January 26 2016
A last class on King Lear focusing on the question "Why does tragedy give pleasure?" Why do we like Johnson's shock at the death of Cordelia so much? Why do we want depth? (...is the question though I didn't put it quite that way.) Answer: friendship among mortals (which I almost put that way). The only friend to a mortal is a mortal (again, almosting it). Lear is about mortals: Freud on "making friends with the necessity of dying" echoes Gloucester: "My son came then into my mind, and yet my mind was then scarce friends with him." Mortality in King Lear is endless, but it's shared. That's one reason the Fool has to be mortal: a fairy tale spirit who turns out to be the spirit of mortality (as I wish I had quite said).