Oh, I do love this play! In my review for [b:Hamlet|1420|Hamlet|William Shakespeare|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/419JKV14XEL._SL75_.jpg|1885548], I described the prose as being both beautiful and haunting. I could describe the same for King Lear
, but the tragic style here reminds me more of the hauntingly beautiful prose of Thomas Hardy. I love how Hardy infuses all of those layers of emotion in his writing and how they become linked with choice…that meeting at the crossroads and deciding which road to take, a split second decision and your fate is sealed with no possibility of ever going back. In a way, King Lear follows along a similar path, when he chooses to reject his youngest daughter, Cordelia, and the Earl of Kent, a choice that both directly and indirectly leads to the play’s eventual tragic end.
As a side note, I just love the response Cordelia gives her father to his question, “Which of my daughters loves me the most?”: “I cannot heave my heart in my mouth: I love your majesty according to my bond; nor more, nor less… Good my lord, you have begot me, bred me, lov’d me: I return those duties back as are right fit, obey you, love you, and most honour you. Why have my sisters husbands, if they say they love you all? Haply, when I shall wed, that lord, whose hand must take my plight, shall carry half my love with him, half my care, and duty: sure, I shall never marry like my sisters, to love my father all.” Cordelia’s simple frank honesty is wonderful to read.
Likewise are the scenes with the fool. Compared to the fools/clowns in the other Shakespeare plays I’ve read, there’s an honest comradery between the fool and King Lear. Lear actively seeks the opinions of the fool, enjoys his wit and recognizes the truth in the fool’s statements. It’s like a father-son relationship or the relationship between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
I also love the gall of some of the characters. They’re so brazen in their trickery. Take Edmund, the illegitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester, who’s made love to both of Lear’s elder two daughters: “Which of them shall I take? Both? One? Or neither? Neither can be enjoy’d, if both remain alive.” Truly evil! Yet the Earl of Albany’s final thoughts regarding Edmund are wonderful: “That’s but a trifle here”—a character that can easily be dismissed. This reminded me of a scene in Mel Brook’s film, The Twelve Chairs
when Vorobyaninov says to the priest, “You’re not worth spitting on.” ;)
As in some of Hardy’s novels, I wish there could’ve been a happy ending. But I always end up reverting back to the original: Somehow I don’t think the story would have had the same emotional pull that the ending evokes as written.