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. :-)
1 year ago