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Monday, May 23, 2016

Lear Again

I was just looking it up again for something on Edmund the bastard, and it occurred to me that this is one of the more readable plays; I hardly needed to look at the annotations. Then I somehow semi-consciously ended up on the YouTube watching a lecture on the play. It was interesting and comfortably detached. At one point a student commented that the characters are all so one-dimensional and only Lear goes through a full spectrum of human emotions. The lecturer asked whether the student thought, for example, Goneril is a one-dimensional villain. The student was apparently unconvinced. Suddenly I felt air went out of my lungs as if being punched in the gut. In a flash I remembered how it was Regan and Goneril that immediately grabbed my sympathies when I first saw the RSC's production of King Lear on TV. It's terrifying how this play has such ferocious power over me.

(It's not just me who find redeeming points in the two wicked daughters. Jane Smiley wrote "A Thousand Acres" loosely based on them.)

For a while I thought perhaps "Antony and Cleopatra" is my favorite. I love Othello and Much Ado as well. But after all this reminds me King Lear does something to me like nothing else.

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