THE INK

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I’ve been asked a gazillion times, “Why the tattoo?” – Well, I went on a little Lennon-pilgrimage where I happened upon beautiful graffiti.  There were beautiful words painted in Beatlesome spots by Lennon fans, to remind him that he LIVES. Lyrics written by him, and repeated by die-hard fans decades later. And that’s when it hit me: this sudden EPIPHANY of “Why the FUCK do I not have any Shakey written on my body?” I OWE him.

The ink of choice was an easy decision. It’s the most beautiful, powerful catalyst of a quote, from a woman who doesn’t realise her own strength of character. She knows her Dad, though, and is pretty likely to have an idea of the banishment that’ll happen if she tells the truth. She contemplates hushing, but like ME, she can’t lie. Nor can she keep quiet. It’s impossible. And by the tragically unhappy end of it all, I like to think she’d say it all again – exactly the same way.

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So, here’s my take, my potted version of Lear. I’ve missed bits out, I know. But if you’re not familiar with it, this should just give you a TASTE of the greatest play ever written. EVER.

With plenty of MADNESS-DESCENT, bloodshed (on and off-stage) and more complexity than a Breaking Bad story arc, THIS is why the tattoo:

(NB: It’d be even greater with a Prologue performed by an El Mariachi band)…………….

KING LEAR is getting on a bit, and is contemplating abdication or retirement or whatever you wanna call it. He has this MASSIVE kingdom, right, and decides to split it between his kids, Cordelia, Regan, and the ridiculously-monikered Goneril. He’s gonna give the biggest slice of the pie to whichever daughter has the brownest nose:

“….which of you shall we say doth love us most?”

GONERIL comes along and kisses Lear’s arse, proclaiming that she’d rather go blind than live without this breathtakingly graceful and honorable man, beyond all manner of so much. He’s just like, SO AWESOME, goddammit, this king of everything. But, so densely vacuous is she that she declares her love the bringer of speechlessness, despite using wordy insincerity to get her point across.

REGAN’S made of the same crappy fabric. She declares her love superior to her sibling’s, and is the ONLY one who loves him how he deserves to be loved, what with him being God ‘n’ all. Lying bitch.

My girl CORDELIA, who initially thinks she should just love him and keep schtum, she tells him:

“I love your majesty according to my bond; no more, nor less”.

(Cordy’s Likely Inner Monologue: Dad, you’re a prick. You are SO fucking dense that you can’t tell when people – your OWN kids – are pulling the wool over those blindest of eyes. But d’you know what, Dad? I won’t lie to you. You might be a bit of an arse, but I love you anyways just because you’re my Pop).

Kingy gives her a chance (and then another…and another…) to speak again, because she’s his JOY, his blue-eye. But she can’t lie, DAMN her Honesty (do you SEE why I love this girl?) So, Lear fucks her off and banishes her very dramatically from his kingdom, which he then divides between the arse-kissing pair. Said brown-nosing bitches reveal to us in a No-Shit-Sherlock manner to us that their declarations were fake, and that they reckon Lear is a dick.
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SUB-PLOT
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Lear’s parallel-character, the EARL OF GLOUCESTER, has two kids – Edmund The Bastard (really) who doesn’t like being a bastard, really…….and Edgar, who is pretty much a stand-up guy. To even up the ILLEGITIMACY 0 LEGITIMACY 1 score, Edmund plots to bump off his wedlock-inspired brother.

~Lear: goes ape, rushing out into a crazy storm to have a rant and a moan, joined by his Fool on the hill (I don’t know if there IS a hill but there SHOULD be). Meets Edgar, in the guise of a mad git named Tom. Denounces daughters.

~Edgar: babbles like a loon.

~Gloucester: kicks off about his buddy Lear’s mistreatment, has peepers gouged out by Cornwall.

~Cornwall: bumped off by an enraged servant who saw the unfolding events and was rather unhappy about it. Corny’s missus, Regan, bumps the servant off.

~Gloucester: meets Edgar-as-Tom, but being eyeless ‘n’ all, doesn’t recognise him and begs to be led to a place where There’ll Be Bluebirds Over, so that he may jump to his death.

~Goneril: fancies Edmund and disses her hubby Albany, whom she now reckons is a massive yella-belly. (All because he dared to be disgusted by the treatment of Lear and Gloucester) and he pretty much gives her a citizens’ divorce. She sends Edmund back to Regan; receives news of Cornwall’s death.

~Lear: now completely and utterly bonkers, rants that the whole world is corrupt (did he see into our future?) and flees.

~Kent and Cordelia: kick arse and take charge of Lear, who gets a little better. Don’t get excited; it won’t last. This is a Shakespearean tragedy.

~Regan/Goneril: bitch fight over Edmund.

The armies meet in battle, the British defeat the French. 

~Lear and Cordelia: arses captured, their executions ordered.

~Regan: falls ill, is escorted offstage, and snuffs it there, poisoned by Goneril.

~Edgar: fatally wounds Edmund (who takes his time to die)

~Albany: confronts Goneril with death warrant – she flees. Offstage, she kills herself.

~Edgar reveals himself, and tells us that Gloucester died, offstage and bittersweetly, from the shock and joy of learning that Edgar was alive.

~Edmund: decides to try and save Lear and Cordelia; however, his confession and atonement-hope comes too late. Snuffs it.

~Lear: enters, cuddling Cordelia’s corpse, he having survived by killing the executioner.

Lear, overwhelmed, dies.

Lear is dead. And we know this:

“The weight of this sad time we must obey;
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say”.
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THE FOOL (he gets his own mention)
______________________________

The Fool is Lear’s handy portable comic, but more importantly, he’s the only guy that Lear allows to criticize him. The Fool is the smart one – and tells it like it is – albeit disguising the truth to Lear (but not us – dramatic irony being what it is, we’re far better-informed than he) in song. He’s loyal, and provides the audience with a running commentary. He either disappears or is killed: After act 3, scene 6, his whereabouts aren’t clear. In the final scene, when Lear tells us “…my poor fool is hanged”, he might be referring to THE fool, or, more likely, to Cordelia – since she HAS just been roped.  And she WAS a fool – in Daddy’s blindsight, at least. Maybe Edmund’s henchmen bumped the fool off, maybe he topped himself. There are many ways to die in Shakespeare, offstage or on. Who knows…

Interesting Theory #381: apparently, there is speculation that the Fool and Cordelia were played by one actor. Just like Tori Spelling and Javier Bardem, they perhaps share a face and as they’re never on stage together, so some folk reckon that the part was double cast.

So yeah – if you get the chance, go see. GO PERFORM. Go read. Or all three.

 

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