Thursday, August 5, 2010

Magpie 26

Lear's Daughters

Willow’s prompt brought forth a Shakespeare comedy last week. This week’s prompt reminds us of a tragedy – THE tragedy, the work that many scholars have described as the greatest play ever written: “King Lear.”

Two of Lear’s three daughters are revealed to be evil; they try to destroy their father so they can take over the entire kingdom.

Lear flees from them to wander on a heath during a great thunderstorm. At this later stage the King becomes completely mad, having lost all faith in any sense of order, meaning or stability in the world.

He’s wearing a crown he made himself, a crown of weeds and flowers. He can’t believe what is being done to him by his two daughters: “Is there any cause in nature that makes these hard hearts?”
But, insane or not, he makes sure everyone knows that he is still the monarch. He babbles: “Ay, every inch a king! When I do stare, see how the subject quakes! What was thy cause? Fornication? Thou shalt not die. No, the wren goes to’t, and the small gilded fly does lecher in my sight. Let copulation thrive, for the Earl of Gloucester’s bastard son was kinder to his father than my daughters, got ‘tween the lawful sheets.”

Toward the end of the play, the King realizes that his third daughter, Cordelia, the one he had treated so badly, was the one of the three who truly loved him. He is overcome with sorrow and remorse.

“Why, this would make a man capable of tears to use his eyes for garden watering-cans.”

This may be Shakespeare’s greatest play, but it is not the most popular. Audiences don’t go to see “King Lear” as they might go to a musical comedy. It’s definitely not an upbeat, optimistic work; folks don’t leave the theatre humming the main theme music, or any other music. The historical situation when Will S. wrote this play – the plague that slaughtered many thousands and which no one could understand and which could easily kill you the moment you stepped outside, the constant threat of civil war – these possibly may be responsible for the playwright’s tone of extreme sadness, even the degree of hopelessness, in this work. The tone may be summed up in a famous line from the play: “Like flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport.”
Hey, I promise to be more entertaining and optimistic next week. Yours, Berowne. :-)

35 comments:

R. Burnett Baker said...

Oh, but shall ye gather me a cask ale, razor blade, and draw me a hot bath! Damn water can taketh much too long to fill my tub.

Just bring the ale.....

Rick

willow said...

You surprised me, finding a Shakespeare in the watering can pic! Brilliant, Mr. B. This post was very entertaining!

Catalyst said...

I don't care what you write, Berowne. I just love reading you.

Berowne said...

Catalyst: "I don't care what you write, Berowne. I just love reading you."
And I don't care what YOU write, Catalyst. I just love reading your comments. :-)

Berowne said...

willow: "Brilliant, Mr. B. This post was very entertaining!"
What a great comment; thanks, willow.

Berowne said...

Always great to hear from you, Rick -- thanks.

Rinkly Rimes said...

What a delightfully quirky mind! To bring us to Shakespeare via a rusty can! Thank you.

kathew said...

you are always the clever one! So fun to read!
All from a simple watering can!

madamebutterfly said...

I studied King Lear for my "A" level English (many. many years ago") and it has always been one of my favourite, despite its depressing theme "As flies to wanton boys" is still one of my favourite quotes - in that it is much more apt than "s**t happens". Thank you for this reminder of a great play! (Oddly enough off to a school reunion in about an hours time!)

Berowne said...

My thanks to Rinkly Rimes, kathew and madamebutterfly for the encouraging comments.

Words A Day said...

Intriguing - was wondering where the watering can would come in! I love this play - I did it in school for my leaving certificate as we call our final exams - The line I recall most vividly is "Smell your way to Dover!"

Derrick said...

You've done it again! Such a milestone undertaking for our great actors.

Aoife.Troxel said...

I must read that...I find myself shamefully less than acquainted with much of Shakespeare's work.

Carrie Burtt said...

Berowne you never disappoint me. Your writing is always fun and brilliant...love this one! :-)

Suz said...

oh so wonderful to read

Helen said...

