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ConnieAnnKirk
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KING LEAR: Act I (no spoilers, please)

Here we can talk about Act I of the play.  Please avoid spoilers from later in the story for readers who'd like to discuss the play, Act by Act.  Thank you!

~ConnieAnnKirk




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friery
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Re: KING LEAR: Act I (no spoilers, please)

Act I.

 

OK, was Cordelia unnecessarily being a twit?  Why couldn't she have said, "Hey Dad, I love you too."  Would have saved a whole lot of people a whole lot of trouble.  (No details because of the spoilers embargo in this thread.)  She was prideful and selfish, or one could assume so.

 

Notice the names of the three daughters.  Cordelia has a mellifluous sound.  (The word actually derives from the Latin word for heart.)  Goneril and Regan sound much harsher.

 

Lear is a flawed character before he even starts.  It's a hallmark of monarchy that the monarch serves until death.  Divide up the kingdom and retire?  Abhorrent.  (And unnatural as well--we see many allusions throughout the play to the upsetting of nature.)

 

Notice the byplay between Lear and Cordelia when he asks her to profess her love for him.  Nothing, my Lord.  Nothing?  Nothing.  Remember (as we saw in Much Ado about Nothing) that the Elizabethans pronounced "nothing" as "noting."  So, there have to be some puns at work in this passage.

 

Lear's curses of Goneril in Act 1, sc. 4 are pretty scary.  Let her be barren.  If she's not barren, let her bear a monstrous child.  Yikes.

 

 

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Peppermill
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Re: KING LEAR: Act I (no spoilers, please)

OK, was Cordelia unnecessarily being a twit?  Why couldn't she have said, "Hey Dad, I love you too."  Would have saved a whole lot of people a whole lot of trouble.  (No details because of the spoilers embargo in this thread.)  She was prideful and selfish, or one could assume so.

 

That's the way I react, too, although it has been so long since I have read the entire play that I feel as if I need to hold that judgment in abeyance for awhile.

 

Lear is a flawed character before he even starts.  It's a hallmark of monarchy that the monarch serves until death.  Divide up the kingdom and retire?  Abhorrent.  (And unnatural as well--we see many allusions throughout the play to the upsetting of nature.)

 

Was (is) this fundamentally true of monarchical systems?  Today significant efforts go into obtaining smooth transition of top management in many large corporations.  In monarchies, certainly power was usually transferred from father to son, so there were all the issues of letting go of power and father/son rivalries -- but "natural" versus "unnatural"?


Notice the byplay between Lear and Cordelia when he asks her to profess her love for him.  Nothing, my Lord.  Nothing?  Nothing.  Remember (as we saw in Much Ado about Nothing) that the Elizabethans pronounced "nothing" as "noting."  So, there have to be some puns at work in this passage.

 

Ok, I'm dense.  Explain the pun?  That it is just "noting", not "nothing"?

 

Lear's curses of Goneril in Act 1, sc. 4 are pretty scary.  Let her be barren.  If she's not barren, let her bear a monstrous child.  Yikes.

 

Yes, "yikes."  I must not have read that far yet.  Will have to go take a look.  (I thought I had gotten through all of Act 1??? ) Need to recall the "why."

 

Thanks for initiating some discussion, Friery.  This is too great a play to go unexplored here, in mho.

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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friery
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Re: KING LEAR: Act I (no spoilers, please)

Peppermill--thanks for your excellent comments and questions

 

Here's a little more detail on my comments.  I look forward to your reaction.

 

 


Peppermill wrote:

 


 

Lear is a flawed character before he even starts.  It's a hallmark of monarchy that the monarch serves until death.  Divide up the kingdom and retire?  Abhorrent.  (And unnatural as well--we see many allusions throughout the play to the upsetting of nature.)

 

Was (is) this fundamentally true of monarchical systems?  Today significant efforts go into obtaining smooth transition of top management in many large corporations.  In monarchies, certainly power was usually transferred from father to son, so there were all the issues of letting go of power and father/son rivalries -- but "natural" versus "unnatural"?

 


My impression is that the monarch is duty-bound to serve out the term, so to speak.  Look, for example, at the reaction when Edward VIII abdicated to marry the lovely Wallis Simpson.

