On Putting One’s Eyes Out

I’m once again in debt to Fran Teague, my wonderful dissertation director, for a bit of pedagogical gold.  When we took on King Lear in her graduate Shakespeare class in 2005, she introduced the history-of-theater question of how one could stage Cornwall’s and Regan’s brutal act of putting Gloucester’s eyes out on a thrust stage.  After all, no matter what object one hid behind, someone would be able to see what’s actually going on.  Our class, as I remember, pretty much gave up on verisimilitude and conceded the impossibility of anything but a stylized gouge.  (The next spring, UGA’s theater department, putting on Lear, went for a stylized pantomime.)  She set before us a simple and elegant solution: since Gloucester is tied to a chair, the actors playing Cornwall and Regan could simply tip him back, apply the stage-blood, and tip him forward again when time came for Gloucester to speak his lines.  So, as you might have anticipated, I picked two burly boys (I had the class pretend that one was in fact a cross-dressing Jacobean actor, even though both had pronounced facial hair), sat in a chair, and for the last five minutes of today’s class (whose reading ended with the end of act three, where Gloucester loses his eyes) they figured out how to put my eyes out for the audience’s delight.  The gentlemen tipped me back without a hitch (I told ’em I’d flunk ’em if they dropped me), and the class went out with a good visual.

Thank you, Dr. Teague.

In comp class we spent the bulk of our time dealing with agents and actions and making sure they actually appear in each clause’s subject and verb, so I won’t have a teaching post tomorrow.  I suppose I’ll have to think of something to write between now and then.


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