«CHARACTER DUPLICATION AND EMULATION IN KING LEAR: A STUDY OF KING LEAR Maria Luisa Dañobeitia Universidad de Granada. Spain The precise idea of this ...»
134 According to John F. Danby,"The Fool appears to be as callous as the sisters, they are no more cruel than he. The Fool can see it all happening, and knows exactly how it works. But this knowledge leaves him no better off."
Shakespeare's Doctrine of Nature: a Study of King Lear (London: Faber and Faber, 1982) 104. To know exactly what the Fool stands for, is not easy, but he Gustav Ungerer
According to the Fool's remarks, Kent is as imprudent as Lear and in consequence he offers them both his coxcomb. When Kent asks the Fool why he should take his coxcomb, his reply prompts the reader to ponder that the Fool is right because Lear's fate is that of a Fool who, impelled by foolish rage, gave away his crown as if it were a coxcomb.
When Kent becomes enraged beyond reason with Oswald, the audience perceives why the Fool gave him his coxcomb. However Oswald should wear the fool's cap as much as Kent or Lear. Oswald, like Kent, is another fool by virtue of his devotion to Goneril. He, like Kent, does not question whether his lady is worthy of such attachment and loyalty, because serving means fidelity. When Kent becomes so angry with him, he cannot perceive that Oswald is merely a fool, a perfect idiot who serves a worthless cause and dies for it. At this point Kent is blind and his sightlessness causes in him a wrath that renders him Lear's equal. In his fury he mirrors Lear's vivid image so that unawares he is emulating Lear in both deed and language.
He calls him, could be the embodiment of a will to survive, signifying that heroic deeds are foolish if one cannot come out victorious. To live seems to be the basic principle of the Fool. Considering that in Shakespeare's time life was held cheap, his attitude makes sense. Thus to see him, as Danby does, merely as an "unilluminated head" is not the answer to the problem inherent in the Fool.
Ibidem p.113. We agree with Robert H. Goldsmith,when he says that "about the Fool's doglike fidelity to Lear, a few further words are needful... Perhaps, we ought to recall, parenthetically, that the Fool wavers in his loyalty for a long moment and only hurries after his king when commanded by Goneril." Wise Fools in Shakespeare (Michigan: Michigan State University Press, 1963) 65.
This appreciation of the Fool renders the emulating process more dramatic, because the Fool must behave as a fool since he has no other choice, but Kent does and so did Lear at the opening of the play.
Thomas Shadwell's The Libertine (1675)
This is not a very satisfactory speech. The catalogue of insults is too strong, gross, long and shocking coming as it does from Kent. Here Shakespeare is twisting the screw very tight upon his audience. We wait to see what Oswald has to say but till Kent has finished reviling him, he says nothing. The problem with this type of vituperation lies in the fact that it always touches on a very delicate issue, that of the mother's reputation, this being a point that seems to obsess them all.
To think of mothers as creatures who must be adulterous or "a mongrel bitch" is like a dreadful infection that affects both innocent and guilty alike. To enhance this point, Oswald's reply comes as an unexpected shock which is difficult to digest in view of Kent's vituperation. There is continence, patience and control in Oswald's words, "Why, what a monstrous fellow art thou, thus to rail on one that is neither known to thee nor knows thee!" (2.2.24-5). A word like "monstrous" sounds almost like a kind complement when compared with "heir of a mongrel bitch" and the like. Is Oswald so tolerant to Kent because he thinks he is facing a mad fellow that belongs to the household? Be that what it may, the fact is that this type of language characterizes not only Lear, but Kent and Gloucester also.
It is not for nothing that Gloucester has to suffer the ordeal of being blinded, on account of Lear. Why he must undergo such a atrocious ordeal is clarified when he reveals that he has acted in such a way because "I would not see thy cruel nail/ Pluck out his poor eyes," (3.7.45-6). In essence both are blind because both have committed an aggression against nature by rejecting their children and therefore their paternity. Gloucester commits the deed, because owing to his sinful disposition there is an illicit child bent on destroying his legal one. Yet, he could not see this because his rash nature did not permit him to see things in their exact perspective, thus proving Gustav Ungerer himself to be as unenlightened about his children's nature as Lear has been.
