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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: December ::
King Lear's Foul Disease
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0591  Friday, 11 December 2009

From:       Jim Fess <
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Date:       Friday, 11 Dec 2009 15:00:22 +0800
Subject:    King Lear's Foul Disease

Kent's "Kill thy Physician, and thy fee bestow upon the foul disease" 
isn't a metaphor. King Lear was infected with syphilis, and Kent was his 
physician. This explains

1) Kent's seemingly blind loyalty to Lear. Kent couldn't leave his 
patient who loved him as his father, for he knew syphilis was the cause 
of Lear's madness. (Kent could identify Cornwall by his "Epileptic visage.")

2) Cordelia's nothing by her father's sudden anger, "most strange . . . 
such unnatural degree," described Prince France.

3) Lear's rotten body and death. Kent treated Lear "from your first of 
difference and decay, have followed your sad steps," and the famous 
"Give me an Ounce of Civet . . . it smells of Mortality."

Kent threatened King Lear that he would "vent clamour" Lear's evil, but 
Lear reminded him: "thou hast sought to make us break our vows, which we 
durst never yet"; so Kent didn't reveal the secret.


Original Lines from the 1623 Folio:

KENT:
Kill thy *Physition*, and thy fee bestow
Vpon the *foule disease*, reuoke thy guift,
Or whil'st I can vent clamour from my throate,
Ile tell thee *thou dost euill.*

LEAR:
Heare me recreant, on thine allegeance heare me;
That thou hast sought to make vs *breake our vowes*,
Which we durst neuer yet;

Another view on King Lear for your comments.


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