Wow! I found this extremely entertaining! I'll never forget the first time I saw King Lear performed on stage ~ powerful like your Magpie!

annell said...

It's good to know there is the realization.

Angie Muresan said...

This is excellent. Shakespeare and a watering can!

AngelMay said...

King Lear is, I think, my best friend's favorite Shakespeare. I can't, however, say that it is mine. :) Having said that, it's almost impossible to find anything wrong with any Shakespeare, isn't it? Glad I stopped by this evening.

Fred Miller said...

Did you ever hear Kenneth Brannagh's BBC audio production of it? It's the only recording I know of that Sir John Gielgud did in his later years. Also, Michael Williams (Judy Dench's husband) plays the Fool. Often the fool is interpreted as a young man, but Williams is nearer Gielgud's age. The result is that the Fool becomes Lear's conscience speaking aloud.

Berowne said...

Fred Miller: "The result is that the Fool becomes Lear's conscience speaking aloud."
The Fool deserves his own post -- of course -- so I'm going to try to work him in on one of the future Magpies. Thanks for your comment.

Berowne said...

AngelMay: "Glad I stopped by this evening."
Glad you did too, A-M. Thanks.

Berowne said...

Angier Muresan: "This is excellent. Shakespeare and a watering can!"
As has been pointed out before, the writings of Shakespeare are like the Bible -- you can find just about anything in there.

Berowne said...

Great to hear from Derrick, A Troxel, Words A Day, Carrie Burtt, Suz and Helen: thanx for your encouraging comments.

Linda said...

That is indeed an interesting adaptation of the prompt. Who knew that would call forth Shakespeare? You did!

CatLadyLarew said...

Each of us, at one time, has probably shed tears worthy of a watering can. Wonderful connection for the prompt!

chiccoreal said...

Dear Berowne: Would King Lear's infamous line;

“Like flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport.”

be the idea for the novel "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding a must read for the Grade 9 currculum? Love Shakespeare! Got to see "MacBeth" and "Midsummer's Night Dream" at Stratford, Ontario Festival "thrust" Stage where Will Shatner, Lorne Greene and a host of other famous actors of the Bard School of Hard Knocks got their thespian entrance to the world stage of actors. My first Shakespeare read was Merchant of Venice way back in the day. I can quote by rote a few Bardic beauties. Portia's speech...Hamlet..."to be or not to be...". etc., We did launch a production of "Midsummer Night' Dream" in the 70's which was quite good for a highschool production! Give me more Bard, forthwith!

Can I ever relate to Cordelia!

Elizabeth said...

I'm almost didn't do an English major because I knew I'd have to do a semester of Shakespeare. It's amazing what the right teacher can do. This is, however, one we didn't do, and you have now piqued my interest. Methinks I must find it and give it a perusal.

Elizabeth

signed...bkm said...

Great education on Lear...I have not seen it so I have learned something tonight....blessings...bkm

Pat said...

I think it has become a bit of a bench mark for actors, as in 'Have you seen his Lear?'
I loved the play 'The Dresser' when the old ham of an actor playing Lear demanded louder and louder thunder.

Berowne said...

chiccoreal: "Love Shakespeare! Got to see "MacBeth" and "Midsummer's Night Dream" at Stratford, Ontario Festival"
Stratford, Ont., is a great Festival.

Berowne said...

Pat: "I loved the play 'The Dresser' when the old ham of an actor playing Lear demanded louder and louder thunder."
Was it not he who stopped the train with his voice?

Berowne said...

Elizabeth: "Methinks I must find it and give it a perusal."
Anyone named Elizabeth should be interested in Elizabethan literature. :-)

Lena said...

I look forward to see what other prompt connections you make. This was very clever and entertaining!

Berowne said...

Lena: "This was very clever and entertaining!"
What a fine comment. Thanks, Lena.

 
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