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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: August ::
Kent's Banishment
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0505  Wednesday, 8 August 2007

From: 		Nicole Coonradt <
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Date: 		Monday, 06 Aug 2007 17:27:57 +0000
Subject: 18.0500 Kent's Banishment
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0500 Kent's Banishment

Kerry J. Lambeth <
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 >When Lear banishes Kent from his kingdom in 1.1, the deadline differs in
 >the Quartos and Folio. F1 has Lear giving five days for "provision", and
 >stipulates that on the sixth Kent must begin his journey away from his
 >homeland. In Q1 and Q2 that is changed to four for provisioning and five
 >to leave. Both texts agree that the tenth day will mean a death >sentence.
 >
 >Any thoughts on this change? What happens in the play's timeline in
 >those four-five days that might be significant to Kent's sentence?

Fellow SHAKSPER members:

I'm not sure yet about the changes Kerry Lambeth questions (the 
wherefores re days/time), but there are other differences or specifics 
of note from Quarto to Folio other than just dates, which might be worth 
examining (especially as I know not which edition might be used by any 
given reader).  Perhaps Lambeth could include the passages in question 
for better comparison sake?  In the meanwhile, so we might better 
consider these, in Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor's Oxford edition of the 
"Complete Works," following is the text of the Quarto:

LEAR:
Hear me; on thy allegiance hear me!
Since thou hast sought to make us break our vow,
Which we durst never yet, and with strayed pride
To come between our sentence and our power,
Which nor our nature nor our place can bear,
Our potency make good take they reward:
Four days we do allot thee for provision
To shield thee from dis-eases of the world,
And on the fifth to turn thy hated back
Upon our kingdom.  If on the next day following
Thy banished trunk be found in our dominions,
The moment is thy death.  Away!  by Jupiter,
This shall not be revoked.  (1.1.157-169)

And following is the Folio version:

LEAR:
Hear me, recreant; on thine allegiance hear me!
That thou hast sought to make us break our vows,
Which we durst never yet, and with strained pride
To come betwixt our sentence and our power,
Which nor our nature nor our place can bear,
Our potency made good take thy reward:
Five days we do allot thee for provision
To shield thee from disasters of the world,
And on the sixth to turn thy hated back
Upon our kingdom.  If on the seventh day following
Thy banished trunk be found in our dominions,
The moment is thy death.  Away!  By Jupiter,
This shall not be revoked.  (1.1.166-178)

I'm not sure where Lambeth finds that "Both texts [quartos?] agree that 
the tenth day will mean a death sentence."  In Q above, it appears to be 
day six, the "day following" the "fifth" on which Kent is told to "turn 
thy hated back / Upon our kingdom."  There is nothing here to indicate a 
**tenth** day; although, technically, as the tenth day would necessarily 
fall **after** banishment, it would mean death as well, just as the 
fifteenth or fiftieth would.  The texts say nothing about a tenth day 
specifically, however.

In F, we get potentially more confusing language.  It's clear that day 
six is the day of Kent's mandated departure for his exile, but "the 
seventh day following" might mean that he gets a week to clear out, to 
actually remove himself from the country (a week's travel, perhaps?). 
If we read it as we do the Q, it would mean that day seven-- ergo the 
day after the sixth on which he was to turn his hated back from 
England-- is when he must be gone, and, if found, would be condemned to 
death.  Again, however, there is nothing about day *ten* in any version, 
so I'm confused about Lambeth's math here.  What did I miss?

Anyway, I'm unsure yet why the dates changed-- it may have to do with 
the events in the play's time-line-- but I suspect that it could have 
something to do with actual days that would have been allotted to those 
who were banished from the country, which was all too common during the 
Protestant Reformation in England and we know that exile and banishment 
are recurring themes for the Bard.  If such people were given a week to 
clear out, the F may be a more accurate depiction of this, if we read 
"the seventh day following" to be seven days *after* day six when Kent 
makes his departure, which, as noted, is unclear.  Still looking unless 
someone else posts something more definitive in the meanwhile (if such 
is even possible).  Does anyone happen to know how many days were 
standard fare for a person to remain in-country when a sentence of 
banishment was leveled against that person?  Were there laws that 
regulated such details?

It might also have to do with Kent and a topical matter since some have 
seen his character as representing the real person Thomas Pounde (eldest 
son of William Pounde and Helen, sister or half-sister to Thomas 
Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton), who spent neigh on 30 years in prison 
for various instances of speaking out against the crown (and 
Protestantism) in defense of his recusant Catholic friends.  Imprisoned 
during Elizabeth's reign, he was released under James I, but then 
punished, like Kent, by being made to stand in the pillory (a punishment 
reserved for common criminals, not those from aristocratic circles, or 
an erstwhile advisor to the king, which is part of Kent's disgrace in 
"Lear" when similarly made to sit in the stocks).  Pounde was also 
physically disfigured by having his ears cut off as further punishment!

Sources:  Please see England's "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography" 
for information on both Pounde and Trip, the latter being the man at 
Star Chamber court who convicted Pounde the final time (during James I's 
reign) when his ears were cut off.  Clare Asquith notes the possible 
link in "Shadowplay" (Public Affairs, 2005, pp. 209-210).  She also 
noted the long-puzzling "trip" and "tripping" references (mentioned 
thrice at 2.1.26-7, 2.1.115, and 2.1.151, Q) associated with Kent in the 
play during her course in Oxford last summer by connecting them with 
Trip.  In light of this, if it's true (how can we know?), I would argue 
that Gloucester's, "the stars ... govern our conditions" (94.3.32-3, Q) 
may reference this and the power of the court of the Star Chamber to 
govern the affairs of men.

Looking over my notes on Edwin Jones study of John Lingard's "History of 
England" in his own book, "The English Nation:  The Great Myth" (Sutton, 
2003), I thought to include this excerpt where Jones quotes Lingard's 
discussion of Star Court and life under Elizabeth (and James, for Pounde 
at least, went even more harshly):

"Under Elizabeth the administration of justice was corrupt partly 
because of her own predecessors, partly because of her own acceptance of 
bribes and her interference in private cases. The Court of Star Chamber 
'inflicted the severest punishments for that comprehensive and 
undefinable transgression, contempt of the royal authority'. Courts of 
commissioners were occasionally appointed 'for the public or private 
trial or offenses' and the queen, 'from her hasty and imperious temper, 
manifested a strong predilection' for the courts material which dealt 
with 'whatever could be supposed to have the remotest tendency to 
sedition'. She assumed the discretionary power of 'gratifying her 
caprice or resentment by the restraint or imprisonment of those who had 
given her offence'. Many new felonies and treasons were created and 'the 
ingenuity of the judges gave these enactments the most extensive 
application'. All this, together with the acts 'inflicting death for 
religious opinion', meant tha
t Elizabeth was 'not sparing of the blood of her subjects'." (Jones 249)

So a  banquet of food for thought.  I'll be eager to see what other 
members post on Lambeth's query.

Sincerely,
Nicole Coonradt
University of Denver
Denver, CO  USA

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