting on a pinhead than those about whom we agonize---because we hold
them closest in our hearts.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Bridgman <
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Date:           Tuesday, 28 Jun 2005 16:51:55 +0100
Subject: 16.1158 New and Improved Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1158 New and Improved Lear

Julia Griffin writes ...

 >Shakespeare took an old, Christian play on this ancient king and altered
 >it in such a way that caritas does not prevail and repentance does not
 >save (except, perhaps, in the shadow-story of Gloucester, as reported by
 >Edgar).  Instead he ended his version of events with darkness - the
 >stark despair of the Quarto, later (it seems) complicated into the
 >delusional vision of the Folio, and an appalling, inverted pieta in
 >which the crazed father carries in his daughter's arbitrarily-murdered
 >body.  All's cheerless, dark, deadly, and over.

I would've thought one only has to look at the previous reign to
understand why WS gave Lear its ending ...

A psychologically damaged aging monarch devises a "bloody question" as a
loyalty test.  Since the wrong answer will result in loss of land and
property, the majority conforms (at least publicly).  A minority of
refuseniks (mostly from the older generation) give the wrong answer.
They must now chose poverty, banishment, or a life in hiding.  Those in
disguise move via an underground network.  Those who are caught face
imprisonment, torture and death.  The only hope for this minority is a
successful foreign invasion.  This finally arrives but it is a pathetic
failure.

Peter Bridgman

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