Monday, January 16, 2006

Lear vs. Storm, Lear vs. Lear

More thoughts about Lear and the storm. One idea which Dale
raised on Saturday involved Lear's privileged relationship to
nature & god, and the final betrayal he felt when he realized that
even god was against him now. I still like the idea, but I wasn't sure
how well it would play to an audience for whom the "divine right of
kings" is a meaningless archaism.

But then I was reading some descriptions of past productions of
Lear (something I do when I start to get desperate), looking for
clues or other approaches. I read this piece of commentary and
something seemed to click.

"The quality of Lear's resistance in this unfair contention--unfair
because he mistakes his antagonist and wastes his force on the
assault of the elements while suffering ambush from within--is
determined by his design in the total action."

It's that middle bit that intrigued me. What if the storm is really a red
herring? Lear seems to have a habit of blaming the wrong party,
especially as a form of self-denial.

Dale has started to find ways to explore the fear and loss of control that
underpins Lear's wrath. Perhaps the key to the storm scene is not the
rage, but the fear of madness. Look at his second passage:

Rumble thy bellyfull! Spit, fire! Spout, rain!
(seems like a continuation of the last angry volley. But maybe something is
already changing here...)

Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire, are my daughters.
(a rare moment of dissociative clarity. He knows that he's angry at the wrong

I tax not you, you elements, with unkindness;
I never gave you kingdom, call'd you children,
You owe me no subscription...
(The subtext: "Why, then, am I screaming at you like a bloody lunatic?")

Then let fall
Your horrible pleasure; here I stand, your slave,
A poor, infirm, weak and despised old man.
(I've given everything away; I've lost my mind and my strength; and no one is
coming to save me. I'm going to die out here.)

This also informs your next line: "No, I will be the pattern of all patience. I
will say nothing." The "no" doesn't seem to be responding to anything the Fool
has said (or sung). Maybe he's responding to his own internal rage (not
unlike earlier: "Down, down" and "Patience" etc.). Maybe the fight has shifted
altogether, from Lear vs. Storm to Lear vs. Lear.


Anonymous Liz J said...

Hmmm. Interesting that Lear goes from banishing Cordelia for saying nothing to deciding that to say nothing is the pattern of all patience. In which case Cordelia should really be the pattern that Lear is following, but he still can't accept himself as anything less than the leader. Even when he has lost everything he still has to grasp at some level of leadership.

11:18 p.m.  
Blogger Scott Sharplin said...

Yes, very nice irony, there. I don't think Lear is in any state to recognize the parallel to Cordelia (unlike earlier, when the Fool tricks him into saying, "Nothing can be made of nothing").

But, then again, maybe he does remember her here. He hallucinates her presence in 2.7, so perhaps she is haunting him even at the height of the storm.

11:51 a.m.  

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