When he rejected Edgar he was blind and now he must become physically blind in order to perceive that he has been a sightless man. In his painful awareness that he has been like Lear, he is willing to become blind in Lear's stead so that, metaphorically speaking, because he takes Lear's place, Lear becomes, like him, a blind man.135 Now Lear's daughters are bent on destroying his world, so they must destroy all that is like Lear. Their act of annihilation begins with that person who in their minds, and according to the text, is Lear's replica, Gloucester.
He has sent Lear to Dover and so he stands alone to answer Goneril and Regan, and thus he becomes physically blind, while Lear has to withstand the blind rage of the tempest and consequently his ethical blindness136. The situation becomes a sequence of a dramatic replica because while Lear confronts the storm and therefore his moral blindness, Gloucester, blinded in his stead, achieves the required anagnorisis and gives Lear the occasion to see that he is blind. His act places Lear in a situation what will permit him to see. Yet, in his madness Lear cannot perceive that Gloucester has become physically blind expressly because he is a blind man, and that because of Gloucester's physical blindness he will be able to perceive his moral blindness.
The point has been brought to the surface by means of Lear's attitude and apprehension of Gloucester's blindness, for, before he can recognize him, 135 The process of acting in the king's stead is common and conforms to systems oriented to preserve the king's life in times of danger:systems that can be explained in anthropological terms. See Frazer's Golden Bough: A Study of Magic and Religion, Part VI, "The Scapegoat" (London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1933). The point is important because when a process of substitution or willingness to spare the king from pain occurs,the person who suffers the punishment is like the king because he is the embodiment of the royal spirit, and thus the king.
136 "Both Lear and Gloucester are the victims of filial ingratitude: the blinding of Gloucester is the physical equivalent to the madness of Lear. "See Theodore Spencer, Shakespeare and the Nature of Man (New York: Collier Macmillan Publishers, 1974) 136. Yes,but why blindness in Gloucester's case? The only explanation resides in the merging of the two men into one. What is interesting is to indicate that Spencer's conception of the play's development is that of one violation leading to another, till they resolve in death. Ibidem, 243.
Thomas Shadwell's The Libertine (1675) he equates his blindness with Cupid's and thus with the general workings of love, as something to be avoided. The scene is unbearable but necessary.In this scene Lear is not only morally blind but physically blind because he cannot perceive that Gloucester has no eyes in his sockets, yet, his physical incapacity to see is not like that of Gloucester because he, unlike Gloucester, has eyes and therefore this prepares the reader for confronting Lear's imperfection when he must grasp the magnitude of his offence and its consequences, as opposed to Gloucester's ability to see the nature of his own shortcomings and their repercussions.
Lear begins to perceive, but not far, because he, like blind Cupid, lacks reason. In addition he is saturated with blind wrath and so he starts to blame others, such as his sons-in-law, for his misfortunes. His fury is now oriented towards his daughters' husbands but he is deceiving himself because, like blind Cupid, he is shooting arrows in the wrong direction: France and
Albany are worthy men and as such undeserving of such anger:
The idea of destruction, death, and even treachery is very much in his mind. Now he is talking about "a troop of horse with felt" so that, much that characterizes his two daughters' disposition still controls of Lear's proclivities.In order to perceive how much of Lear is contained in his daughters we need only compare their names, using a phonetic deductive method. A method that shows that Lear and his daughters, because of their blood ties, and in spite of the father's doubts about his paternity, have much in common with the exception of Cordelia. We shall begin with Cordelia and Lear, Goneril and Lear and Regan and Lear.
2.- Cord[e][l]lia/[L][e]ar: e-l/l-e.
Lear's name is fully contained in Cordelia.
When looking at the scheme it is evident that there is not one single phonetic sign left over and therefore what is left is nothing and consequently its value must be that of 0. What is left from Cordelia's name is exactly Cod+i.The combination of "cod" and "i" is provocative because in addition to "cod" we have a phonetic sign that leads directly to the visual evocation of a phallic symbol. This evocation prompts the reader to relate it to the inherent or understood meaning of the word "cod". In Cordelia's case her father's name is not only fully contained in hers137 but what is missing from Lear's to become Cordelia takes the reader directly to elements pertaining to sex and thus procreation.
