The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1574  Thursday, 7 August 2003

From:           Edmund Taft <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 06 Aug 2003 14:37:37 -0400
Subject:        King Lear (1.1)

Volume 55 (2002) of _Shakespeare Survey_ contains an interesting essay
by Andrew Gurr, "Headgear as a Paralinguistic Signifier in _King Lear_,"
pp. 43-52, that is very suggestive. In particular, Gurr notes that the
"coronet" precedes Lear's first entrance and thus is made a focal point
of the opening scene, at least in the 1608 Q text (47-48). Gurr then
goes on to write:

"[Lear] explains his plan to the speculating nobles with evident glee at
his secrecy, telling them that he is not going to divide the kingdom
into two, as they had been thinking and perhaps fearing, but into
three.  There will now be a third duke to enjoy the share-out, and the
third and so-far unoccupied coronet is intended for him.  That is why
Lear has ordered France and Burgundy to be fetched into the royal
presence.  One of the two lords of the great lands south of England is
to get Cordelia, and with her the third British dukedom and the best
share of Lear's to-be-disunited kingdom. He has it all, quite literally,
mapped out. ( 48)

Do others understand the opening of the play in this way? Is it actually
clear that before the king enters, he had only divided the kingdom into
two, not three? Does Lear plan to give away Cordelia or to use her
presumed answer to keep her? Is the coronet for either Burgundy or
France, or is it really for Cordelia? If for Burgundy or France, does
Lear intend to stay with them in the best third?

I'd be grateful for any reactions to Gurr's provocative reading of 1.1.

Ed Taft
Marshall University

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