The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0437 Wednesday, 31 October 2012
Date: October 31, 2012 9:59:53 AM EDT
Subject: Cordelia’s “I am”
I taught King Lear for the first time as a teaching assistant in Fall 1962 and taught it to some retirees in the OLLI program yesterday. In between I’ve seen (counting movies) well over 50 productions. Thanks to Steve Urkowitz and Michael Warren, since the early 1980s I’ve been aware of the textual muddle and arguments in favor of revision in the Folio. However, only this morning did I discover that in Quarto 4.7 Cordelia responds “And so I am” but in the Folio “And so I am; I am.” Aficionados may already be aware of this item, but, to mangle Prospero’s line to Miranda, ‘twas new to me.
In my in-the-theatre experience (with a strong performance from the actress) that moment has regularly been the most powerful in the show. For me, there are light years of difference between Q and F in that build to the second “am.” In terms of current SHAKSPER debates, I am advancing no larger thesis or agenda, but the Quarto line makes sense whereas the additional two words - whoever is responsible - are a stroke of genius.