The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2375 Thursday, 05 December 2002
Date: Wednesday, 4 Dec 2002 11:07:52 -0600
Subject: 13.2373 Re: Edgar and Edmund
Comment: Re: SHK 13.2373 Re: Edgar and Edmund
I confess to have found much of this reading of Cordelia as if she were
character out of Henry James to be somewhat baffling.
Surely this play is a fairy tale -- gone haywire, of course, much as R &
J is a romantic comedy gone haywire. The foolish old father. The wicked
(step-) sisters. The misunderstood, wronged good daughter. When you deal
only with the opening plot events, you half expect a dwarf, a witch, a
fairy godmother or a talking animal to appear next.
Don't assume from this, however, that I think this fairy tale connection
in any way trivializes the play. On the contrary, I find such stories
among the most powerful in the whole reach of European (and human)
Now before anybody pounces, let me assure everyone that I am aware of
the extent to which it diverges from its fairy tale roots. Most
important, the story focuses on the foolish old father rather than the
wronged, good daughter. *He* has the adventures (terrible ones, heaven
knows), while she disappears for most of the play. It also imports the
story of the evil (bastard) brother versus the good brother from a quite
different (though parallel) tale-tradition. And it gives much of the
interest to the choric Fool.
But it still strikes me as primarily a terrifying revision of a fairy
tale theme, and works best when it is seen as such.
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