domingo, 13 de diciembre de 2020


Ya tenemos fecha para el examen de la primera convocatoria:

 Será el miércoles 20 enero 2021, 17-20h en el aula II Central FYL


Desde principios de diciembre se hace cargo de las clases, a partir del tema 6 (Restoration and 18th-c. drama) el profesor Alfonso Ollero, y la web de apoyo a la asignatura pasará a ser Moodle para esos temas.

Con respecto a los trabajos, podéis entregármelos ya sea a mí (J. A. García Landa) ya sea al prof. Ollero, centrándoos en la obra de vuestra elección (una obra distinta para cada uno de los trabajos). Es preferible que si entregáis trabajos al profesor Ollero se refieran éstos a los temas 6, 7 u 8. Los trabajos pueden entregarse adjuntos por correo electrónico.

Quedo a vuestra disposición para consultas sobre la asignatura en


Terminamos nuestro repaso a las tragedias de Shakespeare con unas notas sobre King Lear.




KING LEAR: Nivel avanzado



El 25-26 N haremos un breve repaso de las tragedias de Shakespeare, centrándonos más en nuestra principal lectura, Macbeth. 

Shakespeare. Macbeth. Folger Theatre / Two River Theater Company, co-directed by Teller and Aaron Posner. YouTube (FolgerLibrary) 25 March 2020.


Hay muchas otras versiones de Macbeth: las clásicas de la BBC,  la más reciente de Justin Kurzel.... (ver bibliografía ). No sé si habréis visto la de Rupert Goold (2010) que ha estado disponible en nuestra web estos días, pero ya está descolgada. Aquí hay algunas más: 

- Macbeth for Grampian TV (1997)

- Macbeth on stage (Bob Jones University, 2020) 

Hay más siguiendo nuestra etiqueta "Macbeth".


Una representación en español:

"La tragedia de Macbeth." (Estudio 1). Shakespeare's drama filmed for TV. With Francisco Piquer, José María Escuer, Margarita Esteban, Carola F. Gómez, Julia Lorente, Vicente Vega, Julio Núñez, José Sepúlveda, Irene Gutiérrez Caba, Tomás Blanco, Julio Navarro, Eduardo Moreno, Víctor Fuentes, Ricardo Merino, Rosario G. Ortega, Pilar Bienert, Félix Dafauce, Ramón Reparaz, José Luis Lespe. TVE, 1966. 
         YouTube (TEATRO) 12 April 2018.*

Hay otra película más clásica aún, la de Orson Welles, de tono expresionista, bastante recomendable. Y pueden verse otras por ahí, con Sean Connery, o con Rupert Goold, bastante peores.




 An audio on Macbeth (BBC In Our Time).



Más crítica shakespeariana—aquí está el libro de A. C. Bradley Shakespearean Tragedy, que comentamos algo en clase—quizá el más influyente libro jamás escrito sobre Shakespeare.  Northrop Frye, a cuya Anatomy of Criticism también me referí, también fue un influyente crítico de Shakespeare en otras obras. Y hoy en día Stephen Greenblatt, Harold Bloom...

Un comentario adicional sobre las "fuerzas enfrentadas" en las tragedias, según Bradley: "Tragedia y dinámica de fuerzas"

Y sobre la teoría aristotélica de la tragedia hay algunas lecciones en mi sitio web Hypercritica.

En la sección sobre crítica clásica, claro.



—one of Shakespeare's 'Roman plays' or historical tragedies.

—unas notas sobre Othello.


Un audio de la BBC (In Our Time) sobre Hamlet:





Sobre algunas tragedias de Shakespeare, varias de ellas representadas en Zaragoza, también he escrito alguna reseña:

- Hamlet marica - Otelo siempre en Alepo - Korol' Lir

Macbeth website at MIT:

 Marjorie Garber,  a lecture on Macbeth:



Aristotle's theory of tragedy in the Poetics (see Introduction): importance of action, of human defects and limitations, of misfortune and wrong choices. Tensions added by kinship (clashing roles).

Catharsis: pity and fear

Rationalism and lack of religious interest in Aristotle's Poetics. Origin of anthropological theories of tragedy.

Myth criticism:

Nietzsche: Apollonian vs. Dionysiac

Gilbert Murray and the seasonal cycle.
Frye's cycle of mythoi (mythos of autumn).

