Small and Precious Jewels

My heart’s hand would comfort the lovers of Russian literature, like myself, who can read one book every third year. How much more swiftly Elizabeth’s fools and scribes touch the Angloliterophiliacs, also like myself, with noble anger, happy shows, and strange mutations – delving beneath the collars and blowing our minds to the heavens.

King Lear – five acts, about 30 minutes each:: grief personified, humility incarnated, life revealed through despair, wisdom exalted by madmen.

How I love Shakespeare and the ancient Greek playwrights – so great a return for so small a price.

This week I committed and even forced myself to read one act from Lear each night. By the end of the week, I’ve read the whole play. Then next week, perhaps, I’ll return to some of the more beautiful or challenging or penetrating passages:

Gloucester, newly blinded:

Let the superflous and lust-dieted man,
that will not see
Because he does not feel
, feel your power quickly.

A Gentleman replying to Kent’s query whether Cordelia had read his letter:

And now and then an ample tear trilled down
Her delicate cheek…

This same gentleman, a moment later:

Sorrow would be a rarity most beloved
If all could so become it.

This seems most fitting to read during a storm on the western Good Friday, when we remember our Lord’s glorious shame and the pierced soul of His mother, sitting, lying, standing, hand-wringing beneath His cross, yearning to wash the water-mingled blood streaming down his shins, to take His sufferings, which He had borne for her and us, on herself. Here was sorrow fulfilled, perfected, achieved.

And one more, when Lear is captured later in Act 4:

I will die bravely like a smug bridegroom.

Could anyone else have written that but Shakespeare? Could anyone else have said it but Lear? What a pittance to pay an evening’s rest just for that one crown. Well, I must read.

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