King Lear – Anger Hath a Privilege

Act II continued…

When Cornwall breaks up the one-sided brawl between Kent and Oswald he says ‘You beastly knave, have you no reverence?’

And Kent answers ‘Yes, sir, but anger hath a privilege‘.

Anger trumps propriety.  The language of Shakespeare may not translate seamlessly to today, but his insight into human nature – wow.   Doesn’t this sound familiar? The conviction that you have a right to act with impunity because you’re angry?  Throw a punch, name call, dominate the conversation.  His insights may not always speak favorably of us humans, but there’s no denying a persistent trenchancy.

Another few interesting quotes from Act II before heading into Act III and certain madness:

Lear: O, how this mother swells up toward my heart!
This mother?  Turns out ‘The Mother’ was the name given to hysteria.  And ‘hysteria’ translates literally to mean something like ‘diseased womb’.Does raise the modern feminist’s hackles.   But imagine PMS, postpartum depression, pregnancy mood swings  – conditions that these days we accept with a shrug ‘eh, hormones, what can you do?’ – what a mystery it all must have been in Shakespeare’s time.  All starting with menses, all amplified by pregnancy – all that crazy womb stuff.  And have to wonder – was there something in the diet/lifestyle/beliefs of Shakespeare’s era that heightened the effects of estrogen?

Lastly, Lear on why we should not disparage excess:
Allow not nature more than nature needs,
Man’s life is cheap as beast’s.
You know, the more I think about this, the more sense it makes.  Yes, yes, opposable thumbs, rational thought, all very noteworthy differences in the man v beast argument – but the ability to aspire – that may just be the clincher.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. dsgetch
    Feb 07, 2011 @ 08:37:40

    Maybe it’s what we aspire too. In terms of potential dog aspirations: instead of more dog food, we aspire to the ability to regulate the flow of dog food.

    Can’t argue with your reasoning on the “anger hath a privilege.” But, maybe you didn’t piss me off enough.

    And, since I’m a man, I probably should just leave the middle quote alone.


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