King Lear Day Two ENGL 305 Dr. Fike
Papers • Please number your pages and paragraphs and underline your thesis statement. • Make sure that your Works Cited page is attached. • Your paper should be properly stapled. • Papers will be returned one week from today.
The “Sight Pattern” • Reference: Paul J. Alpers, “King Lear and the Theory of the ‘Sight Pattern,’” In Defense of Reading: A Reader’s Approach to Literary Criticism.
Examples • 1.1.57: Goneril would trade her most precious sense for Lear’s love. • 1.1.158-63: Lear orders Cordelia out of his sight; Kent urges Lear to see better. • 1.1.235: Cordelia lacks “a still-soliciting eye.” • 3.7.70-73: Cornwall blinds Gloucester.
Points about Lear • There is trouble with perception: it is hard for both fathers to distinguish between goodness and pretense. In other words, between genuine goodness and seeming goodness, appearance and reality. • Lear’s lack of clear vision leads him into trouble. Regan confirms this when she says that “he hath ever but slenderly known himself” (1.1.296-97).
Points about Gloucester • Gloucester is a parallel figure: he sees significance in what the more clear-sighted Edmund knows to be insignificant. Like Lear, Gloucester is gullible—he fails to SEE that the letter is a forgery; he fails to SEE Edgar’s goodness and Edmund’s baseness. • Literal blindness is the emblem of Gloucester’s lack of proper perception. • His spiritual blindness physical blindness spiritual sight. See 4.1.18: “I stumbled when I saw.”
Summary • Characters mistake each other’s true natures. • They fail to see through disguises (Kent and Edgar are disguised). • And physical sight is set in opposition to spiritual insight (FYI, one of those insights concerns justice and hypocrisy). • Thus the sight pattern is a major pattern in this play.
So Here’s the Big Question: What is it that Lear and Gloucester come to see more clearly? To get at this more clearly, we have us a group activity.
Group Activity THREE GROUPS: 10 MINS. • Consider the following passages and try to construct a statement on what Lear’s experience on the heath teaches him. Work in large groups for 10 minutes. • Group 1: 3.2.67-79 and 3.4.28-36 • Group 2: 3.4.59, 3.4.100-08, and 3.4.150-51 • Group 3: 4.1.63-70 and 4.1.36-37
Acts 4:32 (RSV) • “Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common.”
Summary What Lear learns: • He undergoes a spiritual transformation on the heath. • At first unable to see beyond his own ego, he gains insight into the plight of the common man. • He learns the importance of social justice and the imperative to help those whose basic needs are not met (Lear was remiss in this area when he was in power). • Human justice is especially important because the universe is malevolent.
Show “Dover” Scene • Video clip: 4.6.1-79.
Next Exercise Work in previously assigned groups for 5-7 minutes. • “Dover” in 4.6: How and why does Gloucester transform? • Discuss the trial scenes: 3.6 and 3.7. What do these scenes suggest about justice?
Gloucester’s Experience at “Dover” • Gloucester goes through a similar process at the supposed white cliffs of Dover. • What do you make of this experience? Why is it significant? What does Gloucester learn, if anything, that might parallel Lear’s insights? • What are the key words, and what is their significance?
Lear and Gloucester both transform spiritually and develop in-sight. Beginning Ending Lear Worldly fortune Something: Cordelia is good; social justice is important Spiritual blindness Nothing Gloucester Sight Insight/true perception Appearances Blindness
Points • Analogy to Richard II: he grows spiritually only when his worldly fortunes are in ruins. • The previous slide critiques Lear’s statement “Nothing will come of nothing” (1.1.90): something does come of nothing. • That something is a spiritual rise made possible by a worldly fall.
Which Brings Us to a Key Concept • Felix culpa: “Thus even Adam's sin and the fall of man involved the paradox of the felix culpa in that it led to the Incarnation and the redemption of mankind by Christ” (from Credo Reference). • Translation: happy culpability, fortunate fall.
Christian Paradoxes • King Lear is not a Christian play (it takes place, as Greenblatt mentions, in a pre-Christian universe: note the references to classical gods). • Nonetheless, Christian paradoxes are key to the kind of SEEING that this play favors: • Matthew 5:5: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” • Matthew 19:21: “Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.” • Matthew 19:30: “But many that are first will be last, and the last first.” • Luke 1.:52: “He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.” • James 4:10: “Humble yourself before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
Further Points • “Nothing can be made out of nothing” (1.4.130) mocks the Christian doctrine of creation out of nothing. Something definitely comes out of nothing. • Spiritual development results from physical hardship and material penury. (Personal analogy.) This, for Lear, is the benefit of the storm on the heath. • Lear, in his madness, describes “poor naked wretches,” and Edgar’s disguise illustrates the very type of person Lear imagines (2.3.1ff.). This disguise is a sign of Edgar’s spiritual worthiness. But Lear is the madman whom Edgar only pretends to be. • And it is Edgar who sums up the whole tragedy in five words: “He childed as I father’d” (3.6.110). See next slide.
“He childed as I father’d” (3.6.110). • Lear:daughters::Edgar:father • Lear’s daughters treated him badly. • Edgar’s father treated him badly. • Thus Lear is to his daughters as Edgar is to his father.
Transition • We’ve been charting similarities between Lear and Gloucester. • What about any similarity between Lear and Edgar?
What Lear and Edgar “See” in a Similar Way? • Edgar: 3.4.84-99 • Lear: 4.6.107-31 • Edgar: 5.3.175
Points • Hell-like damnation • Monstrosity • Oedipal stuff (cf. “nursery” at 1.1.124) • Projection of distorted anima? • Total revulsion from female sexuality
Trial Scenes: 3.6 and 3.7 • What do these paired scenes tell you about justice? • 3.6: Lear puts Goneril and Regan on trial on the heath. • 3.7: Cornwall gouges out Gloucester’s eyes.
Summary of the Trial Scenes • These scenes respond to the wrongs that have been suffered or supposed. • Genuine wrong: trial scene on the heath at 3.6.35ff.: true justice. • Supposed wrong: trial scene in 3.7 where Gloucester’s eyes are gouged out: travesty of justice. • Bevington’s introduction: “The appearance and the reality of justice have exchanged places, as have folly and wisdom [see 1.4] or blindness and seeing.”
Other Inversions • What other inversions do you find in the play?
Other Inversions in the Play • Blindness and sight • Parent and child (1.4.169-71) • Male and female • Loyalty and treason • Man and beast • Wisdom and folly (the Fool) • High and low—Edgar as Tom is spiritually superior. • Court and heath (the court is civilized but unjust; the heath is uncivilized but just).
Key Principle • Shakespeare is building his play on the basis of such dyads. • He will do this again in The Tempest.
Discussion • Whose tragedy is worse, Lear’s or Gloucester’s? • Construct a chart (see directions on the next slide).
Whose Tragedy Is Worse? • In groups of 3-5 persons, discuss the following questions for both Lear and Gloucester. In each case, try to establish who is worse off. • What is lost? • What do they suffer? • Who goes mad? • Who dies?
Possible Answers • http://faculty.winthrop.edu/fikem/Courses/ENGL%20305/305%20King%20Lear%20Chart%20in%20Columns.doc END