King Lear

Critic – Lear’s blindness causes tragedy “If Lear had learned to look with more than just his eyes, he might have avoided this tragedy”
Gonerils flattery • “Dearer than eyesight, space or liberty” Goneril• “A love that makes breath poor and speech unable”
Kent blindness • “Reverse thy doom”/”Revoke thy doom” – Kent – doom meaning Cordelia’s sentence but also his own doom• Believes “majesty stoops to folly”• “See better, Lear, and let me still remain/The true blank of thine eye” i.e look to him for guidance
Cordelia insult “sometime daughter” and “a wretch whom nature is ashamed”
Cordelia’s logic • Seen by Cordelia’s sound logic – Why have my sisters husbands if they say/ They love you all?”
Fool’s warnings “may not an ass know when the cart draws the horse” (inverted behaviour) and about R “she’s as like this as a crab is like an apple”
Lear kindness • Asks Fool “How dost my boy? Art cold?”• “Poor naked wretches”• “O, I have ta’en/ too little care of this”
Kent about Lears shame “burning shame/Detains him from Cordelia” – also says “A sovereign shame so elbows him”
Lear’s tears/wheel of fire • “I am bound/Upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears/Do scald like molten lead”
Foolish • “I am a very foolish, fond old man”
Sin • “I am a man more sinned against than sinning”
Sorrow “a chance which does redeem all sorrows”
Crown “crowned with rank fumitor and furrow weeds”
Still mad at end “I killed the slave” and Kent “He knows not what he sees”
Lear cruelty • “a wretch whom nature is ashamed”• To G “Degenerate bastard”• “you unnatural hags”
Cordelia second chance “mend your speech a little/ Lest it may mar your fortunes”
Beasts “Allow not nature more than nature needs/Man’s life’s as cheap as beasts”
Goneril asks nicely “I do beseech you/To understand my purposes”
Critic – anxiety • Kahn – Believes the play is about “male anxiety”,
Loss of identity “Doth any here know me? Why this is not Lear” – instead is “Lear’s shadow”
daughter stranger “a stranger to my heart and me”, “sometime daughter” and to G “Are you our daughter?”
Base creature/slave “Here I stand your slave/A poor infirm weak and despised old man”
Poor Tom to Lear “I will keep still with my philosopher”
Critic – precipitate “In presuming to be adored like a god instead of honoured like a father, Lear precipitated the tragedy”
Critic – early modern “King Lear articulates pressing contemporary concerns about the power of early modern kings”
10 commandments “Obey you, love you and most honour you”
Fortune • “The natural fool of fortune” and “Fortune, good night/Smile; once more turn thy wheel”
Critic – gods “the gods are, at best, callously just”
Critic – knights “microcosm of the human race”
Nothing “Nothing can come of nothing”, “This is nothing fool” “Nothing can be made out of nothing” (Lear); “Edgar I nothing am”; “I am a fool, thou art nothing” (Fool) etc
Worst “The worst returns to laughter” to “The worst is not/As long as we can say “This is the worst””
Stichomythia “Hang him instantly”, “Pluck out his eyes”
Jelly “Out, vile jelly/ Where is thy lustre now?”
Flies “As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods/They kill us for their sport”
Circle “The wheel is come full circle”
Kent dark “All’s cheerless, dark and deadly”
Cordelia soul “a soul in bliss”
Edgar regret “Never-O father! -revealed myself”
Critic-not just • Bradley – King Lear is “monstrously unjust”
Critic – destiny • Courthope – “In no other of his plays, except in King Lear, are we left with such an impression of the overmastering power of destiny”
Critic – hope • Knight – “there is no hope save in the…limp body of death”
Critic – moral order “There is a faith in a universal moral order which cannot be defeated”
Justice heavens “The justice of the heavens, that makes us tremble”
Critic – wicked “it is debatable who the wicked and the virtuous are”
Critic about loss of identity “This self-imposed persona estranges Lear from his audience; his vulnerability as a human is masked by his rash behaviour”
Critic – why madness (persona) “shed his persona, and simultaneously persuading the audience that Lear is worthy of pity”
Critic – madness • Knight – “In madness, thoughts deep-buried come to the surface.”
