Hard to Blame Anyone in Lear

I realized while planning today’s lesson that, until some of the characters just go devilish on the audience, I have a hard time blaming anyone in King Lear for what comes to pass.  On one hand, Regan and Goneril don’t speak up when the old man insists on keeping a 100-man private army after ceding the throne.  On the other, with half of Britain to run, I can’t blame either daughter for objecting to Lear’s 100 knights causing trouble in the palace.  And while it’s rotten for the daughters to turn the old man out in the storm, they do note immediately afterwards that they would have been happy to house Lear, just not his soldiers.

Now I realize that as acts three and four move along, the play’s traditional baddies move from merely frustrated to openly nasty, but I’m talking about the opening acts here.

I gave good mini-lectures today on the history of the English Bible (because there are so many echoes of Paul in King Lear) and on the changing character of the term “natural” (because a firstborn’s privilege is, in the eyes of Edmund, supernatural and thus nonsense) as we went along, and this class has been wonderful about coming prepared and talking in class.  I suppose Jess Walker was right about this (even if she remains wrong about Merchant of Venice): sophomore English and journalism majors make for a fun conversation.

Look for a post on the Enlightenment and religion tomorrow.



Filed under Shakespeare, teaching

2 responses to “Hard to Blame Anyone in Lear

  1. Nice post–I never noticed much of Paul in there. I did see a lot of man vs. God struggle though. Nice blog and I can’t wait to read more!

  2. Thank you for reading.

    The scenes where talk of love culminates with a character’s declaring “nothing” (the first scene especially, but it recurs) first made me think of it. Then I started seeing Edmund’s soliloquies as a sort of anti-Pauline a-theology, a denial of all super-nature because it props up weakness in favor of Nature-worship because it rewards treachery. (Edmund would call it natural ability, but it’s treachery nonetheless.) There are other bits of Paul in there, but I’m going to save them for tomorrow after I teach act three to my sophomores.

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