The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0772  Thursday, 24 April 2003

From:           Tom Pendleton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 24 Apr 2003 00:10:29 -0400
Subject: 14.0609 Conundrum
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.0609 Conundrum

The answer to Graham Hall's conundrum is of course Lear. (Or, perhaps
more correctly--since he asks where in Shaksper rather than in
Shakespeare--Ler; but farewll compliment.)

Lear is himself the Pearly King.  "Pearl" in Shakespeare can mean
cataract (TGV 5.2.13), and so is relevant here since, as Kent tells him,
Lear needs to "See better" (1.1.158).  One might less imaginatively
argue that since pearl is frequently a metaphor for tear drop, Lear is
the Pearly King because he is both weepy in himself and the cause to
weep in other men.

It is also Lear who goes to tea. Literally--Lear goes "To 't" (i.e., to
T) at 4.6.117.  "Go" is perfectly aceptable in contemporary English as a
synonym for "say"--as in "So she goes, 'Why didn't you call?' and I go,
"Why should I?'" And there is of course the instance of the legendary
weasel who, under simian duress, cried out for his father.  "To t" is a
pun on "to tea"; like most of his contemporaries, Shakespeare was
addicted to puns and bad spelling.  And the variant form "t" would be
all the more likely before tea was introduced in England.  Not only does
Lear himself go to "t"--and pell mell as well--but he further indicates
that the wren, the fitchew, and the soiled horse also go "to 't" (112,
122).  Lear's inviting animals to a tea party is a clear symptom of his
madness, and in all probability the source of the famous incident in
Through the Looking Glass.

The monster who gains an eye is of course Cornwall.  It may be objected
that he actually gains two eyes, but since he gains them seriatim (the
progressive scores are Cornwall 2 Gloucester 2, Cornwall 3 Gloucester 1,
Cornwall 4 Gloucester 0) he actually gains AN eye on two different
occasions. Or, because he expresses a wish to "set my foot" (3.7.68)upon
Gloucester's eyes, he may actually have squooshed the first before he
got the second, and thus ultimately gained only one (i.e., an) eye.

As the Earl of Warwick is fond of saying, "What plain proceedings is
more plain than this?"

This may not be the answer that Mr. Hall anticipated, but I don't care.
Since I touched all the bases, the run counts.  As for the promised
prize, I look to be duke or earl, I can assure you.

Tom Pendleton

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