Critic – society • Weimann – references to society are used “to provide…a generally valid image of the world”• Steinmetz – “brings the theme of suffering on to a more general level”
Madness – progression • Beginning of madness “I did her wrong”• Proceeded by “I will forget my nature”• Reduced to base level of a fool -Thou wouldst make a good fool”• “O, let me not be mad, sweet heaven!”• Repetition of “I would not be mad” creates sympathy – shows his fears and that he is vulnerable – not like an untouchable king• Now knows he is mad – “O fool, I shall go mad”, “My wit begins to turn”
Storm causes madness this contentious storm/Invades us to the skin”
Critic – shed persona “shed his own blinding pride” (in shedding wealth, sanity etc)
Critic- under clothes “Under his clothes, the King is equal to the beggar”
Lear child • Image of Lear as a child creates even more sympathy – Cordelia “child changed father”, G “Old fools are babes again”
Edmund dark “The dark and vicious place where thee got/Cost him his eyes”
Corrupted blood Lear’s “corrupted blood” vs Gloucester “Our flesh and blood is grown so vile”
Hearts cracking – G “my old heart is cracked, is cracked” vs Lear “this heart/shall break into a hundred thousand flaws”
Blindness parallels • “I stumbled when I saw” vs “I did her wrong”, “poor naked wretches”
Critic – heart and eyes “Shakespeare is saying that the world cannot truly be seen with the eye, but with the heart”
Critic – foil Gloucester “serves as a foil to emphasize the titanic power” of Lear
Gloucester weaker “Better I were distraught/So should my thoughts be fenced from my griefs”
Critic – senex – Frye – the play uses “the regular comedy theme of the gullible “senex” swindled by a clever and unprincipled son”• Gloucester plays the role of the “senex” and Edmund the “adulescens” -regular characters in Roman comedies
Edgar comedy Edgar appears “like the catastrophe of the old comedy”-
Critic – role of subplot original purpose of subplots were to “alleviate the seriousness of the actions of the main plot”
Critic r+g deaths • Schlegel – the “criminal passion” Regan and Gonoril felt for Edmund is what “induces them to execute justice on each other and on themselves”
Edmund loved • Edmund admits Regan was “poisoned for my sake” and Gonoril “slew herself” because he was “beloved” by both: “Yet Edmund was beloved”
R+G rivalry • Similarly G “I had rather lose the battle than that sister/Should loosen him and me””That were the most if he should husband you” and Regan offers “‘Jest do oft prove prophets” as a riposte
Edmund bastard • “Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land”• Calls himself “the bastard Edmund”• “Why “bastard”? Wherefore “base”?”
Edmund younger • “The younger rises when the old doth fall
Edmund subject “I hold you but as a subject of this war/Not as a brother”
Edmund goddess “Thou, nature, art my goddess”
Critic- Edmund law • Capet – By vowing to nature, “he sets himself outside the reach of customary law and of human morality”
Edmund sport was “good sport at his making”,
Critic – edmund force “Edmund is a force of Nature-a violent assertion of natural law and natural order” – he causes Gloucester’s punishment himself – would never be punished otherwise as he is of the aristocracy
Edmund redeemed “Some good I mean to do/Despite of my own nature”• “The wheel is come full circled” i.e. he is punished for what he set in motion
Cordelia bond • Cordelia – “I love your majesty/According to my bond” and “as are right fit/Obey you, love you and most honour you”
Disease • “a disease that lies within my flesh”
Critic – fool • Lowe – “The Fool serves as a symbol of truth”
Mutiny -“In cities, mutinies…and the bond cracked twixt son and father”
Critic- moral anarchy “moral anarchy erupts when the natural hierarchical relationships…are viewed as unnatural”
Critic- animal kingdom • Kalpakgian – “human society is transformed into an animal kingdom”
Arms I must change arms at home/And give the distaff into my husband’s hands” – distaff was staff on which wool was wound for spinning – represents women
Gonoril laws “the laws are mine, not thine”
Gonoril wolf wolvish visage
Foot • “My foot usurps my body”
Fiend • Albany – “thou art a fiend/A woman’s shape doth shield thee”
Critic – R+G demons “Gonoril and Regan are clearly represented as demons, monsters, anything but human”
Critic – Cordelia • Rubio – “Cordelia works as a redemption of the feminine…She is a balance against her sisters”
Critic – cordelia saint • Rubio – “Cordelia appears a sanctified woman”
Cordelia holy • “The holy water from her heavenly eyes”• “ample tear trilled down”
Cord like Jesus “Who redeems nature from the general curse”
Queen • “It seemed she was a queen/Over her passion”
Critic feminist • Cox asks “Is she a victim of patriarchy or a proto-feminist [early form of feminism]?”
Feminist such a tongue/As I am glad I have not” and “I cannot heave/My heart into my mouth””most rebel like/Sought to be king o’er her” – she refuses men to dominate her
Critic – men control “men control the expression and reception of her mourning”
Patriarchy examples “She’s there, and she is yours”, “now her price is fallen”
Critic – fool feeling • Bloom – “the true voices of our feeling”
Critic – fool conscience • Boas – “the voice of Lear’s conscience”
Fool Lear madness “Thou wouldst make a good fool”
Critic – fool growth the Fool “precipitates Lear’s growth
Reverse roles fool “I am a fool; thou art nothing”
Critic – edgar protector Edgar is the “disguised protector”
Critic – edgar double • Cunningham – “male double of Cordelia”
Gloucester edgar good “He cannot be such a monster”
Edgar gods saying “The gods are just”
edgar suicide “Men must endure/Their going hence…Ripeness is all”
Edgar forgiveness “Let’s exchange charity”
Edgar justice “most toad spotted traitor” and in Lear’s fake trial, he is the “most learned justicer” i.e. the judge and also Lear’s “philosopher”
Edgar equality “I am no less in blood than thou art”
Kent slave “did him service/Improper for a slave”
Kent pawn • “My life I never held but as a pawn/To wage against thy enemies”
Kent death “My master calls, and I must not say no”
Kent out of line “Be Kent unmannerly/When Lear is mad” and calls him “old man”
Kent stoops • “When power to flattery bows” and “When majesty stoops to folly”
Kent touchstone “Kent is a useful touchstone against which to test all the characters”
kent point of reference • Point of reference to judge Lear’s madness- Kent’s sanity vs Lear’s madness e.g. reminds audience that Poor Tom “hath no daughters”
Kent goodness “Kent is the nearest to perfect goodness.”/
Kent appearances “I am much more/than my out-wall”
Kent truth when Lear asks who he is he replies “A man, Sir”