One last look at King Lear
What’s your favorite piece of historical drama and why?
What’s your favorite piece of historical drama and why?
Below you’ll find the first draft of a Digital Edition that I wrote. Feel free to use it as a model for the blog post you have due on Thursday. I also revised the DE into a second draft called King Lear‘s Eco-Futurity.
From the division of the Kingdoms to the final “Never, never, never!” (24.303), King Lear seems totally sterile. Consider the infertility rings out in Lear’s refrain: “Nothing can come of nothing” (1.81 and 4.126); the way that the rosemary and pins Edgar “strikes” in his “bare arms” suggests nothing can grow in the earth (7.181-82); and the image of the failed graft with which Albany figures Gonoril’s “disposition” (16.32-36 Q1) as just three instances of King Lear‘s barren nature.
And yet, for all the “Never’s,” “Nothing’s,” and “O’s” (24.304), the play teems with animal and vegetable life. There is a veritable assemblage of foxes, horses, cats, adders, vultures, bears, crows, choughs, and all manner of dogs. Add to the menagerie of animals rosemary, samphire, and of course, “rank fumitory and furrow-weeds,/With burdocks, hemlock, nettles, cuckoo-flowers,/Darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow/In our sustaining corn” (18.3-5), and the play seems less a barren waste and more a seething aggregate of viability. Not only does the play stage vegetable excesses amid the total collapse of civilization, characters constantly attribute ruin to cataclysmic natural events. For instance, Gloucester attributes several crises to “These late eclipses in the sun and moon” (2.101-102), just as Kent credits “the stars/The stars above us” for their dire conditions. Despite the ruin, waste, and nihility with which the play engages its audience, I argue King Lear offers a model for sustainable futures. The prototype for human, nonhuman, and inhuman ecology the play provides is an especially useful resource for 21st century readers. Since we live after radical environmental change, i.e. humans effect the world now more than ever, we need to reconsider the future we have imagined for ourselves. If we look to our past, as Shakespeare looks to his, we can find ways to face our mistakes to develop a more capacious regard for forms of life.
King Lear has been a regarded as an exemplary instance of the pastoral in English since its inception. In recent years the play has become a key text for Posthumanism. Two key examples of Posthumanist King Lear scholarship are Laurie Shannon’s “Poor, Bare, Forked: Animal Happiness and the Zoographic Critique of Humanity,” from her book, The Accommodated Animal: Cosmopolity in Shakespearean Locales and Andreas Hofele’s “‘I’ll see their trial first’: Law and Disorder in Lear’s Animal Kingdom,” from his book Stage, Stake, and Scaffold: Humans and Animals in Shakespeare’s Theater.
Though Shannon and Hofele both agree that King Lear engages the animal kingdom as much as human sovereignty, they make two different arguments. Shannon argues XXXXX. Summarize and compare both authors. Then explain how a synthesis of their argument informs my edition.
Animals, vegetables, and minerals are important in two recent production of King Lear.
When John Lithgow played Lear in Central Park two summers ago, one commenter explained how a raccoon crossed the stage while Mr. Lithgow was off of it. The blog provided a record of all sorts of unexpected nonhuman interventions over the course of the production, as well as Mr. Lithgow’s delightful reflections on the production. XXXXX. Develop with citations XXXXX.
Consider also a recent production of the play in London in which the director cast one human and nine sheep. In Lear with Sheep, Develop with citations from page. Summarize and compare both performances. Then explain how a synthesis of their argument informs my edition.
King Lear, Scene 17 (the text below is cut and paste and illegible. Will need to format using easy bootstrap short code plugin tools such as columns or a table. Also, no links or gloss yet)
2347.10Kent. Did your letters pierce the queene to any demonstratiõ
In the clip below Sir Ian McKellen performs a public address from Shakespeare, Anthony Munday, and Henry Chettle’s collaborative, late 16th century play, Thomas More. While the clip plays, consider the following questions, which we will discuss afterward:
1. What choices does McKellen make to engage his audience with the material?
2. How does McKellen allow the past to comment on the present?
3. What is the relationship between the written manuscript script and McKellen’s performance?
As McKellen explains, there are few performances of Thomas More, and his late 20th century productions is a touchtone. Thomas More is most famous as a manuscript because there is a general consensus among scholars that Shakespeare wrote some of the passages himself. Add the three pages from the Thomas More MS to six signatures and you have the sum total of extant manuscripts that record in Shakespeare’s handwriting. McKellen’s performance of the speech adds to the paleographic description’ questions of authorship, while connecting the speech to contemporary & emotionally charged brutality. More’s speech helps McKellen, and by extension his listeners, feel for and think through a tragic modern event and its possible outcomes.
Compare the lines in print from Sir Thomas More (Add.II.D) to McKellen’s Performance:
Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England.
Image that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their back, with their poor luggage
Plodding to th’ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silenced by your brawl
And you in ruff of you opinions clothed:
What had you got? I’ll tell you. You had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled–and by this pattern
Not one of you should should live an aged man,
For other ruffians as their fancies wrought
With selfsame hand, self reasons, and self right
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another.
Before God, that’s as true as the gospel.
Nay, this’ a sound fellow, I tell you. Let’s mark him.
Let me set up before your thoughts, good friends,
One supposition, which if you will mark
You shall perceive how horrible a shape
Your innovation bears. First, ’tis a sin
Which oft th’apostle did forewarn us all
And ’twere no error if I told you all
You were in arms ‘gainst God.
Marry, God forbid us that!
Nay, certainly you are.
For to the King God hath his office lent
Of dread, of justice, power and command,
Hath bid him rule and willed you to obey;
And to add ample majesty to this,
He than not only lent the King but his figure,
His throne and sword, but given him his own name,
Calls him a god on earth. What do you then,
Rising ‘gainst God? What do you to your souls
In doing this? O desperate as you are,
Wash your foul minds with tears, and those same hands
That you like revels lift against the peace
Lift up for peace; and you unreverent knees,
Make them your fee. To kneel to be forgiven
Is safer wars than ever you can make,
Whose discipline is riot.