The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0338.  Monday, 10 March 1997.

From:           Robert Marks <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 10 Mar 1997 17:54:20 -0800
Subject:        CORDELIA, King Lear and his Fool.

Cordelia, King Lear and his Fool.
By Robert Marks
Published by House of Cordelia
P.O. Box 36
Harbord  NSW  2096 Australia
Copyright 1995

Back Cover
* Why does Cordelia have to die at the end of King Lear? =

* What became of King Lear's wonderful Fool? =

* What really happens in the last moments of Lear's life? =

* Why were there two texts of Shakespeare's King Lear? =

These are some of the questions critics of King Lear continue to ask
which this work answers.

Cordelia, King Lear and His Fool =

* looks into the writings of King James I before whom =

Shakespeare's play was originally performed, =

* compares Shakespeare's versions with his sources, =

* considers issues that were topical in Shakespeare's day, =

* looks at practices relating to speech prefixes and =

Dramatis Person=E6 in Shakespearean and Jacobean plays, =

* makes comparisons of the texts of King Lear with those =

of numerous contemporary plays, and, =

* concludes that Cordelia never went to France but stayed =

in England and served her father disguised as his Fool in much the same
way the disguised Edgar leads his blind father =

Gloucester towards the safety of Dover, and
* shows that Cordelia is aided by the disguised King of =

France who sent back to France for his troops.

This volume includes full texts of:
* the 1605 anonymous play The True Chronicle History
        of King Leir and His Three Daughters; =

* John Higgin's 1578 "The Tragoedy of Cordila" extracted
        from The Mirror For Magistrates;
* other pieces of the Lear legend,
* King James I's 1603  Basilikon Doron; and
* the author's 1995 Cordelia:  Shakespeare's King Lear.


For more than twelve years I have felt much like the little boy in
Andersen's "The Emperor's New Clothes" must have felt. For him it was
obvious that the Emperor was naked, while everyone else was ready to say
what a fine suit of clothes the Emperor wore.  For these past twelve
years I have enjoyed a reading of  Shakespeare's King Lear in which
Cordelia does not go to France, but remains behind in England and serves
her father disguised as his Fool. Too often when I have presented my
idea to people who have a measure of interest in the play I have met an
embarrassing silence or a downright prejudiced rejection.

Of course I'm not unaware of the amount of intellectual ink that my
reading of the play contradicts. However, I've discovered that I'm not
the first to put forward the idea. Several have proposed it before me,
but I have found, in chasing up their work, that it is all but buried in
the mountain of criticism that has been written on Lear. "The question
of Cordelia and her father Requires a fitter place." (5.3.58)

Over the years it has been a purpose of mine to investigate the matter
as thoroughly as I could with a view to eventually presenting what
evidence I could bring together to establish the interpretation once and
for all. To my delight, almost everywhere I have turned in literature
contemporary to Lear I have found evidence which supports my reading.
This book then, is the sending forth, although somewhat reluctantly, of
my findings. I say somewhat reluctantly for two reasons: firstly, I have
wanted to present as much evidence as I could, but I'm now at the point
of realizing that much more evidence will come to light if others will
take up the interpretation and run with it; and secondly, I'm reluctant
because I expect that some of the arguments I make will be refuted by
this one or that. In my enthusiasm I'm sure that I have sometimes seen
too far and for some it will "mar what's well." (1.4.344). At the outset
I would only ask you to consider that even though I might be wrong on
some points, yet I have presented a great deal of evidence which ought
not simply be dismissed. The sheer volume of evidence ought to say

This book presents a radically different approach to King Lear when
considered in terms of the way we have traditionally come to view the
play. But it is not, I suggest, radically different from the way we have
come to view most of Shakespeare's plays, nor those of his
contemporaries. In fact, I believe it is much more in harmony with these
than the traditional approach is.

My arguments are based on what we know about King James I before whom
Shakespeare's King Lear was originally performed, on earlier versions of
the tale, on issues that were topical in Shakespeare's day, and on
speech prefixes in Jacobean plays, including King Lear, and I have to
ask you the reader to be "the pattern of all patience" and hear me out. =

I have tried to present my material in an order that I believe would
appeal to most, but your questions may not be answered up front, and I
only get one shot. For your sake I don't want to miss!

I am also very much aware that the average reader does not have easy
access to copies of earlier versions of the tale of this legendary king,
so I have included several that I consider to be important so that the
reader can get a feel for the background that Shakespeare's patrons
brought to his performance. This, I maintain, we cannot overlook. =

Ideally, the reader will become familiar with the extract from The
Mirror For Magistrates, and the texts of The True Chronicle History of
King Leir, and King James I's Basilikon Doron in the appendices. =

I have also included in this volume a text of Lear, which I am calling
Cordelia:  Shakespeare's King Lear. This is a conflation of the original
texts, as are all modern texts of Lear. This text differs in just three
ways from most modern texts of the play. Firstly, it follows all texts
for the first one hundred years of the play's history in not including a
listing of characters at the beginning of the play; secondly, it
incorporates the speech prefixes of Bastard for Edmund, and the
Gentleman/Oswald/Steward prefixes for Oswald followed by the modern
prefix in brackets; and thirdly, it incorporates additional italicised
speech prefixes in brackets after some normal speech prefixes indicating
my conviction that Cordelia and the King of France are in fact disguised
as the Fool and the Servant/Knight/Gentleman in the middle of the play
when they have traditionally been thought to have been in France. In no
other way is the text changed than in these three. =

I would have liked to have been able to include the whole text of Arthur
Golding's 1578 translation of Seneca's On Benefyting. There are probably
many more points that could be made if we had before us the whole of
this work which shares with Lear a major theme of filial ingratitude. =

Unfortunately Golding's work has not been published since Shakespeare's
day and I was only able to examine it on microfilm. Of course, we don't
know whether Shakespeare read Seneca in English or Latin. We do know
however that he read Seneca. I can only point the reader to a modern
translation of the work in the Loeb Classical Library.

At the end of the day some might not feel that I have proved my thesis
to them. Some might wonder that such a different reading should be
admitted after so much time has passed by, and so many performances of
the play have occurred.  If I'm wrong about all this, and the average of
the diverse and fragmented interpretations of Lear today is in fact
Shakespeare's Lear, then I respectfully suggest that Shakespeare didn't
do a very good job and that he would have done much better if he had
presented it my way. Of course there is no doubt in my mind that the way
I would present King Lear is the way Shakespeare did. I believe he had a
hand to write it and "a heart and a brain to breed it in" (1.2.55) and
it's wonderful.

Interested in seeing the whole work?

Contact me.
Bob Marks
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Subscribe to Our Feeds


Make a Gift to SHAKSPER

Consider making a gift to support SHAKSPER.