Article Title

The Fragile World of Lear


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

Drama is a form of ritual, and like its "savage" ancestor, it begins in a felt discontinuity-a certain fragility of the human series in the face of temporal and spatial change. I Seeking to overcome this deficiency, it enters into dialogue or exchange with what is not human-either divinity or the natural series-to give to the sociomorphic "sacred" or "natural" form. Tragedy tends toward the former, comedy toward the latter. May Day, Midsummer Eve-the seasonal feasts-give Shakespeare, as C. L. Barber has pointed out, the social pattern of his "festive comedy." Tragedy casts its eye through the more readily available natural series toward the unseen: divinity itself. The central form of tragedy is, thus, that ritual we call sacrifice, where the "real" is exchanged for the "unreal." As Claude Lévi-Strauss demonstrates in his structural study of La Pensée Sauvage, a representative of the human series (in dramatic terms we would call him the tragos, the scapegoat) is sacralized and sacrificed, so that the void caused by his removal (this the actualized discontinuity of the human series) will, hopefully, be filled by the divinity to whom he has been related. Drama thus voices our continuing concern over social structures threatened by discontinuity in time and space. It is this fragility, felt at the level of the human series but having its roots in our very perceptions, that I wish-by the somewhat circuitous route of Montaigneto explore in Shakespeare's Lear.

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