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Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: March ::
Query: Gloucester's [Cornwall's] Servant

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0101  Friday, 5 March 2010

[1]  From:      Steve Sohmer < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:      March 4, 2010 11:38:19 AM EST
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0093 Query: Gloucester's Servant 

[2]  From:      Thomas Pendleton < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:      March 4, 2010 12:43:58 PM EST
     Subj:      Gloucester's Servant 

[3]  From:      John Staines < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:      Thursday, March 4, 2010 at 11:29 AM
     Subj:      SHK 21.0093 Query: Gloucester's Servant 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Steve Sohmer < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         March 4, 2010 11:38:19 AM EST
Subject: 21.0093 Query: Gloucester's Servant
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0093 Query: Gloucester's Servant

>Has anybody suggested in print that when the Messenger tells us
>about the death of Gloucester his use of the phrase "his servant
>that he bred" (4.2.41) might imply that the servant was in fact
>an illegitimate son of the man he has now attacked? The idea
>sets the servant in even more striking contrast to Edmund, whose
>betrayal of his father first rattles this chain.
>
>David Evett

Dear Friends,

My hunch is Dave Evett is correct in that the servant said to have been "bred" by Cornwall is his illegitimate son. Lear is a play about thankless, rebellious, dangerous children. But it is also about misbegetting, and the nice differences between natural and unnatural children both by order of law and behavior. Shakespeare begins his play with Kent's stating that Lear can't tell his sons-in-law apart, which the Duke follows immediately by asking Gloucester "Is not this your son, my lord?" Shakespeare couldn't be more clear about this governing idea of the play if he were president of the local chapter of Planned Parenthood. In another play, "bred" could allow for various interpretations; not in this one.

Nice catch, Dave.

Hope this helps.

Steve

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Thomas Pendleton < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         March 4, 2010 12:43:58 PM EST
Subject:      Gloucester's Servant

It's Cornwall's servant, of course, who has served him ever since he was a child. And, Hardy, you're supposed to protect us from ourselves when we make this kind of mistake.

Tom Pendleton 

[Editor's Note: Yesterday, in another context, I wrote that "I am not omniscient." I probably should have added that errors do slip past me. Surely, Tom, you are calling subscriber's attention to another of my various imperfections. -Hardy]

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         John Staines < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         Thursday, March 4, 2010 at 11:29 AM
Subject: Query: Gloucester's Servant
Comment:      SHK 21.0093 Query: Gloucester's Servant

I haven't seen him called a biological son anywhere, but I don't think that the specific sense of "sexually bred" is necessary to draw the parallel that you rightly see. As a lord and head of household, Cornwall is ideologically, if not biologically, the father of his servant. The servant's rebellion against his legal lord and father is thus an ironic contrast to Edmund's rebellion against his natural (but not legal) father.

John Staines
John Jay College
City University of New York

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