King Lear

Shakespeare's Barriers of Language

Charles Forker argues that Marcus Andronicus, upon discovering the maimed, raped and mutilated Lavinia, "erects a barrier of fanciful language between himself and the object of his contemplation." It is an interesting question: does Marcus create an elaborate metaphor comparing Lavinia to a "lopped and hewed" tree in order to escape the horrifying reality of her condition, or does he address a horrific situation directly with the aid of typical Shakespearian dialogue? By comparing the scene in Titus Andronicus to similar scenes in King Lear and Hamlet, one can only conclude that this elaborate style of speech is only typical of Shakespeare and does not serve as a distraction from the action on the stage.

In King Lear, Lear finds himself betrayed by his daughters Regan and Goneril, and captured by his enemies. Sent to prison with his daughter Cordelia, he has no reason to be anything other than painfully depressed at the grim future awaiting him in the dungeons, yet he launches into a beautiful and wholly inappropriate ode to his daughter:

No, no, no, no! Come, let's away to prison:

We two alone will sing like birds i' the cage:

When thou dost ask me blessing I'll kneel down

And ask of thee...

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