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Against Retirement, For the Homeless--and Cursing,
This review is from: King Lear (Wordsworth Classics) (Paperback)
Maybe the fifteenth time I've read Lear (this time in the tiny red-leather RSC edition, during morning walks). Always impressed, especially with the curses and curse-like screeds. I can't stand Lear onstage, particularly the blinding of Gloster (so spelled in this edition). How sharper than a serpants teeth it is / to have a thankless child--though having a thankless parent like Lear, Act I Sc I, ain't so great either. I do love the Russian film Lear with music by Shostakovich, and the King's grand route through his bestiary of hawks and eagles.
I suppose this is Shakespeare's great assessment of homelessness. The undeservingly roofless. "Poor naked wretches, wheresoe'er you are, / That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,/ How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides...defend you/ From seasons such as this?" Lear asks, and reflects, "O, I have ta'en too little care of this!" (3.4.25ff).
Shakespeare even anticipates Marx (not Groucho) when he has the blinded Gloster say, "So distribution should undo excess, / And each man have enough..." (4.1) He is speaking to his disguised son-madman. In fact, social justice emerges throughout this play, a theme as prominent as in Measure for Measure.
Lear is also his only play on retirement, which he apparently recommends against. Or perhaps Lear should have had a condo in Florida? Of course, his hundred knights, a problem for the condominium board, as it was for his daughters. And Shakespeare, who says in a sonnet he was "lame by fortune's despite" also addresses the handicapped here, recommending tripping blind persons to cheer them up.
Of course, Lear has his personal Letterman-Colbert, the Fool, so he doesn't need a TV in the electrical storm on the heath. That's fortunate, because it would have been dangerous to turn on a TV with all that lightening. The play seems also to recommend serious disguises like Kent's dialects and Edgar's mud. Next time I go to a party I'll think about some mud, which reduces Edgar's likelihood of being killed by his former friends.
And finally, the play touches on senility, where Lear cannot be sure at first Cordelia is his daughter.
I'm not sure, but the author may be recommending senility as a palliative to tragedy--and to aging. A friend of mine once put it, "Who's to say the senile's not having the time of his life?"