In Wednesday's lesson we looked at a Band 6 essay. We considered the aspects that need to be included in your own essays. You also thought about criticism and how that will be integrated into an essay. It is essential that you consider different interpretations in you writing; your own interpretations are, of course, valuable.
We discussed 3.7. where Gloucester is horribly assaulted, both physically and verbally. He is bound like a baited bear, Jacobean audiences could have recognised this as bears were chained near the playhouse and savaged by dogs for entertainment. Goneril and Regan seem like barking, relentless dogs in this scene.
We discussed how it was usual for scenes that contained extreme violence like this to take place off stage in Jacobean times. It would have been shocking then, as it is to audiences now. Even if Gloucester has his back to the audience, the physical violence is evident in Cornwall's 'upon these eyes of thine I'll set my foot'. The intervention of the good servant brings hope to the scene, but that hope is brutally snatched away as Regan stabs him in the back. Gloucester calls for Edmund's help, but Regan reveals his son's betrayal. At this point, the irony is bitter; Gloucester's metaphorical blindness is lifted as his he is blinded.
We also looked closely at the final scenes in Act 5. The military regalia and drums heighten the dramatic tension as we move to the denouement. The sexual rivalry between the sisters is revealed as Edgar gives Albany the letter. Edmund's soliloquy in the first scene reveal his duplicity and thirst for power. He reveals that Goneril will need to kill Albany, after he has made use of his army, and reveal his intention to kill Lear and Cordelia (lines 57-8).
Scene 2 is bleak. The image of a blind, helpless old man is striking on the stage.
Edmund enters triumphantly in the final scene. Lear's romantic, hopeful ideas of his and Cordelia's captivity are hollow given the dramatic irony of Edmund's intentions. The hopeful image created by Lear is undercut with Edmund's curt order to 'take them away'.
Regan declares her intention to marry Edmund. In the lines 68-72 her language is filled with the language of military surrender. As the love triangle is exposed (Albany allows all three to implicate themselves before he takes action) Albany's address switches sarcastically from the familiar thee and thy to the formal you and your.
The duel between Edgar and Edmund is interesting in terms of performance. It could be a slick, chivalrous performance or a savage fight to the death. What would the impact upon the audience of different performances be?
As Edmund lies dying on stage justice seems to have been done. Good is rewarded and evil is killed. As Edmund says, the 'wheel [of fortune] has come full circle'. Does this offer some hope?
As the sisters die off stage (Regan poisoned and Goneril kills herself), Albany orders that their bodies are brought out and are one stage for the rest of the scene, perhaps as a visual reminder of death and conventional for the genre.
Lear's performance at this point desperate. He enters with Cordelia's body cradles in his arms. Jacobeans could have recognised this image as similar to a pieta and understood it to be a Christian symbol of redemption. Obviously, Shakespeare consciously intending this religious reference is speculative. It is full of desperate grief though as Lear tries to find signs of life in her body and dies trying to do so. Looking to see if her lips move could link back to the fort scene Whether or not Lear dies thinking Cordelia lives is up to the audience.
Traditionally good would be rewarded, justice would be done and the evil punished at the end of a play. Is it a nihilistic ending? Edgar ascends the throne, but do we think he'll be a worthy King? Indeed the ending was so bleak that it was given a happy ending for many years - simply too tragic for many. (Research Nahum Tate's rewriting.) The Folio ends with 'exeunt with a dead march' suggesting a funereal procession of the dead. Performance of this in modern times omits this death march and use stillness and silence for impact.
I am aware I am going on somewhat, it's just because I love it!
I'm going to post a bit of criticism, but given the boundaries of time and life this won't be on until Saturday. Do some research yourself online. There are many fascinating articles available.
YOU MUST bring your essay to Wednesday's lesson. Email it to yourself, but absolutely ensure that you have a copy to work on in class. Here, we'll add some criticism in (like we did with the essay yesterday). It would therefore be advantageous if your work is typed as it will allow you to amend your work easily.
Finally, at least for now, it's nearly Christmas! I realise you're working hard, but you will have a break over the holidays. Any cake, Christmas biscuits etc. that you would like to bake/buy and bring to our lesson I'm sure will be appreciated!
Have a good weekend,