Girard: the tragic protagonist as pharmakos or scapegoat.  Exemplary suffering which rebuilds the community through purgation of a flaw. Regeneration and acceptance of death.

(Cf. the noble death).


Northrop Frye's archetypal theory of tragedy.



Bradley, Shakespearean Tragedy

The substance of tragedy: 
 Historical or legendary subjects.
Tragedy as the story of a person (or 2)

Suffering in contrast to prosperity: as the product of characteristic choices.

Protagonist face obstacles of their own making: emphasis on responsibility and tragic choice.

Characteristic deeds: Abnormality, the supernatural, etc. are marginal.

Chance is prominent (linked to unforeseeability, failure of plans and multiple consequences of actions): Fate only in that sense

Actions leading to conflict: both external and internal conflicts mirror each other.

Ruling passions or obsessions (hamartia) leading to wrong choices. Villain-heroes.

No divine order: a human world which involves the destruction of both good and evil.

Structure of conflict: stability  - evil impulse disturbs order - Reaction involving destruction of both evil and good involved with it.

E.g. Macbeth.

See also Bradley on the rhythm of Shakespeare plays: alternation of scenes of tension and calm. 








An early tragedy, and a bit of "Bad Shakespeare"—which can be very good indeed.

Julie Taymor's film version of Titus Andronicus.



“KING HENRY V” by William Shakespeare

jueves, 10 de diciembre de 2020

Stephen Greenblatt on KING LEAR



From The Norton Shakespeare:




You have, King James told his eldest son a few years before Shakespeare wrote King Lear, a double obligation to love God: first because He made you a man, and second because he made you "a little God to sin on his Throne, and rule over other men." Whatever the realities of Renaissance kingship—realities that included the stem necessity of compromise, reciprocity, and restraint—the idea of sovereignty was closely linked to fantasies of divine omnipotence. From his exalted height, the sovereign looked down upon the tiny figures of the ordinary mortals below him. Their hopes, the material conditions of their miserable existence, their names, were of little interest, and yet the king knew that they too were looking back up at him. "For Kings being public persons," James uneasily acknowledged, are set "upon a public stage, in the sight of all the people; where all the beholders' eyes are attentively bent to look and pry in the least circumstance of their secretist drifts." Under such circumstances, the sovereign's dream was to command, like God, not only unquestioning obedience but unqualified love.

In King Lear, Shakespeare explores the dark consequences of this dream not only in the state but also in the family, where the Renaissance father increasingly styled himself "a little God." If, as the play opens, the aged Lear, exercising his imperious will and demanding professions of devotion, is "every inch a king," he is also by the same token every inch a father, the absolute ruler of a family that conspicuously lacks the alternative authority of a mother. Shakespeare's play invokes this royal and paternal sovereignty only to chronicle its destruction in scenes of astonishing cruelty and power. The very words "every inch a king" are spoken not by the confident figure of supreme authority whom we glimpse in the first moments but by the ruined old man who perceives in his feverish rage and madness that the fantasy of omnipotence is a fraud: "When the rain came to wet me once, and the wind to make me chatter; when the thunder would not peace at my bidding, there I found'em, there I smelt 'em out. Go to, they are not men o' their words. They told me I was everything; 'tis a lie, I am not ague-proof" (4.5.98-102; all quotations, except where noted, are from The Tragedy of King Lear).

"They told me I was everything": Shakespeare's culture continually staged public rituals of deference to authority. These rituals—kneeling, bowing, uncovering the head, and so forth—enacted respect for wealth, cast, power, and, at virtually every level of society, age, Jacobean England had a strong official regard fro the rights and privileges of age. It told itself that, by the will of God and the natural order of things, authority gravitated to old men, and it contrived to ensure that this proper, sacrified arrangement of society be everywhere respected. 

