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arbieroo

Arbie's Unoriginally Titled Book Blog

It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.

Currently reading

Ursula K. Le Guin: Hainish Novels and Stories, Vol. 1: Rocannon's World / Planet of Exile / City of Illusions / The Left Hand of Darkness / The Dispossessed / Stories (The Library of America)
Brian Attebery, Ursula K. Le Guin
Progress: 132/1100 pages
Life and Letters of Charles Darwin - Volume 1: By Charles Darwin - Illustrated
Charles Darwin
Progress: 200/346 pages
Basics of Plasma Astrophysics
Claudio Chiuderi, Marco Velli
Progress: 3/250 pages
Ursula K. Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia: Malafrena / Stories and Songs (The Library of America)
Brian Attebery, Ursula K. Le Guin
Progress: 359/700 pages
Selected Short Stories - Conrad (Wordsworth Classics)
Keith Carabine, Joseph Conrad
Progress: 236/272 pages
A Student's Guide to Lagrangians and Hamiltonians
Patrick Hamill
Progress: 7/180 pages
Complete Poems, 1904-1962
E.E. Cummings
Progress: 108/1102 pages
The Complete Plays and Poems
E.D. Pendry, J.C. Maxwell, Christopher Marlowe
She Stoops to Conquer and Other Comedies (Oxford World's Classics)
Henry Fielding, David Garrick, Oliver Goldsmith
Progress: 76/448 pages
Gravitation (Physics Series)
Kip Thorne;Kip S. Thorne;Charles W. Misner;John Archibald Wheeler;John Wheeler
Progress: 48/1215 pages

Reading progress update: I've read 943 out of 1344 pages.

The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) - William Shakespeare, John Jowett, Gary Taylor

King Lear (Quarto)

 

As mentioned previously, my readings of the Quarto Text of King Lear have been cursed; every time I try it I get ill. The first time I got 'flu and was only able to remember the outline of the first scene in which the division of the Kingdom takes place.

The second (i.e. this) time I got a respiratory infection that lasted two weeks, which interrupted my reading and thereby weakened the drama no end. (I have learned not to try to read anything demanding serious concentration whilst ill from the first time round with the 'flu and a similar experience with Wuthering Heights and another illness.)

This disruption leads me to not really be able to assess the play all that well. Instead I rely on an outdoor amatuer production I saw a few years ago that no doubt followed the normal route of conflating the Quarto and Folio versions, then no doubt cutting for length when I say I think it's a powerful, affecting dramatic work.

This reading does confirm my view that Lear is the Old Man's Tragedy in contrast to Hamlet as the Young Man's (Adolescent's?) Tragedy. The instigating events are pretty foolish (as usual more foolish than the Fool proves to be) but they seem to be the mistakes of a person late in life wanting to simultaneously step back from power and yet retain the trappings and respect that go with it. Hamlet, on the other hand is young, inexperienced and oscillating between indecisive dithering and impetuous reaction, all the while treating others badly as he behaves in an extremely self-absorbed fashion.

That Lear misjudges his daughters to such an extent is perhaps related to Kingship and being overly used to flattery but also indicates that he doesn't have the perception to see through it. The indications are that he was competent in his younger days or at least accepted good advice, but now, as is common in people who retain positions of power for a long time, he seems to have come to believe his own hype. These things are the root of the tragedy that follows.

Lear displays many of the tropes defining Jacobean Revenge Drama, particularly gruesome bodily mutilations and an enormous body count of significant characters in the final act, but any discernible revenge element is present only in the subplot surrounding Edgar and Edmund.

As already mentioned, performances tend to conflate Quarto and Folio texts. This follows the normal practice in print editions. Here, Wells and co. have taken the unusual step of presenting each each version separately and in full, suggesting that the unusually extensive changes Shakespeare made in response to performance of the original, which go beyond simple revisions of wording to include structural changes to the play, mean that in effect the Folio version represents a "second edition" that should be judged separately and probably accurately reflects performances from about 1604 onward. Hence conflated texts, whilst not necessarily intrinsically a bad thing, are really a form of adaptation in that they do not accurately reflect any performances during Shakespeare's lifetime.

Since the curse seems to be restricted in scope, as it evidently does not affecting performance, I am hoping it also does not affect the Folio text which appears later on and I will be able to get through it without getting another infection! As it is, with 11 plays (if I re-read MacBeth, which I am increasingly tempted to do) and about 2/3 of the sonnets still to go, finishing the Complete Works this year is looking unlikely.