Saturday, September 12, 2015

Reason not the Need: Marion on King Lear

O, Reason not the Need
                                       ---King Lear  (II,vi)

In Negative Certainties, Marion problematizes the gift in King Lear. I continue with several preliminary observations about the tragedy through Marion's general approach.

Lear will be driven mad by reason as he discovers that he has divided his ousia and distributed it to Regan and Goneril, without remainder. In Lear's world, one's being is one's possessions, and he has dispossessed himself that he might crawl unburdened to the grave. In such a world, that would be a very short crawl: Lear finds himself suddenly without being. Regan and Goneril speak of reason and need and he is trying to speak of the untranslatable gift, which he seeks to retroactively give to his daughters, and in return get back a little of that ousia. These 'givees' have not received what Lear has given, so he must attempt to re-give his gift, this time not as his ousia, his propertied objectness, but the gift which cannot answer to 'need.' The gift, Lear has discovered too very late, is like the rose, 'without why.'

Marion, speaking of the event, actually extends the analysis of the givenness of the gift:

"The objective interpretation of the phenomenon masks and misses its eventiveness...because the concept of permanence has no pertinence for its description as the effect of a cause" (NC, 177).

The gift is without why and beyond interrogation by need. Lear's daughters have mistaken what they have received as permanent being, as a permanent and certain state of affairs within the categories of causality. Lear has experienced a most unhappy version of an event he thought would bring peace; but events cannot be choreographed, subjected to the conditions of design. The objectification visited upon what his daughters receive, prevents the event, diminishes the gift to sheer objectness, erases the possibility of the gift by rewriting it into the permanence of objects. The 'needs analysis' performed in Act II of Shakespeare's play, diminish Lear to non-being.

Marion touches upon the tragic confusion of divestiture with the gift, but pursues 'forgiveness' instead of the logical extent of this confusion: the inaccessibility of the gift by reason and need. Nonetheless, he powerfully concludes that "no forgiveness can take place except on the basis of a prior gift" (143). This formulation allows him to segue into another iteration of his reading of the Prodigal Son.

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