King Lear Class Notes -Incomplete

James I was king while King Lear was written. He wanted to unite England, Scotland, and Wales.

Lear looks at the world that contains humanity, rather than the character/individual interior such as Hamlet does.

There is a primary philosophical/dramatic conflict between the “naturalists” and the “medievalists.” The one gives importance only to “facts,” while the other gives facts to importance.

The sense of smell is key in this play.

Gloucester’s situation with his sons  parallels King Lear’s relationship with his daughters, and both men’s situations parallel each other as far as their desperation drives them to madness and harm.

Is Cordelia an echo or representation of the Gospel or a divine figure? I do not see her as such…inless it is to show that she is in the right, because she is imitating Christ? Or is it the opposite – to show that Christ is bad, or a lie, since Cordelia dies, and seems merely an imitation? Either way, it seems to be a stretch.

Edgar wants to show his father how fate is not purely random – Dr. Gurney says he contrives a “fake miracle” for Gloucester. So does this show that miracles (which are associated with the Divine) are non-existent, and that men contrive them, that they are fake? Is this a comment on the perceived absence of God and the supernatural? It does seem to be…as Dr. Gurney mentioned, Gloucester’s physical fall leads to his spiritual rise. Interesting point…

Edgar has saved his father’s life by a necessary fiction.. And, all of Edgar’s disguises (he has several) are fictions, in a sense.

This whole play seems to be a parody of the real  and the divine. Fictions, disguises  seem to be real, despite their false appearance, but those things that seem to true and normally not able to be seen or have an appearance ( such as God or destiny,  moral order, hierarchy of design, etc.) are shown to be false, in the sense that they are virtually non-existent in the play. Yet, is this because they do not exist, or because the characters act as if they do not, and ignore them? Cordelia’s “I am” is again connotative of God…but is she meant to be overtly associated with God, because she says she “is” but, unlike God, at the play’s end, she is dead.

“Ripeness is all.”

Shakespeare uses many compound words in King Lear: pell-mell, handy-dandy, child-changed, tender-minded, full-flowing, villain-like, bare-gnawn, canker-bit, eldest-born, wide-skirted, self-same, emty-hearted, fore-vouched, still-soliciting, to name a few.

“O undistinguished space of woman’s will!”

“Pray you now, forget and forgive. I am old and forgetful.”

“Gilded butterflies” section….beautiful!

“I have a journey, sir, shortly to go; My master calls me, I must not say no.”

“The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices/ Make instruments to plague us.”

“Come, let’s away to prison./ We two alone will sing like birds i’the cage…/ So we’ll live,/ And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh/ At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues/ Talk of court news; and we’ll talk with them too -/ Who loses and who wins; who’s in, and who’s out;’ And take upon’s the mystery of things,/ As if we were God’s spies; and we’ll wear out,/ In a walled prison, packs and sects of great ones,/ That ebb and flow by the moon.”


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