 

Here are another couple of related thoughts.  As senior child, I suppose Goneril would have been the heir apparent.  This is, of course, unless the succession rules demanded a male heir.  In that case, I really don't know who would have succeeded Lear.  Also, when Lear disinherits Cordelia, watch what he does with her third.  He basically throws it on the table, and tells Goneril and Regan to figure it all out.  That doesn't seem very kingly, IMHO.  (It's also a recipe for succession disaster, I would think.)


 


Notice the byplay between Lear and Cordelia when he asks her to profess her love for him.  Nothing, my Lord.  Nothing?  Nothing.  Remember (as we saw in Much Ado about Nothing) that the Elizabethans pronounced "nothing" as "noting."  So, there have to be some puns at work in this passage.

 

Ok, I'm dense.  Explain the pun?  That it is just "noting", not "nothing"?


 

Here are some possibilities for the word "nothing."  If it's pronounced "noting," then it could mean seeing or commenting on.  Watch for how may times the words "see" and "eyes" appear in the play.  It could also mean "nothing."  The Fool has an interesting story to tell Lear later on--basically, he's given away the kingdom, like dividing an egg, and is left with the shell--or nothing.  The word also could mean the "no-thing, " which was an Elizabethan slang for the vagina.  This may play, for example, in Lear's curse of Goneril that we see below.  And I betcha there are more possibilities.

 


 

 

This is too great a play to go unexplored here, in mho.

 


 

I'm beginning to conclude that this is the greatest play even written.  IMHO.

 

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friery
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Re: KING LEAR: Act I (no spoilers, please)


 

I'm beginning to conclude that this is the greatest play even written.  IMHO.

 


That's ever written, of course.

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Peppermill
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Re: KING LEAR: Act I (no spoilers, please)

[ Edited ]

Of course. 

 

(Did you try editing your original post?  My board suggests you may have added your second post within an hour.  I believe even if you sign off and sign back in, within about 90 minutes you can edit your own post (via the drop down options box), although I am not absolutely certain about that.)


friery wrote:

I'm beginning to conclude that this is the greatest play even written.  IMHO.


That's ever written, of course.
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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ConnieAnnKirk
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Re: KING LEAR: Act I (no spoilers, please)

[ Edited ]

 


 

 

This is too great a play to go unexplored here, in mho.

 


 

I'm beginning to conclude that this is the greatest play even written.  IMHO.

 


 

It's a good one, to be sure.  That's why we're giving it 2 months! 

~ConnieAnnKirk




[CAK's books , website.]
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kbdax
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Re: KING LEAR: Act I (no spoilers, please)

Cordelia did not strike me as a being a twit, nor do I think she is prideful and selfish (unlike her father). I think she refuses to pander to him, not out of pride or ethics or morals, but out of love. And even when there are clearly to be consequences, she still won't give him what he wants because he does not want love, he wants confirmation of his notions of who and what he is: a magnificent and beneficent father and king. He wants them to hold up mirrors so he can see his idea of himself reflected back. The other two are perfectly happy to do it -- what do they care? But Cordelia, she refuses to give him something fake when he asks for nothing real.

 

The only question I have is: why does she love him at all?

 

and his flaw right from the start? I'd say its his narcissism (or something like it).

 

-kb

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Re: KING LEAR: Act I (no spoilers, please)


kbdax wrote:

 

The only question I have is: why does she love him at all?

 


Well, as memory serves, Cordelia tells us in the first scene that she loves Lear according to her "bond."  Thus, it's never a question to Cordelia whether or not she loves Lear--and we might be able to extend that to the question that raises the controversy in the first place, that is, it's also never a question to Cordelia how much she loves Lear--she is duty bound to love him as he has fathered her and cared for her (can't remember the exact phrasing from the text).  I've always read it as a curious expression of unconditional love. 

 

Lear is among my favorites, I definitely intend to find time to re-read it before the end of this reading period.  Will be looking in for others' comments in the meantime, hope they keep coming.

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ConnieAnnKirk
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Re: KING LEAR: Act I (no spoilers, please)


kbdax wrote:

Cordelia did not strike me as a being a twit, nor do I think she is prideful and selfish (unlike her father). I think she refuses to pander to him, not out of pride or ethics or morals, but out of love. And even when there are clearly to be consequences, she still won't give him what he wants because he does not want love, he wants confirmation of his notions of who and what he is: a magnificent and beneficent father and king. He wants them to hold up mirrors so he can see his idea of himself reflected back. The other two are perfectly happy to do it -- what do they care? But Cordelia, she refuses to give him something fake when he asks for nothing real.