"'Tis a lie": Shakespeare's culture continually told itself at the same time that without the control of property and the threat of punishment, any claim to authority was chillingly vulnerable to the ruthless ambitions of the young, the restless, and the discontented. The incessant, ritualized spectacles of sovereignty have a nervous air, as if no one quite believed all the grand claims to divine sanction for the rule of kings and fathers, as if those who ruled both states and families secretly feared that the elaborate hiararchical structure could vanish like a mirage exposing their shivering, defenseless bodies, King Lear relentlessly stages this horrifying descent toward what the ruined King, contemplating the filthy, naked body of a mad beggar, calls "the thing itself": "Unaccomodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal as thou art" (3.4.95-97). Lear and the Earl of Gloucester, another old man whose terrible fate closely parallels Lear's, repeatedly look up at the heavens and call upon the gods for help, but the gods are silent. The despairing Gloucester concludes that the universe is actively malevolent—"As flies to wanton boys are we to th'gods / They kill us for their sport" (4.1.37-38)—but the awful silence of the gods may equally be a sign of their indifference or their nonexistence. 

The story of King Lear and his three daughters had been often told when Shakespeare undertook to make it the subject of a tragedy. The play, performed at court in December 1605, was probably written and first performed somewhat earlier, though not before 1603, since it contains allusions to a book published in that year.  The book is Samuel Harsnett's Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures, a florid piece of anti-Catholic propaganda from which Shakespeare took the colorful names of the "foul fiends" by whom the mad beggar claims to be possessed. Thus scholars generally assign Shakespeare's composition of King Lear to 1604-5, shortly after Othello (c. 1603-4) and before Macbeth (c. 1606): an astounding succession of tragic masterpieces.

King Lear first appeared in print in a quarto published in 1608 entitled M. William Shak-speare His Historie, of King Lear; a substantially different text, entiled The Tragedie of King lear and grouped with the other tragedies, was printed in the 1623 First Folio. From the eighteenth century, when the difference between the two texts was first noted, editors, assuming that they were imperfect versions of the identical play, customarily conflated them, blending together the approximately one hundred Folio lines not printed in the quarto with the approximately three hundred quarto lines not printed in the Folio and selecting as best they could among the hundreds of particular alternative readings. But there is a growing scholarly consensus that the 1608 text of Lear represents the play as Shakespeare first wrote it and that of the 1623 text represents a substantial revision. (See the Textual Note for further discussion.) Since this revision includes significant structural changes as well as many local details, the two texts provide a precious opportunity to glimpse Shakespeare's creative process as an artist and the collaborative work of his theater company. Accordingly, the Norton Shakespeare prints The History of King Lear and The Tragedy of King Lear on facing pages; in addition, a modern conflated version of the play follows, so that readers will be able to judge for themselves the effects of the familiar editorial practice of stitching together the two texts.

When King Lear was first performed, it may have struck contemporaries as strangely timely in the wake of a lawsuit that had occurred in late 1603. The two elder daughters of a doddering gentleman named Sir Brian Annesley attempted to get their father legally certified as insane, thereby enabling themselves to take over his estate, while his youngest daughter vehemently protested on her father's behalf. The youngest daughter's name happened to be Cordell, a name uncannily close to that of Lear's youngest daughters, Cordelia, who tries to save her father from the malevolent designs of her older sisters.

The Annesley case is worth invoking not only because it may have caught Shakespeare's attention but also because it directs our own attention to the ordinary family tensions and fears around which King Lear, for all of its wildness, violence, and strangeness, is constructed. Though the Lear story has the mythic quality of a folktale (specifically, it resembles both the tale of Cinderella and the tale of a daughter who falls into disfavor for telling her father she loves him as much as salt), it was rehearsed in Shakespeare's time as a piece of authentic British history from the very ancient past (c. 800 B.C.) and as an admonition to contemporary fathers not to put too much trust in the flattery of their children: "Remember what happened to old King Lear. . ." In some versions of the story, including Shakespeare's, the warning centers on a decision to retire.

Retirement has come to seem a routine event, but in the patriarchal, gerontocratic culture of Tudor and Stuart England, it was generally shunned. When through illness or extreme old age it became unavoidable, retirement put a severe strain on the politics and psychology of deference by driving a wedge between status—what Lear at society's pinnacle calls "the name and all th'addition to a king" (1.1.134)—and power. In both the state and the family, the strain could be somewhat eased by transferring power to the eldest legitimate male successor, but as the families of both the legendary Lear and the real Brian Annesley showed, such a successor did not always exist. In the absence of a male heir, the aged Lear, determined to "shake all cares and business" from himself and confer them on "younger strengths," attempts to divide his kingdom equally among his daughters so that, as he puts it, "future strife / May be prevented now" (1.1.37-38, 42-43). But this attempt is a disastrous failure. Critics have often argued that the roots of the failure lie in the division of the kingdom, that any parceling out of the land on a map would itself have provoked in the audience an ominous shudder, as it is clearly meant to do when the rebels spread out a map in anticipation of a comparable division in 1 Henry IV. Early seventeenth-century audiences had reason to fear the dissolution of the realm into competing fragments. But the focus of Shakespeare's tragedy seems to lie elsewhere: Lear's folly is not that he retires or that he divides his kingdom—the play opens with the Earl of Glucester and the Earl of Kent commenting without apparent disapproval on the scrupulous equality of the shares—but rather that he rashly disinherits the only child who truly loves him, his youngest daughter.

