King Lear and the art of forgetting
in Spectacular Performances
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Memory has been recognized since ancient times as a basic element of artistic creativity. The chapter argues that forgetting, or the suppression or subversion of memory, is an equally essential creative principle. Forgetting is crucial within the play's action, too: it is a radical act of forgetting that precipitates William Shakespeare's catastrophe. The chapter explores the case of King Lear, and begins with a famous emendation, which is particularly germane, because it depends on a case of memorial reconstruction. Shakespeare sets up a powerful tragic momentum reminiscent of Lear in the opening three acts, only to disarm it at the conclusion with fantasy and magic. In every version of the Lear story, both in the chronicles of early British history and in the The True Chronicle History of King Leir and his Three Daughters, Cordelia's forces are victorious, and Lear's throne is restored to him.

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