General Note: In January 2009 I decided that I’d like to go back and read all the plays of William Shakespeare, perhaps one a month if that works out. I hadn’t read a Shakespeare play since 1959, 50 years ago! But I had read nearly all of them in college. I wanted to go back, start with something not too serious or challenging, and work my way through the whole corpus. Thus I began with The Two Gentlemen of Verona. At this time I have no idea how the project will go, nor if it will actually lead me through the entire corpus of Shakespeare’s plays. However, I will keep a separate page listing each play I’ve read with links to any comments I would make of that particular play. See: List of Shakespeare’s play’s I’ve read and commented on
Comments by Bob Corbett
It has been more than 50 years since I first read King Lear. In this three year project to read one of Shakespeare’s plays each month, I had been saving King Lear until near the end as sort of a reward for reading a few of the weaker plays along the way.
I must admit, I was suspecting to be more moved and delighted with my reading that I was. It didn’t come to the high points for me that plays like Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and so many of the history plays. Nonetheless, it was impressive and an curious read.
I say “curious” since when I was younger and had read King Lear no one in whatever class it was when I read the play in college had mentioned Alzheimer’s in relation to this play. I know, the disease, as named, is relative recent. But it seems a strong case could be made that Lear suffered this disease. He is forgetful to almost astonishment, mixed emotions, often tending toward anger, and he cannot carry on his everyday life.
He does have some sense that this is happening, and calls on his three daughters asking how much they love him. He tends to dote upon Cordelia, the last of the three he asks, but she is so humble and honest. I love you because you are my father, and that love is full as a daughter can make it. However, her profession of this humble and believable love has followed the incredible (and totally untrue) exaggerations of her two sisters, so Lear, in his dementia, chooses to see Cordelia as enemy, a betraying daughter; denounces her and sends her off to wed the King of France.
Her two sisters, Goneril and Regan then begin to conspire to gain the throne for themselves, having little to no respect for their father’s pathetic condition.
The tragedy waxes with betrayals galore and one’s suspension of disbelief is deeply challenged, or at least mine was.
Shakespeare’s portrayals did make me truly feel for some of the characters, Lear especially, but his loyal Earl of Gloucester and his son Edgar, and his daughter, Cordelia, who, while understandably hurt by Lear’s brutality toward her, did seem a bit lacking in understanding of his demented condition.
I wouldn’t have missed this reread, but it just didn’t touch me in way that at least a dozen other of the plays has done.Bob Corbett email@example.com
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