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REVIEWS PATTERNS OR PEOPLE?~ R. S. KNox One of the most fashionable critical activities today, obviously in line with the practice of contemporary poetry, is the study of imagery as perhaps the basic element in a poem's structure and import. Inevitably this technique has been applied to the interpretation of Shakespearian drama. The spade work of digging out and classifying the images was first done w-ith real thoroughness by Miss Spurgeon. She laid particular stress on the recurrent imagery in a play, with its function of "raising and sustaining emotion, in providing atmosphere or emphasizing a theme." But in the view of many who followed her she had not dug deeply enough or had missed the significance of what she had brought up. Mr. Heilman thinks so, and in hi.s analysis of King Lear reveals what can be done by his own more cogent methods. He is concerned not pr.irnarily "with images as such but with the structure of a meaning in which images, whether the image words are used literally or figuratively} have an important role." He too stresses repetition as in itself a mode of meaning. Throughout there are recurrent words, key words, recurrent comments on certain themes, which, :in their relation to the more strictly dramatic facts, build up a series of interwoven patterns, a series of ideas embodying the total statement of the play. He first picks out the sight pattern. This centres on the blinding and blindness of Gloucester whose flaw is lack of insight, but it is used to qualify all the main characters and involves a whole family of cross-rclerences in. incident, image, and word. "Shakespeare has found sight a flexibly responding symbol for the problems which arise in connection with the point of view from which man judges the meaning of experience.)) Even if we allow Mr. Heilman's demonstration of the pattern, the doubt remains whether in his zeal for completeness he does not draw too much within its scope. Is it not a trifle far-fetched to say that "when Edgar tells Gloucester that he can no longer look down the supposed cliff lest 'the deficient sight topple down headlong/ we can only think of the deficient sight that causes disaster throughout the play, and of those whom it has indeed toppled down headlong'? Again, would anyone else, however pattern- *This Great Stn.ge: Image and Structure in King Lear. By RoBERT B. HEILMAN. Louisiana State University Press. 1948. Pp. ix, 339. ($3.50) Shakespearian Tragedy. By H. B. CHARLTON. Cambridge: at the University Press (Toronto: Macmillan Company of Canada}. 1948. Pp. ix, 246. ($3.50) A Notebook on William Shakespeare. By EDITH STTWELL. London: Macmillan (Toronto: Macmillan Company of Canada]. 1949. Pp. xii, 233. ($4.25) 93 94 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY minded, reading the phrase "LeCs see," spoken by Lear on waking from his madness, "recall that Gloucester, when he said 'Let's see,' was being gulled, and that Edgar used the same words when he was skilfully managing a situation,? The clothes pattern, with its dramatic elements in the clothing and nakedness of the characters and its recurrent imagery, may admittedly be held to make a systemat]c commentary upon the difficulties of perceiving the world truly and on the defencelessness of innocent people, but it is surely pedant1c to say of Lear)s "undo this button": '•These unobtrusive words extend imaginatively way beyond the bare psychological fact which at the realistic level they denote; they are a means of pulling together a whole series of lines into an embracing system of meaning ... they tell us of a final freeing from clothes that can be followed by no new agony." There is a like interesting if over-minute exposition of the nature pattern, the age and justice pattern, the values pattern, each with its dichotomy, the conflict fortifying the dramatic tensions. Edmund's view of nature as simply a vital force, le.aving unfettered the impulses of the individual, is set over against nature as a fundamental principle of order, and in the end the play reveals Shakespeare's own judgn1ent, "Lear's Nature conquers Edmund's." Likewise the two methods...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 93-99
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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