King Lear: mad or something else?

Yesterday, I discussed the use of “mad” and “madness” in King Lear. And back in February of last year, when I was discussing Twelfth Night, I delved into the use “mad”-related language in that play. Back then, when I was diving into the concordance findings for “mad” language (and that play), I had somehow ignored King Lear altogether.

At that point, I noted

When you tally up the columns, you find that while Hamlet has the most “mad/distract” references in the Canon (as we’ll see over the course of the next couple of months, this should come as no surprise as the main character claims to be feigning madness throughout the play), Twelfth Night isn’t too far behind (with the mad confusion of the double set of twins in The Comedy of Errors making frequent reference to the concept as well).

Well, now if you take into account King Lear, you find that this play–with a mad king and a character also feigning madness–still falls a distant fourth behind the melancholy Dane and the two mad-character-less comedies.

word Twelfth Night Comedy of Errors Hamlet King Lear
mad 22 (21) 25 (19) 21 (18) 17 (14)
mads (verb) 1 (1) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1 (1)
madly 0 (0) 2 (2) 0 (0) 0 (0)
madma(e)n 7 (7) 2 (2) 0 (0) 4 (4)
madness 6 (5) 2 (2) 22 (18) 4 (4)
sub-total 36 (34) 31 (25) 43 (36) 26 (23)
distract- 4 (4) 2 (2) 6 (6) 1 (1)
total 40 (38) 33 (27) 49 (42) 27 (24)

What to make of that?

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King Lear: What, art mad?

The play King Lear asks some very interesting questions in regards to madness: What is madness? What does it mean to be mad? But reading the play forces us today to ask if what we consider to be madness is what is meant by Shakespeare and his characters when they use the term.

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Podcast 128: King Lear: Bawdy, plus Nothing


[WARNING: The the first half of the following podcast contains adult language, sexual imagery, and stuff to make you say, “Man, that’s a dirty play.” You HAVE been warned. SKIP TO THE 10:10 MARK IF EASILY OFFENDED.]


This week’s podcast continues our three month-long discussion of King Lear with a look at bawdy in the play, then in in the second half we’ll talk about nothing.

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Burgundy and France, or France and Burgundy

Today, just a couple of quick King Lear questions (with only tentative answers)…

In the opening scene, before it all heads downhill, there are two suitors for Cordelia, the princes of France and Burgundy…

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King Lear: I’ve got my eye on you

The last week or so, I’ve been playing around with the concordance (a reference material that counts and chronicles every use of particular word within a collection of works. For use in this blog, I like to use the one over at OpenSource Shakespeare.). So far, we’ve looked at nature and nothing. And today I want to look at what many see as primary motif in King Lear: vision and eyesight.

I checked out the usages of the following eyesight-related terms (and their variants): eye, see, watch, behold, spy, vision, and blind. And King Lear is the winner. In Lear, those phrases are used in 142 speeches. By comparison, our second and third place plays (The Winter’s Tale and Hamlet) are nearly tied with 140 and 139 speech appearances, respectively. That’s not exactly a landslide.

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CONTEST TIME (a gentle reminder)

For those of you who have been truant the last couple of weeks, you may have missed an announcement made last week: we have a fun little contest for May, and one heckuva prize to tempt you into playing.

It’s a simple question, really:

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King Lear: Nothing from nothing leaves nothing

In another of my ongoing series of concordance entries, today I want to take a look at nothing in King Lear. I’m not shirking my duties and going all Bartleby the Srivener on you, dear readers–I’m not going to fail to look at anything. No, I’m going to look at “nothing.”

A quick reminder for any first-time guests to this blog. A concordance is a reference material that counts and chronicles every use of particular word within a collection of works. For use in this blog, I like to use the one over at OpenSource Shakespeare.

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King Lear: Love (not) and Marriage

We tend to focus so much on the daughters in King Lear (and rightly so) that we may not be paying enough attention to their marriages and their husbands. After all, the very first line of the play questions Lear’s preferment of Albany or Cornwall.

Yes, I know this is one of the so-called quiet beginnings, one that allows an audience to ease into the play, one that doesn’t announce its presence with authority (some might say, “to talk over the dialogue before settling down”), but the words are still there, and even in Lear’s opening speech, he speaks of Cornwall and Albany before mentioning his as-yet-unnamed “daughters” (I.i.43). It’s not until the end of that opening speech that we get an name of one: “Goneril” (I.i.52).

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The Guardian Shakespeare Solo: Edmund

A couple of months back, I wrote about the release by the British newspaper The Guardian of what they’ve been calling “Shakespeare Solos” — short films of soliloquies and set speeches from the Bard, recited by British actors. At that point, I shared what I considered to be a pretty subtle performance of the storm speech from King Lear, as performed by Roger Allam.

But now there’s a new one…

 Riz Ahmed as Edmund in King Lear: ‘Now, gods, stand up for bastards’ by The Guardian
Riz Ahmed as Edmund in King Lear: ‘Now, gods, stand up for bastards’ by The Guardian

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