Essay on Stampfer and The Catharsis of King Lear
At the end of King Lear, when the only characters left standing are Albany, Edgar, and Kent, is the audience supposed to come away from the play with any feeling other than remorse? This search for emotional release by the audience is one which J. Stampfer believes is the most profound problem in King Lear.
The overriding critical problem in King Lear is that of its ending. The deaths of Lear and Cordelia confront us like a raw, fresh wound where our every instinct calls for healing and reconciliation. This problem, moreover, is as much one of philosophic order as of dramatic effect. In what sort of universe, we ask ourselves, can wasteful death follow suffering and torture?
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The problem Stampfer has with Bradley’s view of the death is that Bradley’s argument is solely based on Lear’s last lines. This is where Stampfer’s disagreement emerges:
He leaves unremarked, however, the fact that this illusion is not a new and
sudden turn, but recurs three or four times in the last scene. It is, indeed, the main concern of Lear’s first three speeches on re-entering the stage, before he goes temporarily out of his mind (362).
Stampfer goes on to analyze each of Lear’s speeches after line 259, where Lear first acknowledges Cordelia'’ death. His own thoughts, inserted