Lear Continued

A few other memories of our discussion with the Director/ Actor Lear yesterday (David Ritche). He had this insight into the way the play reflected the much more structured hierarchy of Shakespeare’s times… how the play begins with all these formal exchanges in which people use the formal “you” as opposed to “thou” (have I got this right)… and how there are some characters – like Oswald- who dare to flout the formal requirement that you don’t look into the eye of a superior (this is why Lear gets so angry at one point). But by the end of the play this hierarchy has been broken… we have entered a waste-land landscape in which society/ civilization has been destroyed… and in which none of the women will produce new children… all the result of Lear’s horrific curses. This, incidentally, reflects the historical situation of Queen Elizabeth dying childless… so the play is certainly a reflection of the historical context. There was another beautiful insight of David Ritchie’s and that was that the image at the end of Lear carrying Cordelia onto the stage… was a reverse Piéta the father holding the daughter, rather than the mother the son. And whereas at the start of the play Lear demanded to hear more than “Nothing” from his daughter, now he would give the whole world to hear just a little “Nothing” from the lips of his dead daughter…. I thought this was an extraordinarily beautiful insight into the power of the concluding image in this play.
One last thing… I asked David about the fact of whether this play expressed the possibility that through suffering Lear and Gloucester acquired wisdom and insight? Was this a hopeful play? David answered: of course that is the nature of all tragedy… wisdom and insight is gained, but only after it is too late… only after the last moment of hope is gone… so the wisdom and insight is (in Aristotle’s terms) something that we the audience carry into our lives… rather than something the characters on stage benefit from… (this last thought is what I have added). I am wondering aloud whether this also applies to the death of someone like Ivan Illych… whose last moment IS a moment of insight… and in that moment he is, as it were saved, despite the failure of his life as a whole…..
over and out.

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