Monday, June 12, 2006

Reader's Diary 105- William Shakespeare: King Lear (up to Act 1, Scene 3)

Heaney, now Shakespeare. This blog is becoming a little too eurocentric. I should really work on that. Any suggestions?

In the meantime, this is the first time on this blog that I've read two books by the same author. The first was Hamlet and I enjoyed that a lot, so I'm hoping that I'll get into King Lear as well. Like Hamlet which had Ophelia, King Lear has compelling ladies as well. And like Ophelia whom I said was fodder for a lot of contemporary rock songs, King Lear's daughter Cordelia was at least the subject of a few as well, most notably the Tragically Hip's song of the same title. It'll be interesting to listen to that song again once I finish the book.

King Lear is often credited with being one of Shakespeare's most timeless works, people often noting how it is very relevant to today's world. Certainly I've already picked up on themes of greed, ambition and pride and not to be cynical but yes, we certainly haven't found a pill for those in the past 400 years. But more relevant than his other plays? I wonder. Certainly it depends on what values you focus on.

So far, I'm liking Shakespeare's handling of a couple of characters in particular; Cordelia and Edmund. Cordelia is appealing mostly because of her virtue and strength. While her sisters Goneril and Regan suck up to daddy for their share of the kingdom, Cordelia refuses to play the game as if above such insulting expectations. King Lear goes all Donald Trump on her a$$ and he's like "You're Fired!" and she goes "What-ever! Like you're such a spaz." Ooops. I momentarily took leave of my senses. Lear banished her from the kingdom and Cordelia was basically thrown away to wed the King of France.

And Edmund, while not a likeable character in the same sense as Cordelia, is a complex character. Some of Shakespeare's peripheral characters can appear pretty black and white in terms of motivation: they're evil or they're not. I have the feeling Edmund will not be peripheral however, as his dark side is built up as being a result of the stigma that the term "bastard" has put upon him. In other words, yes he's bad but he has reason to be. (Shakespeare as psychologist?)

5 comments:

Rebecca said...

As for your suggestion of a non-eurocentric author, try Bryce Courtnay's The Power of One, which was amazing.

As for King Lear... I haven't actually read or seen it performed, so I got nothing :)

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I haven't read or seen King Lear either. I stick to the easy Shakespeares.

John Mutford said...

Thanks for the suggestion Rebecca, it's now on the ol' wish list.

Barbara, the easy Shakespeares?

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Okay, it's relative I guess - MacBeth, Midsummer Nights Dream, Romeo and Juliet, are all a litte more accessible.

John Mutford said...

Barbara, As far as the plot is concerned, I'm not finding King Lear any less accessible than those you mentioned. But maybe there's finer themes that might be a little more difficult.