Thursday, April 28, 2005


This week I'm writing on time and tragedy. My starting point will be _The Winter's Tale_: the sixteen year interlude enforces a comedic ending on what has been (so far) a wholly tragic play. This then raises the question of whether verb tenses can make tragedy comedy...
I have various hospital anecdotes which are guaranteed to make people laugh: picture the man picking invisible flowers from the air in the hospital chapel, with one leg raised in an inverted arabesque. Or the girl, furtively looking round, checking the agency nurse is not watching, then slipping a slice of peanut butter on toast down her knickers so she doesn't have to eat it. In the present tense, in the room with those people, my acute awareness of the desperation of the man and girls' respective mental states make these experiences anything but funny. Several years away from the situation, I can tell these anecdotes as funny stories. So could Paulina tell the story of Leontes' irrational jealousy as a funny tale because time has passed and it is no longer threatening and frightening? There are obvious caveats: the little boy who dies and will not be 'resurrected' as Hermione is; Paulina's own lost husband. Although as anecdotes go, 'exit, pursued by a bear' sounds quite funny to me.
I don't know whether any of these thoughts will make it into my essay. I'll probably stick to comparisons with King Lear, and look at the difference in Oedipus from Tyrannus to Colonnus.

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