Saturday, November 20, 2010

King Lear - William Shakespeare :-)

King Lear Admonishing Cordelia by Henri Fuseli
We were all set up to study King Lear in highschool, but something happened and we didn't. After reading Deep Comedy I knew I simply had to make it a priority. :-)

So I read it.
I tried to read it straight through without looking at any notes or criticism the first time round. Then I watched the latest movie version, reread the play, reread the portion in Deep Comedy that talks about King Lear, and then investigated some other interpretations. It was extremely interesting.

I'm really glad I worked through it on my own to start with.
I've never really done that with a Shakespeare play, and it was very good. And I didn't get too confused. :-) And I was able to figure who was bad and who was good all on my own! Yeah!

So, anyways...I really liked it. Even more than I thought I would.

Here's a few lines from the play

Edmund 1.2.118-128
"This is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we are sick in fortune-- often the surfeits of our own behavior-- we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, the stars, as if we were villains on necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion, knaves, thieves, and teachers by spherical predominance, drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in by a divine thrusting-on. An admirable evasion of whore-master man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of the star."

Albany 4.2.
"This shows you are above,
You justicers, that these our nether crimes
So speedily can venge! But, O poor Gloucester!
Lost he is other eye?"

Edgar 5.3
"The weight of this sad time we must obey;
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most: we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long."


Deep Comedy has some really interesting, concise stuff on this play, and even if there weren't a hundred other reasons to read it, you should for Leithart's interpretation of King Lear.

Here's a chunk...

"In an important sense, this pattern of frustrated optimism is a sign of the effect of deep comedy on tragic drama. The play is filled with the unrealized possibility of restoration, redemption, resurrection, in a way that an ancient tragedy could never be. Ancient tragedy took place in a world where resurrection was unknown, where death was the end, but the world of King Lear is potentially a far happier place. The fact that this potential is not realized enhances the feeling of waste."

I wish I could quote all he has to say, but instead here's a paragraph from the conclusion.

"If ancient comedy is haunted by the fear of death, Christian tragedy is haunted by the hope of resurrection. A tragic vision of life makes ancient comedy sad; real hope of a new life in the Christian comic view of things makes Christian tragedy all the more poignant."

Christian tragedy is haunted by the hope of resurrection. I love that.

So I guess I don't have anything very profound to say about King Lear...Not surprising, I'm afraid. But I certainly recommend reading it and thinking about it. :-)

I'd love to hear your thoughts and any good film recommendations. I've watched the 2009 Trevor Nunn/Ian McKellen version (review to come).

Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian


Polka Dot said...

That's really interesting what Leithart said about the potential for restoration and resurrection haunts the tragedy and makes it even sadder. I've always thought that tragic movies/books that make you feel like "oh, man--that almost could have gotten fixed! If only they didn't do that one thing..." etc, are way more sad. I love stories like that. :-)
(like "Gone With the Wind".)

Jubilant Wife said...

That's one play of his I've never read through, but read a summary once. Now that I think about it, having hope for good things but never coming to pass is more sad than never having any hope in the first place.

"Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say." That reminded me of a proverb I read just the other day about a fools speaking his feelings.

Now I want to learn more about this play! THank you for sharing!