Shakespeare contrives moreover to show that the problem with which his characters are grappling does not simply result from the absence of a son and heir. In his most brilliant and complex use of a double plot, he intertwines the story of Lear and his three daughters with the story of Gloucester and his two sons, a tale he adapted from an episode in Sir Philip Sidney's prose romance Arcadia. Gloucester has a legitimate heir, his elder son Edgar, as well as an illegitimate son, Edmond, and in this family the tragic conflict originates not in an unusual manner of transferring property from one generation to another but rather in the reverse: Edmond seethes with murderous resentment at the disadvantage entirely customary for someone in his position, both as a younger son and as what was called a "base" or "natural" child. "Thou, nature, art my goddess," he declares:

                                Wherefore should I

Stand in the plague of custom and permit

The curiosity of nations to deprive me

For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines

Lag of a brother? Why 'bastard'? Wherefore 'base'?


For Edmond, the social order and the language used to articulate it are merely arbitrary constraints, obstacles to the triumph of his will. He schemes to tear down the obstaclesby playing on his father's fears, cleverly planting a forged letter in which his older brother appears to be plotting against his father's life. The letter's chilling sentences express Edmond's own impatience, his hatred of the confining power of custom, his disgusted observation of "the oppression of aged tyranny, who sways not as it hath power but as it is suffered"(1.2.48-49). Gloucester is predictably horrified and incensed; these are, as Edmond cunningly knows, the cold sentiments that the aged fear lie just beneath the surface of deference and flattery. The forged letter reflects back as well on the scene in which Gloucester himself has just participated: a scene in which everyone, with the exception of the Earl of Kent, has tamely suffered a tyrannical old man to banish his youngest daughter for her failure to flatter him.

Why does Lear, who has already drawn up the map dividing the kingdom, stage the love test? In Shakespeare's principal source, an anonymous play called The True Chronicle History of King Lear (published in 1605 but dating from 1594 or earlier), there is a gratifyingly clear answer. Leir's strong-willed daugher Cordella has vowed that she will only marry a man whom she herself lovers. Leir wishes her to marry the man he chooses for his own dynastic purposes. He stages the love test, anticipating that in competing with her sisters Cordella will declare that she loves her father best, at which point Leir will demand that she prove her love by marrying the suitor of his choice. The stratagem backfires, but its purpose is clear. 

By stripping his character of a comparable motive, Shakespeare makes Lear's act seem stranger, at once more arbitrary and more rooted in deep psychological needs. His Lear is a man who has determined to retire from power but who cannot endure dependence. Unwilling to lose his identity as an absolute authority, both in the state and in the family, he arranges a public ritual—"Which of you shall we say doth love us most?" (1.1.49)—whose aim seems to be to allay his own anxiety by arousing it in his children. Since the shares have already been apportioned, Lear evidently wants his daughters to engage in a competition for his bounty without having to endure any of the actual consequences of such a competition; he wants, that is, to produce in them something like the effect of theater, where emotions run high and their practical effects are negligible. But in this absolutist theater Cordelia refuses to perform. "What shall Cordelia speak? Love and be silent" (1.1.60). When she says "Nothing," a word that echoes darkly through the play, lear hears what he most dreads: emptiness, loss of respect, the extinction of identity. And when, under further interrogation, she declares that she loves her father "according to my bond" (1.1.91), Lear understands these words too to be the equivalent of "nothing."

