Rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Lear's Cosmic Constant
Shakespeare’s Lear starts off at the edge of a cliff and jumps. That’s essentially the
plot of the play. If Lear had his marbles, he never would have made his outrageous demand.
Perhaps his disinhibition is the first stage of senile dementia. Things never
improve which is. in effect. the nature of matter. Once man is born his death
begins. Something comes out of nothing and nothing comes out of something.
Lear: “Nothing will come of nothing” (I,ii), Gloucester: “The quality of
nothing hath not such need to hide itself” (I,ii), Lear: “Nothing can be made
out of nothing” (I,iv), Edgar: “Edgar I nothing am” (II,iii). Nothingness is the common denominator, oblivion the
cosmic constant. Lear, Gloucester and Cordelia are all swept up, but they are only
the first to go. The universe is pagan and curiously modern, striped as it is
of the cushion of belief. The play is less about theology than ontology. Nature
and the cosmos are the subject and the pain of the playwright’s vision lies in
its implacable and unbending materialism. The true tragedy is thatof consciousness. Were they just slugs on a
wall, neither Lear nor Gloucester (whose willfulness is a mirror of Lear's) would have had to endure the painful awareness of their own dissolution.
Francis Levy's debut novel, Erotomania: A Romance, was released in August 2008 by Two Dollar Radio.
His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly, Penthouse, Architectural Digest, TV Guide, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and other publications. One of his Voice humor pieces was anthologized in The Big Book of New American Humor (HarperCollins). He is presently the Co-Director of The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (philoctetes.org), where he supervises roundtable discussions on topics as varied as “The Psychology of the Modern Nation State” and “Modern Traffic Theory, Behavior, and Imagination”.