I’m still circling around the problem of the letters. Information flies distances in breathtaking speed in Shakespeare’s time. All these letters. I am wondering how far from Shakespeare I want to go – not in terms of time (the brief is specific on keeping the time period as is – and I don’t think email is a more elegant solution anyway) – but in terms of style.
I am wary of creating a new character who serves solely as a kind of plot device – a sly narrative technique that would never be truly sly. But I am considering it.
And there is the moment of Edgar’s anagnorisis. I just can’t find it in the play. I feel like there must be a lost line somewhere – something that fell off the page somehow. Slipped an actor’s mind as they reconstructed the text for the publishers. Gloucester puts it together the moment he has lost his eyes, learning that his bastard son has turned him over to Regan, he says, “Then Edgar was abused.” Why doesn’t Edgar get his moment. Was Shakespeare simply trying to avoid tying the theme of blindness to the younger generation by letting it slip by (literally) without a word?
Is it so that Edgar, the only protagonist to survive, doesn’t overshadow Lear in the audience’s sympathies? I say sympathies, because I am still unconvinced that anyone has empathy for Lear.
When do we want to like Lear? In the very first scene we learn from other characters that he has “ever but slenderly known himself.” We see in his actions that he is rash and driven entirely by his ego and impulse. He has no sense of loyalty. He curses his own children. And in subsequent acts, he is no better. Do I care that there is a line where he seems to understand how he has oppressed the poor in his realm? I don’t. Because he removes his coat in the storm only in the hopes of gaining something by way of the “philosopher”. He demands to take him (Edgar/Poor Tom) with.
So in his reunion with Cordella, does he truly repent? When he howls over her dead body is he howling her her loss or for his alone?
Henry Howard’s reverse Pieta aside, I don’t buy his love. Even if Shakespeare was a closet Catholic, I am not sure I believed he liked Lear. There was a story before the story, maybe the answer is there in what the people of the 16th Century knew?
You know, I don’t care that Lear dies. In fact, maybe the whole thing is designed so that I can relish in his punishment with the excuse that justice has been done, his “repentance” proof of the fairness of the system, and that I don’t need to feel bad about my own meanness. I can be reassured that there is good, that there is hope for ass**les and vulgar fathers, and that I am on the side of right.
I am still not sure what Edgar’s last lines mean: “The oldest hath borne most; we that are young / Shall never see so much, nor live so long”.
Hell, maybe the oldest have taken all their folly with them and the younger generation can live more sensible lives? Maybe they don’t need to see so much stupidity/cruelty? How does this line “we […]/shall never see so much” fit with the theme of blindness and wilful blindness in the rest of the play? One would think the younger were even blinder (can one be “more blind” than blind?) than the older generation? Edgar was blind when it came to Edmund, but that is skimmed over (as I mentioned above). And he does know in the end that Edmund betrayed him – he says so.
And why will they not live as long? Is Fortinbras bringing the plague? Wait. That’s another play.
“The oldest hath borne most” – well, but Lear brought on his own damned Tempest.
I know I have a tendency to overthink. But I think it is an injustice to skim over the text and nod with vague paraphrases and summaries of what it all means. Shakespeare was a better writer than that, and I am not afraid to question what the google-findings want to present as the benchmark for an accurate reading.
I am looking forward to writing full-time for a while now. Weeks or months, I’m not sure yet. I am literally compartmentalizing my time. I’ve started a new blog to write about how I am handling cancer treatment. And I’m continuing in this space (and there, too – and in so many others) with what makes me honestly feel happy and alive in the moments as they come. I once wrote a poem that said it was absurd to say that imagination is a good thing. But it really can be. It can be a source of good things.
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