Recently a friend of mine who works for the RNIB went to a conference. No doubt you are wondering why I’m sharing this meaningless piece of information. Perhaps I’d better explain. It was a conference on tax. Wait there’s a point to this tale – honest! He took the gathered employees through some charity tax examples. Clearly he was a joker. With a good line up of literary examples.

“Suppose Mr Lear dies and leaves half his million pound estate equally between his three daughters Regan, Goneril and Cordelia and the other half to the Institute for the Blind for obvious reasons.. How much tax has to be paid and by whom?”

I know you maths fanatics are dying to know the answer – it’s £23,333 by each daughter. But arithmetic aside, the laughter which undoubtedly arose from this comic example shows how well we know our Shakespeare. So much so that Lear can be the butt of a conference joke.

Everyone remembers with horror and probable disgust the vicious blinding of Gloucester, a scene as well known as Hamlet and his skull, Macbeth and his witches, and the balcony of Juliet. The tension is ramped up in any production before this scene as Goneril, even before Gloucester’s entrance, entreats Cornwall to “pluck out his eyes” and much to our horror mere moments later these words reach violent physical manifestation. Bloody blinding action. This is stuff of pure tragedy. He should’ve seen it coming..

But back to that conference anecdote. Sure tragedy has been rehashed into comedy just like Shakespeare has been turned into the basis for a taxation joke – more importantly it shows that we live in a society where Shakespeare is almost as common a commodity as the sugar we stir in out tea (she says with horror shuddering at the idea of sweetened tea – but you get the picture).

King Lear also hit the global stage today with this evening’s tragedy. You might be aware that at the moment there’s a big game hitting the screens. World Cup mania has entered. But today tragedy struck with the knock out of England in only their second match. Yes boo hoo what a shame. Oh who are you kidding, you knew we’d never win.

I must admit I was happy this tragedy struck. Not because I’m anti-England but because I was supporting Uruguay. I’m not a football fan and I’m not supporting for any tactical reason at all. Don’t let me stop you – please feel free to cry for England Henry V style. The reason I’ve picked the team is likely to result in ridicule and disbelief from real football followers.. I picked Uruguay because in the Shakespeare football World Cup Uruguay is King Lear – perhaps one of my favourite Shakespeare plays. That’s not to say I’m not a fan of Henry IV led by Hotspur (aka England), in fact Hotspur would definitely take Lear out in a fight. But, I think play wise King Lear might just top it for me over Henry IV. I think picking a favourite Shakespeare play whether for football reasons or otherwise is a tough call anyway; there’s far too much choice.

I’m sure a lot of England fans would have preferred a different outcome than a knock out by blind old Lear, maybe even a few might wish they didn’t have eyes to watch such tragedy.. Ok perhaps not but maybe the solution is to pick a country by it’s designated Shakespeare play. The competition is bound to be good!

Have you got that Flemish feeling? Then vie for Henry V – cry for “Philippe, Belgium and Saint Joe”

Or maybe you’re more of a Dutch kind of guy, that’s Othello not Hamlet – he’s decided “not to be” (after Spain’s knock out yesterday). Watch out for any sneaking handkerchief wielding players – they might distract you.

For more check out this link here.

I realise Shakespeare style football fandom isn’t everyone’s (world) cup of tea, but I reckon it’s the way forward.

Conferences for blind charities or giant football matches, tragic Lear takes centre stage in both. Watch out who knows where Lear may be lurking next. We should perhaps take Kent’s advice to “see better, Lear”.

Fuel for literary exemplar, Lear looks set to stay around for some time. He’s a key player and despite his retirement we still remember him. Tragic but memorable. Perhaps there’s hope for the England players yet, and if not they might at least make it to the status of the butts of taxation jokes. A high level indeed, ranking with people like Shakespeare – what more could Rooney want?

The similarities are uncanny..


Fear not folks! Football and Shakespeare fans alike. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel despite the tragedy, unless of course you’re stuck in Lear – then it’s blindness all around..


About Sarah Waters

I'm a PhD student at Oxford Brookes University researching female melancholia in Early Modern medicine, drama, and its resonances with our understanding of female depression today. I also have research interests in Shakespeare, Renaissance literature, Children's Literature, CS Lewis, and The Inklings.
This entry was posted in Appropriations of Shakespeare, Seasonal, Shakespeare, Shakespeare in the News, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s