As Cordelia's subsequent actions demonstrate, his youngest daughter's bond is in reality a sustaining, generous love, but it is a love that ultimately leads her to her death. Here Shakespeare makes an even more startling departure not only from The True Chronicle History of King Leir but from all his known sources. The earliest of these, the account in Geoffrey of Monmouth's twelfth-century Historia Regum Britanniae, sets the pattern repeated in John Higgins's Mirror for Magistrates (1574 edition), William Warner's Albion's England (1586), Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland (2nd ed., 1587) and Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene (1590, 2.10.27-32): the aged Lear is overthrown by his wicked daughters and their husbands, but he is restored to the throne by the army of his good daughter's husband, the King of France. The story then is one of loss and restoration: Lear resumes his reign, and when, "made ripe for death" by old age, as Spenser puts it, he dies, he is succeeded by Cordelia. The conclusion is not unequivocally happy; in all of the known cronicles, Cordelia rules worthily for several years, and then, after being deposed and imprisoned by her nephews, in despair commits suicide. But Shakespeare's ending is unprecedented in its tragic devastation. When in Act 5 Lear suddenly enters with the lifeless body of Cordelia in his arms, the original audience, secure in the expectation of a very different resolution, must have been doubly shocked, a shock cruelly reinforced when the signs that she might be reviving—"This feather stirs. She lives" (5.3.239)—all prove false. Lear apparently dies in the grip of the illusion that he detects some breath on his daughter's lips, but we know that Cordelia will, as he says a moment earlier, "come no more. / Never, never, never, never, never"(5.3.283-84).

Those five reiterated words, the bleakest pentameter line Shakespeare ever wrote, are the climax of an extraordinary poetics of despair that is set in motion when Lear disinherits Cordelia and when Gloucester credits Edmond's lies about Edgar. King Lear has seemed to many modern readers and audiences the greatest of Shakespeare's tragedies precisely because of its anguished look into the heart of darkness, but its vision of sufering and evil has not always commanded unequivocal admiration. In the eighteenth century, Samuel Johnson wrote, "I was many years ago so shocked by Cordelia's death that I know not whether I ever endured to read again the last scenes of the play till I undertook to revise them as an editor." Johnson's contemporaries preferred a revision of Shakespeare's tragedy undertaken in 1681 by Nahum Tate. Finding the play "a Heap of Jewels, unstrung, and unpolisht," Tate proceeded to restring them in order to save Cordelia's life and to produce the unambiguous and happy triumph of the forces of good.

Only in the nineteenth century was Shakespeare's deeply pessimistic ending—the old generation dead or dying, the survivors shaken to the core, the ruling families all broken with no impending marriage to promise renewal—generally restored to theatrical performance and the tragedy's immense power fully acknowledged. Even passionate admirers of King Lear, however, continued to express deep uneasiness, repeatedly noting not only its unberably painful close but also what Johnson first called the "improbability of Lear's conduct" and Samuel Taylor Coleridge termed the plot's "glaring absurdity." Above all, critics questioned whether the tragedy was suitable for the stage. Coleridge compared the suffering Lear to one of Michelangelo's titanic figures, but the grandeur invoked by the comparison led his contemporary Charles Lamb to conclude flatly that "Lear is essentially impossible to be represented on stage." "To see Lear acted," Lamb wrote, "to see an old man tottering about the stage with a walking stick, turned out of doors by his daughters in a rainy night, has nothing in it but what is painful and disgusting." In such a view, King Lear could only be staged successfully in the imagination; there alone would Lear's passion be perceived not like ordinary human suffering but rather, in the marvelous characterization of another Romantic critic, William Hazlitt, "like a sea, swelling, chafing, raging, without bound, without hope, without beacon, or anchor." In the theater of the mind, Shakespeare's play  could assume its true, stupendous proportions, enabling the reader to grasp its ultimate meaning. That meaning, the great early twentieth-century critic A. C. Bradley wrote, is that we must "renounce the world, hate it, and lose it gladly. The only real thing in it is the soul, with its courage, patience, devotion. And nothing outward can touch that." Splendid, but what about the body?

