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Book Sections Year : 2009

Albany’s ‘Milky gentleness’

Abstract

Leo Kirschbaum attempted to justify Shakespeare’s occasionally patchy characterization of Albany in 'King Lear.' He sketched the Duke’s transformation from a weakling dominated by an evil wife in the early scenes, to the pious statesman in the closing act. This paper takes up Kirschbaum’s suggestion – but with a different approach. I attempt to answer a number of questions: Who is Albany? What do we know about him? Is it important? I tease out the potential links between Shakespeare’s Albany, a semi-fictional, semi-historical character taken from the annals of British mythical history, and the dukes of Albany of the early modern era. Given the play’s topicality, notably with its probable reference to the new king’s wish to unite his two kingdoms, perhaps there is more to Albany than meets the eye – historically speaking. We discuss textual and historical differences, despite the skepticism of critics who remain unconvinced by such readings, to show how Shakespeare used confused sources to create a composite character. Albany may initially strike us as a harmless non-entity, but a closer look reveals a politically significant and multi-faceted enigma: pious, humble, but also subtly imperious.

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hal-04357114 , version 1 (20-12-2023)

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Yan Brailowsky. Albany’s ‘Milky gentleness’. Pierre Iselin; Pascale Drouet. The true blank of thine eye’ : Approches critiques de ‘King Lear’, Presses Universitaires de Paris Sorbonne, pp.69-81, 2009, 978-2840506256. ⟨hal-04357114⟩
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