The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2159  Thursday, 13 September 2001

From:           Edmund Taft <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 12 Sep 2001 14:15:42 -0400
Subject:        Globe Lear

In the Winter, 1998 issue of _Shakespeare Bulletin_, Margaret Varnell
reviewed Richard Eyre's Royal National Theatre production of _King
Lear_, and noted that

        [Edgar] emerges nude [from the hovel] with a
        scarf tied around his waist and remains so for
        the remainder of the scenes in the first half [of
        the play].  On "Off, off you lendings!" (3.4.107),
        Lear literally tears all of his clothes off, and the
        old man and Poor Tom confront each other in full
        nakedness, two "forked animals."  A cloak is
        finally placed around Lear's shoulders but not for
        several lines to come.  Meantime, any movement
        by either man does reveal all. (22)

Michael W. Shurgot quotes the above passage approvingly in "'The Thing
itself': Staging Male Sexual Vulnerability in _King Lear_" [_SRASP_ 22
(1999): 17-30)], and goes on to argue that complete nakedness is
thematically important in this part of the play.  He observes that in
3.4 and after, "the sexual basis of [male] power is suddenly humiliated
as, embodied in Edgar, the entire male anatomy now cowers before the
cold and rain" (23).

I wonder if anyone agrees with Shurgot. _Lear_ is a play in which nature
(the cold and the rain) is gendered feminine. Is a female Nature
punishing and belittling Lear and Edgar in the storm scenes?  If so,

--Ed Taft

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