A succession of brilliant stage performances and, more recently, films has not only belied the view that King Lear is intractable but also underscored the crucial importance in the play of the body. If Shakespeare explores the extremes of the mind's anguish and the soul's devotion, he nerver forgets that his characters have bodies as well, bodies that have needs, cravings, and terrible vulnerabilities. When in this trageddy characters fall from high station, they plunge unprotected into a world of violent storms, murderous cruelty, and physical horror. The old King wanders raging on the heath, through a wild night of thunder and rain. Disguised as Poor Tom, a mad beggar possessed by demons, Gloucester's son Edgar enacts a life of utmost degradation: "Poor Tom, that eats the swimming frog, the toad, the tadpole, the wall-newt and the water; that in the fury of his heart, when the foul fiend rages, eats cowdung for salds, swallows the old rat and the ditch-dog, drinks the green mantle of the standing pool" (3.4.115-19). Gloucester's fate is even more terrible: betrayed by his son Edmond, he is seized in his own house by Lear's reptilian daughter Regan and her husband, Cornwall, tied to a chair, brutally interrogated, blinded, and then thrust bleeding out of doors. 

Mortal anguish in King Lear, then, is closely intertwined with physical anguish; the terrifying forces that are released by Lear's folly crash down upon both body and soul just as the storm that rages on the heath seems at once an objective event and a symbolic representation of Lear's innermot being. The greatest expression of this intertwining in the play is Lear's madness, which brings together a devastating loss of identity, a relentless, radical assault on the hypocrisies of authority, and a demented, nauseated loathing of female sexuality. The loathing culminates in a fit of retching—"Fie, fie, fie; pah, pah!"—followed by Lear's delusional attempt to find a physical remedy for his psychic pain: "Give me an ounce of civet, good apothecary, sweeten my imagination" (4.5.123-24). In fact, relief from the chaotic rage of madness comes in the wake of a deep, restorative sleep and a change of garments.

The body in King Lear is a site not only of abject misery, nausea, and pain but of care and a nascent moral awareness. In the midst of his mad ravings, Lear turns to the shivering Fool and asks, "Art cold?" (3.2.67). The simple question anticipates his recognition a few moments later that there is more suffering in the world than his own. 

Poor naked wretches, wheresoe'er you are,

That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,

How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,

Your looped and windowed raggedness, defend you

From seasons such as these? O, I have ta'en

Too little care of this.


And if the world seems largely unjust and indifferent to human suffering, there are nonetheless throughout the play constant manifestations of generosity of body as well as soul. "Help me, help me!" cries the frightened Fool, to which Kent (disguised in order to serve the King who has banished him) says simply, "Give me thy hand" (3.4.39-40). "What are you?" says the blind Gloucester to the son he has unjustly disinherited, to which the son, also in disguise, replies similarly, "Give me your hand" (4.5.213, 216). (In a moving moment from The History of King Lear, absent from the Folio version, two of Gloucester's servants not only react with horror to their master's blinding but also resolve to assist him: "Go thou. I'll fetch some flax and whites of eggs / To apply to his bleeding face. Now heaven help him! [14.103-4].) Such signs of goodness and empathy do not outweigh the harshness of the physical world of the play, let alone cancel out the vicious cruelty of certain of its inhabitants, but they do qualify its moral bleakness.

It is possible to detect in King Lear one of the great structural rhythms of Christianity: a passage through suffering, humiliation, and pain to a transcendent wisdom and love. Lear's initial actions were blind and selfish, but he comes to acknowledge his folly and, in an immensely poignant scene, to kneel down before the daughter he has wronged. Gloucester too learns that he was blind, even when his eyes could see, and he passes, by means of Edgar's strange description of the imaginary cliff, from suicidal despair to patien resignation. "Men must endure / Their going hence even as their coming hither," Edgar wisely counseled his father. "Ripeness is all" (5.2.9-11). For a time, evil seems to flourish in the world, but the wicked do not ultimately triumph. The sadistic Duke of Cornwall is fatally wounded by his own morally upright servant, Edmond is killed by the brother he had tried to destroy, the loathsome Oswald is clubbed to death trying to murder Gloucester, one wicked sister poisons the other and then kills herself. Against self-interest and in the face of intolerable pressure, goodness shines forth. The earl of Kent, banished by the rash Lear, dons a disguise in order to serve his king and master, and there are comparable acts devoted service and self-sacrificing love from Edgar, Cordelia, and that remarkable figure the Fool. In one of the comic masterpieces of the sixteenth century, The Praise of Folly, the great Dutch humanist Erasmus used the fool as an emblem of the deepest Christian wisdom, revealed only when the pride, cruelty, and ambition of the world are shattered by a cleansing laughter.The shattering in King Lear is tragically violent and deadly, but the presence of the truth-telling Fool seems to point toward a comparable revelation.

