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The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0430  Friday, 13 February 2004

From:           Bob Marks <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 13 Feb 2004 01:35:21 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 15.0416 Cordelia: Loss of Insolence (Studies in the
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0416 Cordelia: Loss of Insolence (Studies in the

David Evett writes concerning Oswald:

"I'm also less inclined than Graham to see Kent's treatment of Oswald as
thuggish, at least not in early modern terms; we know from 2H6 and RJ,
among other sources, about the physical violence by which servants
acted out the hostility of their masters.  There seems a fair
presumption that Oswald is younger than Kent; I suppose him to be a
gentleman (most likely a younger son) and therefore  likely to have had
training in arms (a surmise supported by his subsequent attempt to
capture Gloucester at sword's point), sol the struggle between them need
not be egregiously uneven."

I was interested to read that David supposes Oswald to be a young
gentleman with some training in arms. King James I thought it
appropriate to have such young lords at court. Oswald's counterpart in
the 1605 LEIR seems to be the bungling messenger, Skalliger, who defects
from the service of Leir to Gonorill.

In "Lear" we do not know Oswald's name until some time after we first
meet him.  And when he first comes on stage it is twice at Lear's call
for his Fool.

Whatever training in arms he has had, however, seems to have been lost
on him, for not only is he ineffective against old man Kent, but he dies
with a sword drawn against an old blind man at the hands of Edgar who
only has a ballow or peasant's stick.

I believe that the original audience could have identified Oswald as
"the Fool that ran away" "the wise man" who flies away, "the knave
[who]turns [out to be the] Fool that runs away" 2.4.75-82 leaving an
opening for Cordelia to wear the motley - an absolute disguise.
For those interested I have written much more on Oswald's identity in a
chapter "The Fool that Runs Away" of my book which is now online.


Bob Marks

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