Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Sharper than a serpent's tooth

I have just been called a "traitorous worm" for admitting I want to see the Cubs and the Indians in the World Series. These Red Sox fans are vicious, I tell you what.

Mostly I wanted to report that I have now seen the play King Lear for the first time in my life and I have this horrible and sneaking suspicion that it's a pretty dumb plot. And we'll see if any ravening Shakespeare scholars come to stab my eyes out.

I had read it before and studied it (and read A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley, a terrific book) and so I had expected to enjoy the play, even if I didn't like the production. But the play's the thing--at least I think it's the thing--that ended up rubbing me the wrong way.

Here's the thing: from the get-go, I feel sorry for Regan and Goneril and think Cordelia is not doing herself any favors. Would it hurt her to say, "Dad, you know I love you very much," rather than respond, "Nothing." Ummm...I would wonder, too, and ask for a fuller report. And as Lear promptly kicks her out, I can't help but think that R&G have very good reason for a) dissembling and b) not much caring for the guy. I sympathize with them, too, as he hangs about the house with 100 followers.

And I know everyone will think I am a Philistine when I say the subplot of Edgar caring for his blind father and not saying, "It's me!" really annoyed me. It did not pass the "Would anyone act this way in real life?" test. Yes, yes, yes, drama is not real life but a heightened version of it. Still.

Nothing in the action was able to convince me that people would want to be loyal to Lear. Kent is a faithful retainer indeed, but why? What is the appeal in this man? Certainly it was not clear what he once was or whether he had been anything more than a powerful man.

As the bodies piled up at the end, it made me wonder, "Is Shakespeare just trying to get out of this thing? Is this all about the spectacle of it?"

Was it just a bad production? Perhaps. Have to admit that derisive laughter was probably not the response they were going for. Also have to admit I seemed to be the only one laughing. Still...Lear is going to have to do some very heavy lifting before I see his play again.

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