Tuesday, September 30, 2008

King Lear

I quite enjoyed rereading King Lear; though I have to say, after not reading Shakespeare since high school, I did have a little hard time reading it. However, as we've discussed in class it isn't always important to what they say but how the people interact. Both Lear's family and Gloucester's family truly represent a dysfunctional family.

From the beginning we see that Lear has not treated his daughters equally. Cordelia is clearly his favorite. However, I don't believe it justifies the actions of Regan and Goneril. They appear to be jealous sisters and sinister women. Lear did get the kingdom to both daughters so there is no room for questioning there. Though it does seem possible that King Lear's headstrong and stubborn personality might have caused them annoyance in the past and now they can seek revenge. It is as if they girls knew he would not bow down in agreeing to give up his one hundred knights, which led him to be homeless. Gloucester also had family issues. We are introduced to him harassing Edmund for being a bastard son, and this leads to resentment. It appears that in both cases the characteristics of the father lead some of their children to resent them and seek revenge. However, both Cordelia and Edgar remain loyal to their fathers.

King Lear and Gloucester continue to parallel each other throughout the story. Gloucester had to lose his eyesight in order to see the truth. King Lear had to lose everything to acknowledge his faults. In the end any true reconcile is cut short because of their deaths. These actions do play on the theme of nothingness. King Lear states in the beginning that "nothing can come of nothing." However, something does come from nothing for both these men. They had to have nothing in order to see the truth in their lives. Prior to their loss the men didn't know who they were. On a side note every time I hear that phrase I get "Something Good" from Sound of Music in my head, and have to wonder if Rodgers and Hammerstein took the phrase from King Lear.

The theme of disguise goes along with the idea of characters not knowing themselves. Both Kent and Edgar had to disguise themselves in order to save their lives as well as protect Lear and Gloucester. It is interesting to see the the two men who truly know who they are and stand for what they believe in have to mask themselves. In my class that previously read the play we were given the possibility also that Cordelia was actually the Fool. In that case she too had to disguise herself. This theory came from the fact the two were never in the same scene and the Fool vanishes from the play as soon as Cordelia returns. Also, at the very end Lear calls Cordelia his fool, in a term of endearment, but it could also indicate she was the Fool. I am interested in knowing if it is a common belief that she was the Fool.

I also found the imagery of animals interesting. Often times the image of being treated and lead around like a dog appeared. The most interesting image was the association of Regan and Goneril with birds. They pluck out Gloucester's eyes, which is common for crows and vultures. Lear also says they are "pelican daughters," and young pelicans were attributed with drinking their parents blood (63). However, it was odd to see Cordelia being associated with birds as well. When she and Lear are captured he imagines that they could live together like caged birds, and when he holds her dead body he mentions that "this feather stirs" (116).

I did enjoy King Lear though it really was a tragedy. I understood the justice of Regan and Goneril being killed. However, I found the death of Cordelia unnecessary, though I suppose she is representative of a true victim. Throughout the play she is mistreated, she does what she can to save her father, yet she is still killed in the end. I suppose that's what makes a tragedy a tragedy.


April said...

I also wonder about Cordelia being the Fool. I didn't really think about it until it was brought up in class. I appreciate your blog, it brought some things to my attention that I hadn't really noticed before like the bird mentions. This was my first time reading King Lear and I am sure if I read it again I will catch more things that I didn't this time around.

Noelle said...

This is a great summary of the play and many of the major points discussed in class. You also did a good job of slightly expanding on some of the things we went over in class. Even after I read the play, I was still able to get something out of your blog.

Jeremy Ball said...

I agree with you that King Lear's stubbornness led to his own demise. Also, When King Lear is telling Cordelia that "Nothing will become of nothing," but this was not the case when it came down to Lear and Gloucester. They both had lost everything, they had banished the people that loved them the most out of their lives, and the ones that they thought loved them, turned around and banished them only to betray them. I also find the point you made about Edgar and Kent disguising themselves an important theme. Along with Cordelia, who was in France half the play, they were the only honest and genuine people from the beginning, yet they had to hide their TRUE identities in order to save themselves and the people who were most dear to them.

MaryKay said...

This blog is very insightful in its perspective of the tragedy of King Lear and I enjoyed reading it. When one moves past the topical to the deeper meaning of the play, one is moved, as I was in reading your blog. Glouchester in his blindness and King Lear in his epiphany really "see" the hard-won truth at this moment in time. A well-written blog.