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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: May ::
What happens to the Fool in _Lear_?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0457  Wednesday, 17 May 2006

[1] 	From: 	John Drakakis <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 11 May 2006 16:36:28 +0100
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0437 What happens to the Fool in _Lear_?

[2] 	From: 	Gregory McNamara <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 11 May 2006 13:33:32 -0400
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0437 What happens to the Fool in _Lear_?

[3] 	From: 	Cary Dean Barney <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 11 May 2006 23:04:38 +0200
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0437 What happens to the Fool in _Lear_?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		John Drakakis <
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Date: 		Thursday, 11 May 2006 16:36:28 +0100
Subject: 17.0437 What happens to the Fool in _Lear_?
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0437 What happens to the Fool in _Lear_?

This is an old chestnut that Shakespeare scholars have thrown around for 
some time.  I recall an RSC production in which Michael Gambon played 
Lear and Antony Sher played the Fool, and in the mock justice scene Lear 
accidentally stabs the Fool who sinks back dead into a barrel.  Lear of 
course, does not notice what he's done.

It's as good a theatrical solution as any to an intractable problem.

Cheers,
John Drakakis

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Gregory McNamara <
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Date: 		Thursday, 11 May 2006 13:33:32 -0400
Subject: 17.0437 What happens to the Fool in _Lear_?
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0437 What happens to the Fool in _Lear_?

In reply to Noel Sloboda's question about Lear's Fool, I think that 
there is no need to insist that Lear refers to anyone but Cordelia when 
he laments, directly after finding Cordelia hanged, "my poor fool is 
hanged!"  Perhaps the Fool himself is simply long gone, having taken his 
own advice, given to Kent in 2.4: "Let go thy hold when a great wheel 
runs down, lest it break thy neck with the following."  Cordelia's 
condition by the end of 5.3 certainly underscores the Fool's point.

Greg McNamara

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Cary Dean Barney <
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Date: 		Thursday, 11 May 2006 23:04:38 +0200
Subject: 17.0437 What happens to the Fool in _Lear_?
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0437 What happens to the Fool in _Lear_?

One fairly common opinion holds that by IV.vi. Lear has effectively 
taken over the Fool's role.  But I've seen several productions now that 
keep the Fool alive, silently following Lear, too full of sorrow to 
speak.  It's pretty effective, though one would think being reunited 
with his beloved Cordelia might loosen his tongue.

I've always felt the "hanged" line refers to the Fool.  We seem to have 
a choice, either to believe that Shakespeare clumsily chose to tie up a 
loose end, or that "Fool" refers to Cordelia, is a term of endearment, 
and only possibly refers ALSO to the Fool, "marrying" the two in Lear's 
mangled consciousness.  I go with the former; for one thing, is "fool" 
used as a term of endearment anywhere else in the canon?  Wouldn't 
Shakespeare have chosen another such term so as to avoid confusion with 
another character in the play?

If Lear's mentioning the Fool in passing as he weeps over Cordelia seems 
bad timing on his and Shakespeare's part, clumsy plotting and bad timing 
are much of what this play, and particularly V.iii., are about.  Edgar 
chooses a bad moment to go on and on, with Edmund's (deliberate?) 
encouragement, about their father's death.  The King and Cordelia slip 
Albany's mind ("Great thing of us forgot!")  And Kent chooses a 
ridiculously wrong moment to reveal his identity to Lear.  Wouldn't it 
be in keeping with all this for the King, kneeling over Cordelia, to put 
in a word for the Fool?

(In fact-digression-it may be that the mortally wounded Edmund is the 
only one here who's still in control of his timing, stretching things 
out-"but speak you on"-until he knows it will be too late.  Time is 
really out of joint in this play, and Edmund disjoints it further.)

But who would have given the order to hang the Fool?  My candidate is 
Goneril, who has inveighed against him as "this your all-licensed fool" 
after being referred to as "one o' the parings" and who may also bear a 
grudge since the Fool's favorite, as well as Lear's, was Cordelia.  A 
bit of silent, upstage business would take care of this if an 
adventurous director wanted to try it out.

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