Aubrey's Reviews > King Lear

King Lear by William Shakespeare
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it was amazing
bookshelves: 1-read-on-hand, r-2015, reviewed, r-goodreads, r-2016, 5-star, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die

I gave you all.

And in good time you gave it.


They told me I was everything; 'tis a lie[.]
There's little respect for the old where I come from. My personal bias being what it is, it's taken some time for me to look past my individual justification to the broader scope of human beings inheriting power from human beings. Land, fealty, divine right. Once you held sway over three begotten children. Now authority has turned contumely and you seek to divest it and its bloodsuckers into the hands of those you trained. Between then and now, did you invest in concepts such as integrity, humanity, and a ban on converting any and all, both the living and the dead, into the basest essence of commodity? Or did you put such a premium on survival of the fittest that you forgot rape and betrayal and genocide does little good when you die before your fertile time because no one would deign to hold your hand and lead you from the cliff.
If that the heavens do not their visible spirits
Send quickly down to tame these vile offences,
It will come,
Humanity must perforce prey on itself,
Like monsters of the deep.

Take physic, pomp,
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou mayst shake the superflux to them
And show the heavens more just.
Someone who has faith might do a better job at this than I, for in place of force of habit they have an unyielding fear. The most beloved and god-blessed ruler, winner of a thousand trails and sanctifier of every course of action, has lost their holy stuff. The moral scales of good versus evil have sunken under the whatever works works of natural selection, and the promises of the afterlife do nothing for the wretch that cannot die. What, then, does it mean for a world of mortals for whom justice is never a guarantee, regardless of their afterlife? Do you pray to an absolute that has, for whatever reason, just for a moment, fallen asleep. Become distracted? Grown bored? Or do you recognize that there may come a time when the ethics of flies must serve as the laws of creed. If they are there, one may hope to teach the gods a lesson of greater life of means of own example. The marvelous thing about yes this will surely work, no this surely not, is no one alive can ever know.
[T]he laws are mine, not thine.
Who shall arraign me for't?

The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
Make instruments to scourge us.
In the eyes of science, the breeding of purity weakens the stock, which coupled to a systematic severing of all bonds not weighed in the imagined idols of paper and coin makes gamblers of us all. It renders us worth as much as the axes we hang over the necks of others, which when handed off for reasons of age and infirmity quickly swings to our own if new found freedom translates to new found revenge. Death's a fine rectifier in many a community of woe, and perhaps it is my lack of culturally bound prayer that makes me perverse, but much, much, much can be tested and found lacking before divine retribution must stretch its claws. Fealty, piety, legitimacy, misogyny, the king before the beggar, the sane before the mad, the ripest mix of genetic fertility before the mewling puking old. This is how we've kept our power for centuries, so of course it must always work.
We have seen the best of our time.

Hark in thine ear:
change places, and handy-dandy, which is the justice,
which is the thief?

Let go thy hold when a great wheel runs down a hill, lest it break thy neck with following it; but the great one that goes up a hill, let him draw thee after. When a wise man gives thee better counsel, give me mine again. I would have none but knaves follow it, since a fool gives it.
If balancing's a fickle thing within the realms beyond, the means of heaven and hell are left to us. Make of it what you will.



P.S. I still like Hamlet better, if only because it keeps up the development wherein Lear would insist on a climax. Again, though. This is said without having seen the storm in its flesh and blood.

