Wednesday, September 05, 2018

I Am Part of the Resistance Inside King Lear's Court

King Lear is facing a test to his monarchy unlike any other faced by a fictitious British monarch. It is not just that he parceled out his kingdom and left himself nothing. Or that the country is bitterly divided between his scheming, ungrateful daughters. Or even that the kingdom may soon be overwhelmed by French invaders.
The tragedy – which he does not fully grasp – is that many of his own followers are working diligently from within to frustrate his goals.
I would know. I am one of them.
To be clear, ours is not the mealy-mouthed “resistance” of Cordelia and her sore-loser followers. We strongly believe in the division of this kingdom into unstable warring duchies. But we believe our first duty is to unchecked, unreasoning monarchical authority, and the King’s continued ravings bring autocratic one-man rule into disrepute. That is why many of his followers have vowed to do what we can to preserve tyrannical feudalism while thwarting King Lear’s more misguided impulses until his o’erburdened heart cracks and can bear no more.
The root of the problem is that the King is outdoors, yelling at clouds. We are not even sure if he knows it’s raining. But whatever he is shouting for us to do, we’re not doing it. We could be hit by lightning out there. If he asks later, we’ll just pretend we don’t understand iambic pentamenter.
Don’t get me wrong.  There are bright spots. Both Regan and Goneril are pretty hot – like, at least eights. We’re all much bigger deals at court than we were before everyone got banished. And seeing the old Earl of Gloucester’s eyes put out was, face it, pretty hilarious.
But these good things have come despite – not because of – King Lear’s leadership, which is impetuous, petty, and obsessed with setting up obscure punch lines for his Fool.
He veers off into long, ranting monologues that force us to check our footnotes. He shows up to important meetings dressed mostly in wildflowers. And he can angrily berate the furniture under the impression that it is part of his family.
This erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren’t for unsung heroes like us. Some of his courtiers have been cast as villains. But in private, we have gone to great lengths to keep his demented soliloquies out on the storm-tossed heath where they belong.
It may be cold comfort as Britain descends into bloody civil war, but you should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to keep King Lear from messing it up for us.
So when King Lear say orders us to execute a stool for the crime of being an ungrateful child, we definitely don’t do that. And we don’t go bothering Goneril or Regan. We just take away the stool. Problem solved! And also, more office furniture for us.
Also, whenever Lear has one of his crazypants "character-growth" insights about doing more for the poor naked wretches or whatever, we don’t do that either. I mean, that money could go for something useful. We just say, “Ooooh, Your Majesty, how profound! It’s like the mad have really been the sane ones all along! Who’s really blind here, and who’s, like, symbolically blind?” Then he forgets and moves on to something else.
This isn’t vulgar flattery. This is artful, steady flattery. Thou. Art. Welcome.
Given the instability many have witnessed, there were early whispers of crowning some capable, legitimate successor in King Lear’s place to guide our country back to peace and sanity.. But no one really wanted to precipitate a dynastic crisis, especially when basically we already have one. So we will do what we can to steer this monarchy until -- one way or another -- it’s all over. Really, how much worse could it get?

cross-posted from Dagblog; all comments welcome there, not here

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