Thursday, January 5, 2017

What Means In King Lear "The Ripeness Is All"?


Ripening in womb a given here? Ripening in life is the acquisition of wisdom is how I take it. Lear journeyed from intemperate wrath to the wisdom of seeing how the world goes with no eyes. He followed the path set by Kent: 'See better Lear'. The eye  gouged Gloucester learned too see better without eyes. The ripening is akin to Hamlet's readiness. Lear's tragedy is that the new spiritual richness was ripped from him...without his ripening the tragic ending 


Is it ripening in a womb? Why? Going hence and coming hither, I've always thought might be bracket ends of birth and death with all of life as in between or might be separately or as lesser included the coming being and going of any particular moment. If any of those readings are possible where does ripeness--a peak of maturity, the peak of anything in relation to its best usage, something we typically think of for food that grows, a state before spoilage through aging past prime, and it also can suggest an overly rich pungency in the way the meaning of ripe in some instances blends in with over ripe--in any of these senses come into it? 

I had never thought of ripeness in the play as something like full or mature vision, the deepest seeing. And that has explicatory possibilities. I like it. But even with it, I have trouble inferring as a sheer matter of language the notion of the deepest vision from "ripeness," even as your reading does make sense of "is all." 

But a problem with this reading may be to ask: what is the spiritual richness Lear has gained? I would have thought it was the birth and growth in him of compassion, at feeling in himself the suffering of others. That would be a spiritual richness. But he has this before Cordelia is murdered. He is ready to go with her to some reclusive place and simply observe the folly and evil of court life from which they purposefully absent themselves. But then Cordelia is ripped from him, as you well say. And then he shouts to the universe, "No, no, no!" And what he experiences then, it's my view at least, is blasted negation. So what spiritual richness is this; and what does ripeness n any of its meanings, the deepest vision or a mature peak of something making it functionally prime or some other meaning, have to do with it? 

Now you may say I'm arguing on the basis of an idiosyncratic reading, and that's fair enough. But I can't see anything redemptive of the tragedy in what Lear finally understands or sees, if those words even are apt in describing the final mangled condition of his soul. I don't see ripeness as vision or as anytime else. I see only a broken, haunted, destroyed man. In a word, I see in him only nothing, only "No, no, no!" 

As for Hamlet's "the readiness is all," I wrote about that in what I wrote about Hamlet. But that's for another time and thread perhaps. Just to say, I don't see these "too alls" as much related.

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