Yet King Lear, set in a pagan world, resists the redemptive optimism that underlies the Christian vision (an optimism that led Dante to call his poem of damnation and salvation The Divine Comedy). The Fool's unnervingly perceptive observations sound far more corrosive than loving—he is, in Lear's words, "a bitter fool" (1.4.122)—and he disappears altogether in the third act. His moments of insight and those of all the other characters in the play are radically unstable, like brilliant flashes of lightning in a vast, dark landscape. Hence, for example, Lear's recognition of his folly in banishing Cordelia for her "most small fault" (1.4.228) is immediately followed by his hideous cursing of Goneril. His moving acknowledgement of the suffering of the poor naked wretches is immediately followed by his inability to see the poor naked wretch before him in any terms but his own: "Didst thou give all to thy two daughters, /And art thou come to this?" (3.4.47-48). And his appeal to patient resignation—"When we are born, we cry that we are come / To this great stage of fools" (3.5.172-173)—is immediately followed by a mad fantasy of revenge: "The kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill!" Every time we seem to have reached firm moral ground, the ground shifts, and we are kept, as Johnson observed, in "a perpetual tumult of indignation, pity, and hope." There are moments of apparent resolution: "Let's away to prison," says Lear to the weeping Cordelia, when they are captured by the enemy. "We two alone will sing like birds i'th'cage" (5.3.8-9). But a more terrible fate lies before them. "Some good I mean to do," says the dhying Edmond, "despite of mine own nature" (5.3.217-18). But his attempt to send a reprieve and therefore in some measure to reedeem himself comes too late. The play's nightmarish events continually lurch ahead of intentions, and even efforts to say "I have seen the worst" are frustrated. 

The tragedy is not only that the intervals of moral resolution, mental lucidity, and spiritual calm are so brief, continually giving way to feverish grief and rage, but also that the modest human understandings, moving in their simplicity, cost such an enormous amount of pain. Edgar saves his father from despair but also in some sense breaks his father's heart. Cordelia's steadfast honesty, her refusal to flatter the father she loves, is admirable but has disastrous consequences, and her attempt to save Lear only leads to her own death. For a sublime moment, Lear actually sees his daughter, understands her separateness, acknowledges her existence—


    Do not laugh at me;

For as I am a man, I think this lady

To be my child, Cordelia—


but it has taken the destruction of virtually his whole world for him to reach this recognition (4.6.61-63).

An apocalyptic dream of last judgment and redemption hovers over the entire tragedy, but it is a dream forever deferred. At the sight of the howling Lear with the dead Cordelia in his arms, the bystanders can only ask a succession of stunned questions:

KENT                 Is this the promised end?

EDGAR    Or image of that horror?


Lear's own question a moment later seems the most terrible and the most important: "Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life, / And thou no breath at all?" (5.3.281-82). It is a sign of King Lear's astonishing freedom from orthodoxy that it refuses to offer any of the conventional answers to this question, anwers that largely serve to conceal or deflect the mourner's anguish. Shakespeare's tragedy asks us not to turn away from evil, folly, and unbearable human pain but, seeing them face-to-face, to strengthen our capacity to endure and to love.

 Stephen Greenblatt


domingo, 6 de diciembre de 2020


Titus. Dir. Julie Taymor. Screenplay by Julie Taymor, based on Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus. Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Lange, Alan Cumming, Colm Feore, James Frain, Laura Fraser, Harry Lennix, Angus MacFadyen, Matthew Rhys, Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Urania Pictures and NDF International Production. Casting by Irene Lamb and ellen Lewis. Ed. Françoise Bonnot. Costume des. Milena Canonero. Prod. des. Dante Ferretti. Photog. Luciano Tovoli. Music by Elliot Goldenthal. Co-prod. Adam Leipzig and Michiyo Yoshizaki. Co-exec. prod. Ellen Little, Robert Little, Stephen K. Bannon. Exec. prod. Paul G. Allen. Prod. Jody Patton, Conchita Airoldi and Julie Taymor. USA: Clear Blue Sky, 1999.

Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus (Project Gutenberg).

Dr Kat and Shakespeare's Henry V


Ya tenemos fecha para el examen de la primera convocatoria:  Será el miércoles 20 enero 2021, 17-20h en el aula II Central ...