137 Iris Murdoch, in her novel The Philosopher's Pupil, uses the Lear theme, so to speak. The interesting point is that she has transformed the old father into a grand-father whose preoccupation is his grand-daughter's marriage.Lear's obsession with the mother-figure has been pointed out by Adrian Pool. He says,"the mother-figure for whom he is waiting is Regan, and she will enter reluctantly in a moment or two. It is then that Lear recalls the image of the dead wife in which he puts such absolute trust. If a man can talk about the 'mother' inside him, then one answer to this question 'where is this daughter?' might be that she was inside him too. [...] The 'mother' was an accepted medical myth in Shakespeare's time, a name for hysteria (which itself comes from the Greek for womb). In Harsnett's pamphlet exposing the Jesuit exorcism-racket, one of the demoniacs called Richard Mainy is supposed to suffer from the 'mother'."
Tragedy: Shakespeare and the Greek Example (New York: Basil Blackwell, 1987) 232-3. We completely agree with this because it explains why Lear's name is fully contained in that of Cordelia. Yet, if Lear thinks of Regan it is because she is the only daughter left. In reality the one that is fully accommodated in Lear's heart because he is fully contained in her, as the 'mother', is Cordelia.
Thomas Shadwell's The Libertine (1675) Also there is a magnificent quibble in Cordelia's name that indicates what she must become in Lear's life: a dreadful ordeal, her death by hanging138. To see this we must break her name into its components, Cord/delia; delia=deal. The breaking process offers the deal of the cord, or C-ordeal[i]. One must note that the phonetic sign that must be deducted is the [i]. In Lear's mind Cordelia is his ordeal, a tribulation that becomes a dreadful bargain, the cord that is used to hang her. The type of irrevocable trial that Lear must undergo is appropriate when considering the nature of his fault. The deal of the cord must be understood with all the sexual puns inherent in the word cord, (symbolized by the rigid and straight line of the "l" and "i"), and in that of the noose because it functions as a conceit of the metaphor inherent in the "wheel of fire."
2.- Gon[e]ri[l]/[L][e]ar:e-l/l-e 3.- Gon[e][r]i[l]/[L][e]a[r]:e-r-l/l-e-r.
As expected Lear's name cannot be fully contained in that of Goneril because Goneril becomes the fearful fiend. Yet, what is left of Goneril's name is in accord with the development of events. What we have is "GON[e]" plus the fearful symbol of the cord,"i". This indicates that Goneril is not fully contained in her father because what is positive in Lear, and must have been in Goneril's nature owing to their blood ties, as the action of the drama unfolds, disappears, is gone. Thus of what was positive there is left in her only a marked hatred that leads to the killing of Cordelia: a slaughter that is symbolized by the phonetic sign "i". What is left of Lear, an "a", is the beginning of the alphabet symbolizing the fact that she is his first issue.
Regan / Lear
138 There are other quibbles inherent in Cordelia's name. In addition to the pun on heart with the word "cord" and the derivations inherent in Lear, such as the verb "lie", to bind, to tie, there is the obvious one on Heart with Cord. The possible act of severing the umbilical cord when Lear cuts the rope from which Cordelia hangs has been discussed in "Lear's You have somecause."
This scheme yields similar results. In Regan's case, as in that of Goneril there is nothing left of Lear in her, and therefore what remains are two phonetic symbols that can be read as gone,"GN". There is another intriguing possibility about the meaning of GN, or NG, that of a date, the 28th of Oct. This possibility is not a far fetched one because according to the Beth-Luis-Nion calender "the NG tree was the Ngetal, or reed, [...] an ancient symbol of royalty"139: a symbol that directs the reader to the "l" and the "i".
What Shakespeare may have tried to conceal with this date is difficult to know. However this information could cast some light on Shakespeare's life and therefore on the cause of his "dark period." What is not contained of Lear in her, makes Lear responsible for Cordelia's death since it is not only the phonetic symbol,"l" but a graphic representation of the reed.