Sunday, June 3, 2012

Shakespeare Class

This last semester I had the immense pleasure of taking a Shakespeare class taught by Ron Deeter. If anyone has a chance to take a class from this man please do it and have an open mind. You won't be disappointed. Also, read this play and then read it another 3 or 4 times for good measure. Do not look for meaning because there is none and do not look for happiness because you wil not find it.

Sam Edwards
English 3500
April 19, 2012
King Lear Paper

Affliction, Thou art a Heartless Wench

In Shakespeare’s play “King Lear” affliction is the name of the game. Once you say something it sets a limitation, and this action is what starts Lear's suffering throughout the play. In the first act he poses a question to his daughters asking, “Which of you shall we say doth love us most...”. Lear seems to have his own answer in mind but he wants to hear one of his daughters say it. No one can read another person's mind but Goneril and Regan both try to say sugary and supposedly heart-warming things to Lear to make him soften to them. Lear's ego loves hearing Goneril say, “Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter...A love that makes breath poor and speech unable”. He wants to hear these big words and affections because that is what he asked for. By asking who loves him most put a limitation on what can be done and instead only diction of love and uppermost endearment is accepted.
Lear eats these words up because he deems them to be true, however Cordelia shakes his core and his rage is let loose when she has nothing to say. She speaks complete truth but it is not the sweet syntax Lear wants, though it is a mighty declaration of love. She says, “I cannot heave my heart into my mouth. I love Your Majesty according to my bond, no more nor less”. She loves him so much there are no words to describe it and she cannot hurl up her heart to show him the love. She loves him as much as he has loved her according to their bond as daughter and father. Cordelia does not expect him to love her more than what their bond calls for, and therefore she does not love him any more than the amount a daughter should love her father. However, with the high horse Lear is on right now from the previous daughters words he cannot comprehend Cordelia's real meaning and goes into a rage. He does the most hurtful thing to them both by banishing Cordelia saying, “Hence, and avoid/ my sight!” The same fate comes to Kent as he tries to reason with Lear but he only wounds Lear's ego more by saying, “Think'st thou that duty shall have dread to speak/ when power to flattery bows?/ To plainness honor's bound/ When majesty falls to folly.” Kent is only trying to caution Lear about not falling prey to the flatterer's as King Richard II did at one time and to see the truth in plainness. This play touches on many afflictions that Lear suffers and lack of sight is one of them along with his ill health. To banish his most loving daughter and Kent from his sight is the worst affliction to be set on a person.
His deteriorating health is not helped when he learns of Kent being put in the stocks. In Act 2 scene 4 he says, “Oh, how this mother swells up toward my heart! Hysterica passio, down, thou climbing sorrow!” This is the first instance of him having physical problems. His heart is swelling and it's causing him to suffocate from the hysteria going on.
       Lear's visit to Goneril doesn't help either thanks to Oswald. Her steward Oswald says a scathing insult in Act 1 scene 4 by referring to Lear as “My lady's father.” Oswald is treating Lear like he's a pheasant man pretty much and Lear is infuriated. The Fool then enters and though he is trying to console Lear his words only make matters worst when he sings to Lear about him being a Fool now for giving up his lands. Lear asks, “Dost thou call me fool, boy?” And the Fool responds “All thy other titles thou hast given away; that/ thou wast born with.” The Fool hits the nail of the head with this statement because Lear has given away everything. He has no kingdom and now his daughters are treating him like they are the King and he their son.  This concept is put nicely by the Fool when he says, “nuncle, e'er since thou mad'st thy/ daughters thy mothers; for when thou gav'st them the/ rod and putt'st down thine own breeches.” This makes me laugh so hard because his daughters did exactly that to him. Now Lear has no staff of power and his pants are down because his daughters, who are now his ruling mothers, have his balls in their hand and control him.
Lear is betrayed by his daughter Goneril but he hides his pain by cursing her. His rage is immense and he lashes out in words and temper. Why can't people just accept their pain as it is instead of covering it up? It doesn't go away like we think it does. People must face the pain and feelings that come from experiences to fully accept that situation and are then able to move on. Lear cannot accept his situation and the affliction that is ruling him and so he moves on to Regan who also disappoints him. In Act 2 scene 4 Lear is being put off by Regan and Cornwall and we get more signs of physical pain when Lear cries “Oh, me, my heart, my rising heart! But down!” His heart is under pressure and it is slowly expanding in his chest. This eventually leads to a heart attack that can be fatal if untreated. Lear ignores his pain again and instead explodes with verbal insults at Regan as he witnesses her teaming up with Goneril. They want to strip him of his train and leave him defenseless and alone. They want all his power so they can carry out the plan with Edgar later on but Lear won't hear it.
In Act 3 scene 2 Lear, the Fool and Kent come upon the hovel and Lear is at his wits end. He is discovering that the cosmos must be dead or else why would all this be happening to him? He claims he is “a man/ More sinned against than sinning.” If this were the case than things that happen on Earth are not happening in Heaven and visa versa and so the cosmos are dying. I wish Lear would have listened to Kent when he says, “Man's nature cannot carry/ Th'affliction nor the fear.” If Lear could just face his affliction and ultimately his fear, because the fear is only a symptom of the affliction, then maybe Lear could calm down and his heart wouldn't be under stress. However this play isn't meant to have happy times in it. Even if Lear had listened to Kent things would still be bad since the cosmos are dead.
Lear's sanity is about gone when he meets Poor Tom. Lear sees this dirty beggar as a “philosopher” and “learned Theban”. He will not leave Poor Tom even when shelter is offered by Gloucester and so Poor Tom is given shelter as well. Lear does not leave him and talks to him in private for a long time. By Act 4 scene 6 King Lear has gone mad it seems. He talks nonsense to Edgar and Gloucester like Poor Tom had talked to him at the beginning. However he states a miraculous thing by saying “A man may see how this world goes with not eyes. Look with thine ears.” If only he had had this knowledge at the beginning! He should have listened more closely to Cordelia instead of being transfixed by the sight of the lovely and sugar-coated older daughters. Even in this state of madness Lear has learned to see properly though his mind has still be afflicted by other matters.
The culmination of his affliction comes at the end when Cordelia lays dead in his arms. In Act 5 scene 3 he claims that if “this feather stirs; she lives! If it be so,/ It is a chance which does redeem all sorrows/ That ever I have felt.” To be reunited with the one person who loves you and you love in return and to be in each others sight once more could have cured Lear of some of the symptoms to his affliction. It is sad that he realizes his love for Cordelia too late as she is already dead. Before his heart finally bursts he realizes that the cosmos are indeed dead because how could anything live after the death of Cordelia? Why didn't something happen after her death? “Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life,/ and thou no breath at all?” We all want something to happen when our loved ones die but the truth is our affliction does not care about us. It does not care about anything.

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