«by JANE ELIZABETH KINGSLEY-SMITH A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Arts of the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY The ...»
Exile will not be the suffering from 'dis-eases of the world' Lear envisages. Rather, the Earl 38 The exact amount of time allowed for Kent's departure varies in Quarto and Folio texts. The Quarto allows four days so that Kent must leave on the fifth, whilst the Folio marks out five days for preparation with Kent leaving on the sixth. Both texts refer to Kent's death if he is discovered in the kingdom on the tenth day. The Oxford Complete Works replaces this apparent error with 'next day' in the Quarto and 'seventh day' in the Folio. For the reasoning behind these revisions see William Shakespeare: A Textual Companion by Stanley Wells, Gary Taylor, John Jowett and William Montgomery (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), 532. In connection with this passage, I would refute Harold Jenkins' suggestion that the sentences of banishment upon Alcibiades in Timon of Athens and upon Kent are significantly alike. To observe any similarity is to ignore the existence of a formula for banishment which Shakespeare follows in all the plays included in this study. Within that formula, the two sentences have very little in common. See - Kent and Alcibiades and the Dating of Timon of Athens' in KM80: A Birthday Album for Kenneth Mitir (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1987), 78-9.
declares, 'Freedom lives hence, and banishment is here' (171). 39 Once more, the boundaries Lear has imposed between Culture and the Wild are reversed. Furthermore, Kent argues that he need not be diminished by exile, reduced to a 'hated back', a 'banished trunk', but will remain himself: Thus Kent, O princes, bids you all adieu;/ He'll shape his old course in a country new1 (176-7). The use of the third person singular may contradict this declaration, implying a divorce between speaker and subject but it may also express Kent's integrity which will allow him to put on a disguise without fear of dissolution. He becomes the chorus to his own drama.
Just as Kent's reference to freedom may remind us of Celia's maxim in As You Like It, so pastoral consolations are built in to the first acts of banishment in King Lear.40 The tragedy draws upon the conventions which have been seen to define pastoral exile: a quest for liberty, disguise as a means of achieving love, social-climbing through marginalisation. Cordelia's marriage to France and Kent's promise to remain constant to Lear through disguise both partake of these conventions. Cordelia immediately finds love through being outcast. It is this that stirs France's passion for her. Kent uses disguise to remain true to his master in the tradition of the romance that sees a man adopt the identity of a servant to prove his fidelity, as in the plays The Fair Maid of Bristol (1604) or the Timon comedy (1602). 41 Turner describes 39 The Fool offers a similar interpretation of Cordelia's exile. He says of the King. 'Why. this fellow hath banished two on's daughters and done the third a blessing against his will' (4.98-100). See also the account in Seneca's Ad Helviam of Brutus' visit to the exiled Marcellus. Brutus is quoted as saying, 'I seemed rather to be going into exile myself when I had to return without him, than to be leaving him in exile', 332.
40 On the pastoral structure of the play - banishment, a sojourn in the wild, a return to society - and on various other romance motifs see Young, The Heart's Forest, 73-103, and Snyder, The Comic Matrix, 137-79.
41 In the former, Harbart argues with his young friend, Sentloe, over the latter's relationship with a courtesan.
Angered, Sentloe tells him to quit his company causing Harbart to disguise himself as a serving-man and to follow his friend to Bristol where he finds employment with him. This disguise will be a proof of his friendship.
The Faire Maide ofBristow ed. by Arthur Hobson Quinn (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1902), 1.3.13 1-4. Similarly, in the anonymous comedy Timon, Laches is dismissed by the now bankrupt protagonist but chooses to continue with him by adopting the disguise of a soldier: 'My face I have disfigured, that unknovvne/1 may againe be plac'd in Timons howse', Narrative and Dramatic Sources vol. 6, 297-339, 2.1how these conventions are based on universal psychological strategies for dealing with injustice.42 If such fantasies console the exiled character, they give the audience reason to hope, creating the expectation of the exile's final recognition and restoration to his place in society. Familiarity with The True Chronicle Historie of King Leir, and indeed with any retelling of the Lear story, might have confirmed these assumptions.
