Summer 1985 • Vol. VII No. 3 1985 Ohio Shakespeare Conference |

The Half-Life of Tate in “King Lear”

Most of us think of Tate's King Lear as an aberration of a foolish age that would have been equally pleased with the happy ending of Oedipus described in Never on Sunday: "And then they all went to the seashore and lived happily ever after." And yet, for almost two hundred years Shakespeare's greatest tragedy held the stage as a melodramatic romantic comedy that relegated the Fool to oblivion, celebrated the love of Edgar and Cordelia, and made the "promised end" not an "image of that horror" but the happy resolution of Lear and Gloucester blessing the union of their children who live happily ever after. Although it seems appalling that any audience, much less audiences of almost two centuries, could have preferred Tate's treatment to Shakespeare's "old encounter between damnation and impassioned clay," Tate's Lear must have served some deep, enduring need, for it still breathes with a faint half-life in present productions. In contemporary productions there are dramatized moments t

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