Friday, 29 February 2008

animals, plants, weather

In the final moments of this week's In Our Time, which was about King Lear, the Shakespeare scholar Katherine Duncan-Jones introduced what Melvyn Bragg later referred to as 'an entirely new and vast theme'. (It's a subject we have written about here)

Duncan-Jones said Lear should remain a very powerful and frequently-performed text in the 21st century because of one of its central themes:

'the place of the human race in the natural world, the human race in a world of animals and plants and weather, and the interaction of human beings in that world which is constantly referred to.

As well as 'nothing', the other thing that runs through the play is questions. Is there any cause in nature to make these hard hearts?1 Are human beings actually an aberration in nature? Are they more cruel than sharks, say, the sea-monster 2 that preys on itself. Are they actually the bottom of creation rather than the top?'

1 'Is there any cause in nature that makes these hard hearts?'

2 'Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend,
More hideous, when thou show'st thee in a child,
Than the sea-monster.'

pic: Ian McKellen as Lear, William Gaunt as Gloucester

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