Yet Shakespeare's play is not primarily concerned with these exiles but with the state, deprived and depraved by the banishments of Cordelia and Kent. Leah Scragg perceives a stark opposition between the 'regenerative potentialities of the outcast state' in As You Like It and King Lear's focus on government and the 'negative aspects of proscription'. 43 The banishments of Cordelia and Kent are interpreted as prophetic, not merely of the state's corruption, but of something more ominous. In scene 2, Gloucester enters stunned at the news that Kent is banished, France departed in anger and Lear already dispossessed of power. But it is to the banishment of Kent that the Earl keeps returning. When he hears of Edgar's supposed treachery. Gloucester reflects upon 'the late eclipses of the sun and moon' which
Love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide; in cities mutinies, in countries discords, palaces treason, the bond cracked between son and father.
(2.106-9) Such portents provide a context in which to interpret banishment: "And the noble and truehearted Kent banished, his offence honesty! Strange, strange!' (110-2). In fact, it is Edmund who will make the connection explicit. When he repeats his father's doom-mongering for Edgar's benefit, Edmund adds banishment of friends' (142-3) to the list of catastrophes.
42 Shakespeare: The Play of History, 102-3.
43 Shakespeare's Mouldy Tales, 142.
Gloucester has implied that Lear is not entirely responsible for his actions, that the strangeness could be supernatural. But Edmund insists that his father, himself and thus Lear should take responsibility for evil that is their own not 'a divine thrusting on' (120-1). If Lear's acts of banishment can be interpreted as conscious evil, Edmund consciously admires their effect and determines to exploit this evil. Lear has created the conditions in which the illegitimate son will thrive by punishing integrity and rewarding the appearance of love. For Thomas Van Laan, the King has facilitated the deceptions and usurpations of the play by destroying social roles and replacing them with play-acting. His initial divestiture of sovereignty is seen as the substitution of ceremonial kingship for the actual office. It is thus that Lear sanctions a mode of action that can favour only masters of deceit like Goneril, Regan, and Edmund, who, because they lack any sense of the integrity of social and familial roles, are capable, both psychologically and morally, of making what Lear has introduced a truly viable mode of action.44 The exiled Cordelia, Kent, and later Edgar, are forced from their socially sanctioned roles but take on other self-consistent parts. Acting in this still feudal world is conservative. Kent disguises himself to continue to serve Lear, in recognition of Authority (4.29). Yet in the society Kent leaves behind, acting has become a particular kind of self-fashioning which threatens the traditional hierarchy (so that an illegitimate son may become Earl of Gloucester in default of his brother) and pays only lip-service to values previously judged fundamental.
Banishment itself creates the absences into which the dissembler can manoeuvre, for social roles do not disappear in the play. Gonoril, Regan, and Edmund have achieved power by 44 Thomas F. Van Laan, 'Acting as Action in King Lear' in Some Facets of King Lear, 59-75, 64. See also David Margolies, Monsters of the Deep: Social Dissolution in Shakespeare's Tragedies (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1992), 34, 37, on the new social codes.
pretending to be exactly what their fathers demand of them. The absence of Cordelia forces a revision of the original divided map of Albion and enables Lear's other two daughters to move into her position of favour. Edmund follows his king's example by arranging for the dispossession and banishment of his brother and then moving into the vacant position of heir.
It is the effect of these displacements upon Lear that must concern us most. From the beginning of the play, Lear has been an identity created from a matrix of different social roles though he identifies most strongly with the father. Lear's fantasy of self, that is, the permanence and transcendence of his identity, will be most profoundly affected by his own actions. His banishment of Kent and Cordelia and subsequent division of the realm do not enforce his own centrality as he had hoped. Rather, banishment recoils upon Lear so that he is increasingly marginalised to the point of annihilation. When no one recognises him, he can no longer recognise himself.
