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Lecture 7

ENGLISH 3K06 Lecture 7: English 3K06 - Lectures 7-12 - King Lear

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Melinda Gough

Friday September 26 Introduction • Act 1 Scene 1 o Introduces all of the major characters, and two main plots o Experiences not through costumes or visual scenery but through the language o “The bare stage is people with actors in sumptuous clothes” (111) o “[W]e must deduce such information as setting and time [plus characters] from the dialogue” (110) o What clues can we find in Act 1 Scene 1’s dialogue (particularly the first lines) regarding a) temporal and geographic setting and b) characters? ▪ Gloucester has a bastard son – indulges his passions as Hamlet would say ▪ In a world where children have to be birthed to two married people ▪ Social setting – marriage and family are basic institutions ▪ Patrilineal passing of status from father to son ▪ In a world where people are called “dukes” – Albany, Cornwall ▪ Albany and Cornwall located in England ▪ Land of nobles – king and immediate family, dukes ▪ Dukes are rulers of their sovereign territory ▪ Illusion that things are in balance – dukes are equal ▪ State of transition – King Lear nearing the end of his rule ▪ Transition of rulership ▪ At the court/castle – place of majesty ▪ Court – also the people who surround the king ▪ Shakespeare’s audience would have been familiar with King Lear ▪ Famous play – chronological history of King Leer which was popular ▪ Running out of authority – geographical and questions of political power in family structure involving gender ▪ Sex, sexuality, illegitimacy • Prosody in Shakespeare o Iambic pentameter o Rhythmic language o Like our everyday language but more structured, patterned and heightened • Examples in Act 1 Scene 1 o Line 34 = first line of iambic pentameter in the play o Because it is the king’s first line of the play o He is of elevated status – therefore his language will also be heightened o Kings of France and Burgundy are coming – homage to the foreign rules o Using the imperative – royal command (establishing the king’s authority) • Prose o Begins the play • Rhyming Couplet o Moralizing take away heightened by the patterning of language o 1.1.325 o 1.1.212 Tuesday September 30 Dramatic Structure (Plot) • Main Plot & Sub Plot o Main plot – King Lear and his daughters o Sub plot – Gloucester (an earl) and his sons (Edmund and Edward) • Power o Dukes just below the king and their family – sometimes are related o Dukes are the heir to the throne o Monarchs  Dukes/Duchess  Earl o Gloucester intersects with Lear – both dealing with problems with their children o What is the problem that Lear creates? o Transfers land to the two elder daughters, leaving nothing for Cordelia o He has no sons – no patrilineal power o Transfer of property becomes difficult (no sons, three daughters) o Themes of authority, rule, political/economic/social order • Sub Plot o First lines of the play introduce Gloucester’s sons o Why would Shakespeare add this sub plot so early in the play? o Foregrounding through a foil method (distorted reflection) o Makes things appear bigger and more powerful o Helps reflect what is going on in the main plot o How is Gloucester’s situation similar to King Lear? o Similar relationship of antipathy from child to parent o Cordelia? disregarding Lear  Edmund disrespects his father o Intense and complex mirrorings between both plots • Edmund o 1.2.1-23: Soliloquy ▪ Wants to usurp his father ▪ Access to his inner thoughts ▪ Framing his interactions with Gloucester o 1.2.109-144: Response to Gloucester ▪ Edmund talking about the stars ▪ Reflecting on Gloucester’s statement that the world is upside down ▪ Parallel between disorder in human and cosmic realms ▪ Edmund commenting on Gloucester’s previous lines ▪ What is so foolish according to Edmund about Gloucester’s world view? ▪ Foolish if you have bad luck to blame larger forces ▪ Challenging all types of structural authority ▪ The divine heavens ruling over the human spheres ▪ Challenges the monogamous relationships over the social realm ▪ Challenging the family structure ▪ Calling his father a hypocrite ▪ Blaming his actions on the stars – mocking Gloucester’s language ▪ One should take responsibility for one’s actions ▪ Relation to karma – not a larger power ▪ One has choices and actions rather than a destiny amongst the stars o Goneril, Regan ▪ Edmund allies himself with them (rising up against their parents) ▪ Wants the property, title and power that belongs to their fathers ▪ Camp of Lear and his loyal followers ▪ They refuse him hospitality (end of Act 2) ▪ Duke of Cornwall forces Gloucester to shut his