Article Title

"To See Feelingly": The Language of the Senses and the Language of the Heart


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

To set Lear IV.vi in the context of the paragone of the senses is to grasp the step-by-step rejection of these senses, in order to affirm one thing: the heart and its affections as the seat of moral life. For Lear above all, but for Gloucester too, the heart has to be educated through a disorientation or loss of the senses and even, in Lear's case, of reason. And the language of the heart, as compared with the language of the senses and of reason, can sometimes only be silence-like the silence of Cordelia at the beginning of the play when asked by her father how much she loves him. But beyond its significance for this particular play, the rivalry of the senses has implications for Shakespeare's own art as dramatist, in which he competes with the painter. This single scene from King Lear not only suggests, but also demonstrates a nexus of ideas touching the very heart of his poetry; it is indeed a paradigm for the painting that is, like nature, "dumb."

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