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Fridge: King Lear
  • When I was a kid, I had a 1922 World Book encyclopedia that told the original legend of King Lear - in which Lear, incensed by his children's behavior, crosses the channel to France, returns with his army, reconquers his kingdom, and rules it 'til his death. So that left me the puzzle of why Shakespeare changed it around to make the king's ending so pathetic? At first I thought it was just for greater drama. But years later after I'd read Henry VI, Part I and some of the other plays, my father asked me why Cordelia loses. And then it finally hit me. Cordelia's army is French. In Shakespeare, it doesn't matter what the history or the legend says, and it doesn't matter if it's set thousands of years ago when they were all Celts...French armies simply do not beat English ones in a straight fight. Ever. If they have some temporary little success, like that Joan of Arc business, it's either because they're using witchcraft or because the English are divided against themselves. - Alberich

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