CORDELIA AND SHAKESPEARE CRITICISM
To understand Cordelia is to understand the whole play. It is a pity, therefore, that Cordelia should have been so unfortunate in her critics.
The trouble starts with the first scene. King Lear and his daughter are in a reciprocal relation. The misunderstanding of one leads to the misunderstanding of the other. The first scene, unhappily, is an interpretative crux. It has lead to the misunderstanding of both.
Before treating Cordelia as she is in the play I propose to treat her as she has appeared (in close connection with her father) in criticism. It is only so that the issues involved will become clear.
Dr. Johnson could not bear the ending of Shakespeare's King Lear. Part of his extreme sensitiveness might be due to the effect Cordelia had upon him. It was intolerable to the moral optimism of the eighteenth century that such transcendent goodness should not be taken care of in the human universe. The ending of the play was too painful for art. Dr. Johnson assented to the kindly impulse behind the version of Nahum Tate.
Coleridge is the grand original of the reading of Lear and Cordelia's conduct in the first scene which has become basic for
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Publication information: Book title: Shakespeare's Doctrine of Nature:A Study of King Lear. Contributors: John F. Danby - Author. Publisher: Faber and Faber. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1949. Page number: 114.
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