 

The only question I have is: why does she love him at all?

 

and his flaw right from the start? I'd say its his narcissism (or something like it).

 

-kb


 

Welcome to the Shakespeare Book Club, kbdax!  Do you think Cordelia might just be a daughter who loves her father, despite his faults?

~ConnieAnnKirk




[CAK's books , website.]
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Peppermill
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Re: KING LEAR: Act I (no spoilers, please)

There is a challenging sentiment / value that is expressed in at least some varieties of karate training (and which our dear son has had to endure hearing from his parents at times when our position has seemed not reasonable to him):  basically, it says that it is easy to honor and respect the parent who is worthy of respect; the challenge to one's own character is to be able to offer the same to the parent who is not worthy. 

 

I submit Cordelia meets that particular test of character.

 

 


ConnieK wrote:

kbdax wrote:

Cordelia did not strike me as a being a twit, nor do I think she is prideful and selfish (unlike her father). I think she refuses to pander to him, not out of pride or ethics or morals, but out of love. And even when there are clearly to be consequences, she still won't give him what he wants because he does not want love, he wants confirmation of his notions of who and what he is: a magnificent and beneficent father and king. He wants them to hold up mirrors so he can see his idea of himself reflected back. The other two are perfectly happy to do it -- what do they care? But Cordelia, she refuses to give him something fake when he asks for nothing real.

 

The only question I have is: why does she love him at all?

 

and his flaw right from the start? I'd say its his narcissism (or something like it).

 

-kb


 

Welcome to the Shakespeare Book Club, kbdax!  Do you think Cordelia might just be a daughter who loves her father, despite his faults?


 

 

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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kbdax
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Re: KING LEAR: Act I (no spoilers, please)

Peppermill wrote:

 

There is a challenging sentiment / value that is expressed in at least some varieties of karate training (and which our dear son has had to endure hearing from his parents at times when our position has seemed not reasonable to him):  basically, it says that it is easy to honor and respect the parent who is worthy of respect; the challenge to one's own character is to be able to offer the same to the parent who is not worthy. 

 

I submit Cordelia meets that particular test of character

 

 

I think that is a lovely idea and Cordelia does meet it in a way, but if that were all it was to it, would she not have acquiesced and told him that of course she loved him, blah, blah, blah? Sometimes the challenge is also to offer the parent that is not worthy of respect compassion, which, on the surface, Cordelia does not do.

 

It also strikes me that she is more than just a daughter who loves her father, despite his faults, because then, I think, she would have given him what he wanted -- maybe not like her sisters, all grotesquely fake -- again, out of compassion, to spare him, an old man, the pain she surely knew she was inflicting. (my opinion, and I don't know if this is spoiling or not, is that out of love she does what she does to save him from his faults.)

 

It's like the sisters hold up distorted mirrors that reflect his ideas of himself back at him, while Cordelia holds a true reflection of him, which he cannot bear to see.

 

-- kb

 

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ConnieAnnKirk
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Re: KING LEAR: Act I (no spoilers, please)

Does Cordelia love her father despite his faults--because she is the daughter who is most like him?  She also says in Scene I that she basically loves him no more or less than her duty calls for.

~ConnieAnnKirk




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Bolognaking
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Re: KING LEAR: Act I (no spoilers, please)


kbdax wrote:

It's like the sisters hold up distorted mirrors that reflect his ideas of himself back at him, while Cordelia holds a true reflection of him, which he cannot bear to see.

 

-- kb

 


That's a great observation!

 

You note that when Lear says "So young and so untender", Cordelia responds "So young, my lord, and true"  She is offering up the truth but what Lear has asked for is lies.

 

The whole scene has the feel of a ceremony, a ritual which Lear insists upon to feed his vanity, before dividing the kingdom in the way he has already determined.  Regan and Goneril make the statements socially expected of them. The fact they are untrue does not matter.  We make statements of this kind all of the time: little white lies said out of politeness.

 

Maybe this explains why Lear gets so angry at Cordelia.  It's not because he foolishly believes Regan and Goneril and thinks Cordelia loves him less, it's because her remarks expose his ceremony for what it is and expose him for what he is.  People that are deceiving themselves about who they are can't stand that.

 

Be prepared for more on the theme of "Who is Lear?" in this play.

"We're actors - we're the opposite of people" - Tom Stoppard
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