Archive for October, 2013

That was the question I posed at the last meeting of my Shakespeare class at UNCW OLLI. I was startled to hear from more than one member who answered “Yes”.

Not in my view.

Lear’s acts of dividing his kingdom and rejecting Cordelia are recklessly headstrong. They unleash a chaotic torrent of evil and destruction on Lear, Cordelia, Kent and more. But Lear does not create that evil.

Is there any cause in nature for these hard hearts?

We talked a good bit in the class about tragic action and how it’s not enough for bad things to happen to the hero. If that’s all it is, it’s melodrama, not tragedy. The hero must do something that causes the deadly consequences.

But bearing responsibility and deserving what happens are different things. To say that Lear deserves his fate is to put yourself in the party of Goneril and Regan, of Cornwall and Edmund. No; give me Cordelia, the Fool, Kent and Gloucester, who love Lear in spite of his folly. In class we also read these lines from Hamlet:

Use every man after his desert, and who shall ‘scape whipping?

Just so.

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