11 November 2013

"For The Rain It Raineth Every Day": The Transfiguration of the Commonplace

Saw King Lear at Atlanta's Shakespeare Tavern last night and was struck by a couple things—besides the great wine and food. How much Beckett's absurdism owes to Lear, e.g. How Lear could very well have been influenced by Don Quixote.

But something else, and something that strikes at my own fancy. Everyone knows that the Bard loved to incorporate music in his plays. And often Elizabethan dance tunes. Let's call them pop musics.

For example, in Twelfth Night, Feste, the Jester, sings this lovely ditty, "The Wind and the Rain":

In Lear, there's, of course, the great scene on the heath. In Act III, Scene ii, Lear is mad with grief. His Fool, who is pretending to be stupid, and the Duke of Kent, who is in disguise, are trying to coax him out of the storm (Edgar, who is pretending to be mad, has gone). As Lear finally succumbs and Kent leads him off to shelter him in a hovel, the jester sings his own improvised chorus to this popular song:
He that has and a little tiny wit—
With heigh-ho, the wind and the rain—
Must make content with his fortunes fit,
For the rain it raineth every day.
The use of a pop song, re-contextualized and repurposed for tragic effect. I was immediately put in mind of Breaking Bad's final scene [SPOILER ALERT]: "Baby Blue" by, ahem, Badfinger. "Guess I got what I deserved/Kept you waiting there too long, my love..."

Sheer Shakespearian perfection. A perfect power pop song—maybe the epitome of the form—re-contextualize and repurposed for tragic effect. "The special love I had for you, my baby blue." Just wow!

UPDATE: This post coincided with the death of Arthur C. Danto, the philosopher whose influential treatise on the philosophy of art, Transfiguration of the Commonplace, (a phrase he borrowed from Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) should have been at least the subtitle to this post. Et VOILA!

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