Sunday, January 17, 2010

King Lear: a Guide, Alistair McCallum

I saw this guide book at the library and grabbed it not knowing anything about it. I have been disappointed in these types of books before so I was so pleasantly surprised that this one turned out to be helpful. I want to buy my own copy and definitely track down any other handbooks in the series.

I liked the helpful summaries of each scene with selected quotes from other commentaries. That led me to wanting to track down the books that were cited. Here are the quotes I found helpful:

"Thus the tragic chain of events is set in motion; the two fathers have renounced the children who love them, and elected to trust the children who will betray them. Each has repudiated the natural bond and, horribly erring, cited 'nature' herself as the authority for his action."
-John Wain, The Living World of Shakespeare, 1964

"For many of us today, King Lear seems the uttermost reach of Shakespeare's achievement. As compared with Hamlet, the nineteenth century's favorite, King Lear speaks of a world more problematical... King Lear's world, like our century, is larger, looser, cruder, crueller."
-Maynard Mack, Everybody's Shakespeare, 1993

"... as any socio-biologist knows, nature is not constructed solely of egotism. The survival of a species depends also upon altruism exercised within the group, generally by parents in favour of their young, but also by individuals in favour of the group. Albany recoils from the savage ethos in which his wife lives, foreseeing both her own destruction and that of the universe itself as a consequence of unbridled self-interest."
-Germaine Greer, Shakespeare, 1986

"Cordelia's tenderness is rooted in the same strength that enabled her to reject Lear's misconceived demands... Her love is of a kind that, confronted with a real demand, does not bargain or make conditions; it is freely given, and it represents an absolute of human experience that can stand against the full shock of disillusion."
-L. C. Knights, King Lear and the Great Tragedies, 1955

"The old Lear died in the storm, The new Lear is born in the scene in which he is reunited with Cordelia. His madness marked the end of the willful, egotistical monarch. He is resurrected as a fully human being... the awakening into life is a painful process."
-Kenneth Muir, Introduction to the Arden Shakespeare edition of King Lear, 1972

"Just as the reconciliation of Lear and Cordelia is one of the most moving moments in English drama, Cordelia's death is surely one of the saddest."
-Alistair McCallum

"Shakespeare did not assemble all the varied materials of this mighty play to leave us, at the end, with a capsule of facile pessimism. In this story of a great offence, expiated by a great suffering, we end at higher point than we began."
-John Wain, The Living World of Shakespeare, 1964

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