The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1234  Friday, 3 May 2002

From:           Michael Shurgot <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 2 May 2002 08:21:13 -0700
Subject: 13.1217 Re: King Lear's Daughters
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.1217 Re: King Lear's Daughters

Dear Colleagues:

I admit to being a bit puzzled by this exchange on the ages of Lear's
daughters. It seems such idle speculation. The play is essentially a
brutal fairy tale written for a specific company of highly competent
professional actors in the early 17th century whose composition often
influenced what stories their master story-teller decided to dramatize
for them. It is a given that none of Lear's children yet have children
of their own, and one of them, at least, is old enough to bear children.
Hence, apparently, Lear's curse of Goneril. Lear is 80 because
Shakespeare wanted a very old, biblical-like patriarch ("As full of
grief as age, wretched in both"), who thinks he can command the heavens
to do his bidding, and then rages when he finds he cannot. And isn't the
age 80 biblically significant? I seem to remember reading that

Further, Lear kills the sergeant who was hanging Cordelia. And, he
fantasizes about getting up a force of his knights and silently
surprising his enemies. So, if one wanted to engage in idle speculation,
why couldn't he have fathered children late in his life? But this
question takes us way beyond the play, doesn't it? We are, let us not
forget, dealing with imagined characters in a dramatized, mythical tale
of huge proportions.  Isn't that the central fact that we must
communicate to students? Heaven knows there is enough in this play to
try to communicate without wondering how old Lear's daughters "actually
were," as if they were real people, not characters in a play.

Tell me again, how many children . . . .?


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