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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: March ::
Doubling of Cordelia and the Fool: Again
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0197  Wednesday, 22 March 2006

From: 		Bruce Young <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 21 Mar 2006 17:11:57 -0700
Subject: 17.0191 Doubling of Cordelia and the Fool: Again
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0191 Doubling of Cordelia and the Fool: Again

As Hardy notes, the strongest evidence against the doubling of Cordelia 
and the Fool in Shakespeare's time would be the performance practice of 
his company.  But since I'm not an expert on the company's performance 
practice, I'd like to offer two other reasons against doubling Cordelia 
and the Fool.

(1) It seems to me that using doubling to achieve the "deeper ironies 
beyond the reach of words" referred to by Ackroyd is a modern practice 
Shakespeare and his contemporaries are not likely to have thought of, 
let alone indulged in.  I suspect they used doubling very 
pragmatically-and they probably had very limited choices as to which 
parts could reasonably be doubled.

(2) I've seen the play with Cordelia and the Fool doubled.  Possibly 
this sort of doubling sometimes works, but in the one case I've 
witnessed, it didn't.  The player was a passable Fool but a horrible 
Cordelia.  I'm not sure it's easy to find someone who can do both parts 
well.

So, yes, Cordelia and the Fool are associated-as truth tellers and 
characters loyal to Lear; also possibly by the line "my poor fool is 
hanged."  But those associations are present whether or not the parts 
are doubled.  I'm not sure doubling really adds illumination beyond 
what's there in the text.  If the audience notices that the same actor 
is playing both parts, the result may actually be confusion.  Is the 
Fool really Cordelia in disguise (an idea that makes no realistic 
sense)?  Or is the director trying to get me to see something deep and 
symbolic I'm not already seeing?  Or is the director trying to assure me 
of his or her cleverness and insight?

Thus, even in modern productions, I'm not sure doubling the parts is a 
good idea.

Bruce Young

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