---

3/6/15

FOOL

He that has and a little tiny wit—
With heigh-ho, the wind and the rain—
Must make content with his fortunes fit,
For the rain it raineth every day.
A longer, less menacing variation on this song was sung by the Fool at the end of Twelfth Night, as the curtain set on its "happy ending" and I was left to ponder how easily those swiftly married and more swiftly avenging characters could turn on their comedy in an instant. The quoted occurs near the middle of King Lear within a hovel in the midst of a storm, when the line is drawn on the life of a king and how a kingdom should be ruled. I am more comfortable surrounded by the tragedy than at the end of the comedy, for there were one too many times when the mandate of laughing was tested and found disturbing. Black humor, perhaps, but pardon my intolerance for gaslighting and the frittering away of female lives; too many philosophical points have made use of such fuel and been the worse for it.
GONERIL

…a moral fool, sits still and cries,
“Alack, why does he so?”
I wouldn't have minded the moral qualms of TN so much if I had been allowed room to move. Tragedies may have the strictures of sadness, but there is so many more ways of thinking and poking and watching things bleed when you don't have to worry about "taking it too seriously" or "ruining the humor" or any such reactions from those who cannot tolerate discomfort. That doesn't make the genre easier to deal with on a more complex level if the response to Goneril and Regan by classmates and professor are anything to go by. So you hate the two women who aren't interested in fucking their father and adhering to the usual patriarchal pomp. Big whoop. Compare and contrast the main with other ongoing narrative of filial piety gone wrong, question your thoughts of Iago versus bitches and whores, and maybe you'll start getting somewhere.
GONERIL

Milk-livered man
That bear'st a cheek for blows, a head for wrongs—
Who hast not in thy brows an eye discerning
Thine honor from thy suffering; that not know'st
Fools do those villains pity who are punished
Ere they have done their mischief.
I could write essays on this quote. Essays. It's why I'm not too concerned about the right and wrong of this because of how impossible the labeling would be. Edmund lays all his motives on a steaming plate of "I am villain hear me roar!" and so we cling to him like every other white serial killer that came before and ever after. Sympathy for Lear's a popular thing, but that's what so many of the other characters are for. What I'm interested in is who desires power, who desires a certain person in power, whose madness is met with praise and whose belying the bond of blood as contract of unsanctioned loyalty is met with mewling scorn.
CORDELIA

Had you not been their father, these white flakes
Did challenge pity of them.
Not as strong, but still applicable to either end of a delicious argument.
EDMUND

…my state
Stands on me to defend, not to debate.
A father's duty encompasses his children so long as they will fit. The rest can go hang.
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Reading Progress

December 2, 2012 – Shelved
March 2, 2015 –
page 0
0.0% "Reading for class (yay)."
March 2, 2015 –
page 36
11.39% "Machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous disorders follow us disquietly to our graves."
March 6, 2015 –
page 212
67.09% "GONERIL

Milk-livered man
That bear'st a cheek for blows, a head for wrongs—
Who hast not in thy brows an eye discerning
Thine honor from thy suffering; that not know'st
Fools do those villains pity who are punished
Ere they have done their mischief."
March 6, 2015 – Shelved as: 1-read-on-hand
March 6, 2015 – Shelved as: r-2015
March 6, 2015 – Shelved as: reviewed
March 6, 2015 – Shelved as: r-goodreads
February 20, 2016 – Started Reading
February 20, 2016 –
page 0
0.0% "We meet again."
February 24, 2016 –
page 168
53.16% "LEAR\n I gave you all.\n \n REGAN\n And in good time you gave it."
February 28, 2016 – Shelved as: r-2016
February 28, 2016 – Shelved as: 5-star
February 28, 2016 – Shelved as: cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die
February 28, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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message 1: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth have you read jane smiley's A Thousand Acres? it is a re-telling of King Lear. devastating and brutal but SO GOOD.


Sally Howes I also like Shakespeare's Daughters, a fairly simple but interesting jumping-off point for examining the unusually prevalent theme of fathers and daughters in Shakespeare's plays.


Aubrey Elizabeth wrote: "have you read jane smiley's A Thousand Acres? it is a re-telling of King Lear. devastating and brutal but SO GOOD."

I have not, Elizabeth. I'll have to check it out.


Aubrey Sally wrote: "I also like Shakespeare's Daughters, a fairly simple but interesting jumping-off point for examining the unusually prevalent theme of fathers and daughters in Shakespeare's plays."

Interesting. I'll have to check that out as well.


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