I don't doubt that this passage shows Lear recovering his love for
Cordelia and realizing what he had done. That is not a mystical
experience in the sense of St. John of the Cross or Julian or others.
There are very specific actions and experiences that are involved in the
"Dark Night." Certainly Lear goes through a period of great terror
and--in his case--madness and recovers through love in some way. But
the parallels are not the same as what a mystic reports.
I have not reread Lear recently, but it does not seem to be at all about
mystical experience to me.
I would also be surprised if Shakespear's use of gods and God were that
specific or limited to Lear. Again, I would have to reread a great deal
to be sure about that.
>>> Barnwell Black <[log in to unmask]> 08/01/07 7:17 PM >>>
I think there is an indication that King Lear does indeed achieve some
degree of spiritual rebirth after the death of the Self, as per TSE in
post-conversion poetry. In Shakespeare's play this comes in Act V,
Scene 3, when
Lear, and Cordelia enter as prisoners. Lear, in what seems to me to be
moment of lucidity occasioned by the redeeming love of Cordelia, says
No, no, no, no! Come, let's away to prison:
We two alone will sing like birds i' the cage:
When thou dost ask me blessing I'll kneel down
And ask of thee forgiveness: so we'll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we'll talk with them too,--
Who loses and who wins; who's in, who's out;--
And take upon's the mystery of things,
As if we were God's spies: and we'll wear out,
In a wall'd prison, packs and sects of great ones
That ebb and flow by the moon.
To me this is the "still point" moment for Lear. Cordelia is the
find it interesting that, in a play set in the time of pre-Christian
polytheistic) England, the "gods" (pleural) are referred to twenty-five
times by Lear and others with lower case "g". In Lear's passage above,
the only use in the entire play of the singular word God, "As if we
God's spies..." -- with upper case "G" too. I suspect Shakespeare did
subtle intent. Lear, in the dark night of his soul opened his soul for
enter. In spite of the final tragedy, this moment flashes with
In a message dated 7/31/2007 8:25:27 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
[log in to unmask] writes:
I agree that it is a death of ego. But I hasten to add that I do not
myself have any desire for a dead ego in this sense, and I don't think
Eliot ever experienced it or claimed to.
I would question Lear--more like the dark night of sense than of
spirit, since Lear is a very intensely present self, not an opened soul
for god to enter.
>>> Barnwell Black <[log in to unmask]> 07/31/07 8:11 PM >>>
Re the comparison of the T. S. Eliot of TWL with the
of 4Q, I think CR and Nancy are "right on," to borrow a phrase from
youth. The post-conversion concept of "the death of the Self" seems to
represent the death of the "Ego," a necessary happening before
rebirth, as per TSE -- a movement away from the "We live as if by our
own wisdom" of
Heraclitus toward the common Logos. Another example in literature of
"the death of the Self, or Ego" is the soliloquy of KING Lear to the
Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o' the world!
Crack nature's moulds, an germens spill at once,
That make ingrateful man!
Rumble thy bellyful! Spit, fire! spout, rain!
Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire, are my daughters:
I tax not you, you elements, with unkindness;
I never gave you kingdom, call'd you children,
You owe me no subscription: then let fall
Your horrible pleasure: here I stand, your slave,
A poor, infirm, weak, and despised old man:
But yet I call you servile ministers,
That have with two pernicious daughters join'd
Your high engender'd battles 'gainst a head
So old and white as this. O! O! 'tis foul!
Now that's that I call "the Dark Night of the Soul."
************************************** Get a sneak peek of the all-new