doors against Lear ▪ Cordelia, Kent, the fool (king’s servant/jester) Setting • Geographic o We know that it is set in England • Textual Sources o Early modern chronicle historiography (Grafton, Holinshed) • Temporal Setting o “Pre-history” of the English nation o Hamlet – revenge tragedy drama (literary classical sources) o Christian overlay that suggests mercy is a greater virtue than vengeance o Hamlet caught between these two value systems o Pagan world – Gloucester and other characters praying to “the gods” not God o Nature as a goddess o Metaphysical questions being set Themes? Paul Delany “King Lear and the Decline of Feudalism” • Metaphysical o Redemptive power of suffering (neo-Christian) o Loss of value (absurdist, nihilistic) • Material o Feudal order based in lineage/birth o Proto capitalist – order based and • Pre-Historical/Christian Setting o Allows the play to add a distance o Reflect on the opposing values that Shakespeare’s time period saw as clashing o Still a monarchical system going on o Moonie economy = status depended less on who you were and more on what you had – motive exchange is monetary rather than social bonds o Edmund and his camp stand for proto capitalist and bourgeois values o Same as Shakespeare’s life o Shakespeare was a business man above all (bought himself his own coat of arms for his family) – would be aligned with Edmund’s proto capitalist values o Rising up against the feudal order Friday October 3 Discussion Questions • Ashley o Cordelia paralleled to Christ figure o Lear leads Cordelia off  talks about sacrifice o Goneril calls her the better soldier o Is their immorality tied to masculinity o Question 1 – a • Vanessa o Lear is not a hero, he is a fool o Characters like Kent are more heroic o Cordelia develops the plot o Sympathetic harmony o Cordelia bringing the army in – hope that things can be restored o Playing with the audience’s emotions • Jaimie o Process of the dowry ceremony o No control emotional aspects o Confuses his emotional and political boundaries when giving Cordelia away o Questioning the lineage of power o Lear dynasty gone o Political power over his daughter’s choices is questioned • Humneesh o Question 1 o Gloucester only “seeing” the truth after he looses his vision o Can also be applied to King Lear o After he loses his power he realizes how he could be a better king o Lear’s wisdom in his madness parallel Gloucester’s vision after losing his eyes • Justine o Is King Lear someone worthy of following? o When the ruler is usurped, bad things happen o Was there ever order to begin with? o King’s divine right (that makes them superior) is below me o This doesn’t work o Criticism of two types of king  one who battles and one who is smart o He’s old  can king’s really retire? o Madness proves this – going mad in his old age o He destroys the patriarchal line – order of the kingdom o Because he’s the one who puts his kingship in question o He only had daughters o Fatal flaw = he didn’t have any sons o “Which of you loves me more?” o Something inappropriate about this guy right off the bat o Women have a duty to their fathers • Would King Lear be a tragedy without the king’s death? o Parental relationships with the kids o How they respond to their parents o Notable that Shakespeare’s play does not follow the script of Holinshed/Grafton o For it to be a just ending, there has to be an appropriate consequence o Under a patrilineal system – passage of property from father to oldest son o He is screwed from the beginning o Lear doesn’t have the emotional bond – has to give daughters away o Enforce exogamy – exchange of daughters between men – social order • Sedating King Lear o Act 4 Scene 7 o Line 7 – be better suited o Language of medicine Tuesday October 14 Staging Shakespeare • McDonald Chapter & 10 Actor Chat o McDonald on trends in staging of Shakespeare’s plays post 1642 o See Chapter 3 regarding staging during Shakespeare’s lifetime o 1642: Closing of London theatre public performances o 1660: Restoration (of monarchy, of public theatre) o Masses of people would die in large groups o Example: contract the plague in the theatre o During a time of war, you wouldn’t want large mobs of people o Should servants obey the ruler even if he is wrong (example: King Lear) o Or is there a duty to rise up against the tyrant ruler? Huge issue o Rise of the French Revolution o Charles I beheaded in front of the theatre for restoration of the theatre • Three Major Changes After 1660 o 1) Introduction to Actresses (Page 354, 356) ▪ Increased opportunities for music and dance o “Shakespeare in Love” – inaccurate that there was a ban on women acting o Theatre com
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