This experience of exile is alien to the self-assertive Cordelia and Kent but is anticipated in the experience of Edgar, Lear's godson. Unlike Kent who was banished the realm and Cordelia who was exiled from Lear's sight, Edgar is pursued that Gloucester may take his
This reference to being 'proclaimed' indicates Edgar's status as an outlaw, that is, a man stripped of legal protection.45 In one of the Elizabethan retellings of the Robin Hood legend, The Downfall of Robert, Earl of Huntington, the eponymous hero refuses Little John's words of comfort, saying, 'Am I not outlaw'd by the Prior of York?/ Proclaim'd in court, in city, and in town/ A lawless person?' (1.3, pi 12). 46 Huntington has lost all his goods and lands and he has been exiled for debt but his life is not immediately pursued. His transformation into the outlaw, Robin Hood, will reflect his new sylvan lifestyle and will facilitate his persecution of courtly enemies. It is also an opportunity for a particular kind of merry-making. With the announcement of this disguise he cries, 'Come, John, friends all, for now begins the game;/ And after our deserts so grow our fame' (2.2. p!42). For Edgar, disguise is a necessity to
preserve his life, a life which is already lost through exile:
If Edgar's decision to disguise himself after exile conforms to the pastoral tradition, bringing him closer to nature and back to his father, his choice of identity strikes a discordant note.
Whilst a fall in status is conventional in pastoral, from princess to shepherdess, from Earl to 45 Maurice Keen remarks that the outlaw had 'no more rights that a hunted beast' and that the price on his head
was originally the same as that on a wolfs. See The Outlaws of Medieval Legend (London and Henley:
Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961), 9.
46 The terms 'banishment' and 'exile' are still applied to this kind of expulsion from the community. Prince John, jealous of Marian's love for Huntington and enraged after their escape, promises 'I'll follow with revengeful, murd'rous hate/ The banish'd, beggar'd, bankrupt Huntington', 2.1, p!30.
servant, Edgar literally strips himself, offering his body to nature's persecution.47 His poverty makes him homeless and forced to beg from the poorest who yet retain some means of subsistence. His madness puts him further beyond the civilised, natural world. It is here that exile's excessiveness in the play is most apparent.
There are other disguises that might have saved Edgar's life. Shakespeare turned to the Arcadia's narrative of the Paphlagonian king and his sons for this part of the plot. Edgar's counterpart here does not adopt any disguise. Rather, Leonatus escapes murder to become a private soldier and is on the point of promotion when he abandons this life to lead his blinded father. 48 Edgar has chosen a disguise which parades the wretchedness of his condition and the stigmatization of his life. The Bedlam beggar's self-inflicted wounds, as copied by Edgar, reflect his own desire for mortification, perhaps out of guilt at his father's rejection, certainly out of shame for his condition. 49 What is perhaps most significant about Edgar's disguise is its peculiar expressiveness. 50 The disguise performs Edgar's suffering, literally in the case of those wooden pricks and nails, but it occludes his real drama. For Shakespeare's audience, 47 Edgar's experience of disguise also differs from that of the pastoral exile in that it is too convincing. In pastoral a character's nobility was usually perceptible through his or her shepherd weeds. No one questions Edgar's appearance as a beggar though Gloucester notices that his accent seems to have improved as they 'ascend' Dover cliff, 20.7-8, 10. On the liberties taken with rank by means of Edgar's transformation see Shakespeare and the Popular Voice, 110.
48 Sidneys Arcadia. Bk. 2, chp. 10, 278.
49 On Edgar's guilt and shame with regard to Gloucester see Stanley Cavell, 'The Avoidance of Love: A Reading of King Lear' in Disowning Knowledge in Six Plays of Shakespeare (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 39-124.
50 Stephen Greenblatt suggests that Edgar's suffering may reflect that of the Catholic Church. Shakespeare's borrowing of Harsnett's A Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures (1603), with its derision of the staged exorcism, may paradoxically inspire an audience with sympathy for the Catholic Church. Greenblatt identifies Cornwall, Gonoril and Edmund as the voices of scepticism whilst Edgar is forced into fraudulent possession and exorcism to save his father: 'The resemblance does not necessarily resolve itself into an allegory in which Catholicism is revealed to be the persecuted, legitimate elder brother forced to defend himself by means of theatrical illusions against the cold persecution of his skeptical bastard brother Protestantism. But the possibility of such a radical undermining of the orthodox position exists', 178-9. It is worth remembering at this point the banishment still imposed upon Catholic priests at this time and the necessity for those who returned from the Continent to do so in disguise, 'Shakespeare and the Exorcists' in Shakespeare and the Question of Theory- ed.
by Patricia Parker and Geoffrey Hartman (New York: Methuen, 1985), 163-87.