Opposites and Paradoxes in King Lear Opposites and Paradoxes in King Lear 1 January Love The sequence of oppositional characters and motifs in the play bring about in the audience a sense of the corruption of principles that beset the protagonists of the play. Indeed it is in the internal nature of Lear that this is focused most powerfully as his beliefs in love and kindnesses are offset by the egocentric and chloric feelings that dwell within his heart. What is most tragic in relation to Lear though is his rediscovery of Cordelia before the heart wrenching death she endures as he is thrown from the heights of grief before his heart gives way under the strain of ecstatic joy.
Wu as Lear addresses the mask he has removed as if were a mirror, removes make-up. Performing in an experimental hybrid of traditional Beijing Opera, or jingju, and postmodern theatrical forms, Wu portrays nine characters from King Lear as well as himself and powerfully engages with aspects of his biography, especially his filial relationship with his late acting teacher and his feelings of identity fragmentation.
Consequently, the emphasis of this performance is not on Shakespeare, but on Wu, as Alexa Huang notes: The second part of the title should be accorded primacy.
It is Wu who meets Shakespeare, and it is through such an encounter that Wu is able to negotiate multiple identities, especially that of Wu as a performer and that of his dead master. In this paper I examine how Wu uses Lear as a vehicle for a meditation not only on specific details of his autobiography, but on larger issues of transience and the inevitability of loss.
Although these themes resonate throughout the play, I would argue that Act One, which features Lear in the storm, is a particularly fitting segment with which to view these issues.
This is partially because of the lack of stasis inherent in the storm and the heath. Eschewing much of the original plot of King Lear, Wu structures his production to emphasize this personal experience. In this act Wu switches back and forth between an astonishing nine characters: So I am frustrated too!
The audience first glimpses Lear standing in a ring of dim light. Because his face and figure remain dark, however, the effect of this light is oppressive rather than revelatory, constricting rather than illuminating.
The storm must begin before the play can. Variously headless or armless and in an antique style, these figures evoke both the civilization from which Lear has been outcast and the inevitable destruction of that civilization. However, for this to work out, there must be a political realm to begin with, and this requires that his daughters play the necessary parts.
This is further emphasized at the end of the act, as one by one each of the four statues fall into the performance space. Although built with the intention of durability, of all but immortalizing the figure depicted, stone statues, like human beings, are always already in a state of decay.
In this way statues are particularly useful as signifiers not only for the fall of civilization but, as Kott argues, for human fate. One moment particularly stands out for its pathos.
The movements of lucid Lear are purposeful and smooth. Although his hands shake, befitting a laosheng old man figure in the jingju tradition, lucid Lear tends to remain fairly stationary in the playing space, and the musicians match his stasis with sustained notes and chords.
Mad Lear, on the other hand, is often all frenetic energy, his quickly mincing steps and extravagant tossing of his beard and sleeves mirrored by the discordant, frantic percussive music.
Mad Lear can also be childish, however, and it is during one of these moments of simplicity that Lear betrays his keenest awareness of loss. Previous to this moment, Lear has killed a bird that was annoying him.
Shortly thereafter Lear slides into a state of childish simplicity. This is particularly apparent near the end of the act, as in full view of the audience, Wu transforms himself from the old Lear into a Taiwanese jingju actor, removing his headdress and opera beard to reveal the painted face pattern denoting a jingju combatant male role.
He also takes off his costume to reveal his undercoat. While this undercoat is part of the costume, it is never revealed onstage.
It supports the heavy costume of a combatant male role. By removing the headdress and revealing what is underneath the costume, Wu stages the theater-making process in reverse. Huang This meta-theatricality is an important part of the autobiographical story Wu is trying to tell.
As Wu has noted in his stage bill and in several interviews, he was especially attracted to King Lear because of the issues it raises about fatherhood, concerns that, for Wu, also intersect with his relationship to the theater. Having lost his biological father at a young age, Wu found a surrogate father figure in his acting teacher, Master Zhou Zhengrong, who trained him in the combatant male role type wusheng of jingju.
As Wu became a better-known performer, however, he found himself engaging in conflict with Master Zhou. Initially Wu throws the robe and undercoat down onto the floor in a spurt of anger, apparently rejecting the power that the character of Lear has had over him.
In doing so, I argue, Wu is also rejecting his master, who he has frequently compared to Lear. Having discarded his clothes in anger, he folds them reverentially, and for quite a while he carries the beard and wig, carefully positioning them so they continue to form the silhouette of a face.
Wu, like Lear, is here. And yet this defiance falters, as, according to Steve Mentz, its source text dictates that it must: Inside this storm-filled world, the play offers clarity of vision in place of sustainable hope. Wu speaks these words while he is being raised above the stage and into the space of storms and weather.Recommended Citation.
Caviness, Caitlin, "Shakespeare's Gendered Chaos: Paradoxes of Embodiment in Hamlet and King Lear" (). Undergraduate Honors Theses. The "moving wall" represents the time period between the last issue available in JSTOR and the most recently published issue of a journal.
Moving walls are generally represented in years. In rare instances, a publisher has elected to have a "zero" moving wall, so their current issues are available. King Lear is a tragedy characteristic of its age, a tragedy of extreme and terrible violence, as there is a sense of the untimeliness of violence and destruction that rashness and impatience bring about.
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