Waugh’s green world: reconceptualising The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold as a transcoded production of King Lear
This article makes the case for interpreting Evelyn Waugh’s The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold (1957) as a transcoded performance of King Lear, directed and enacted through the hallucinations of the eponymous writer-protagonist. Suffering from writers’ block and bromide poisoning, Pinfold unconsciously re-creates and inhabits the roles of the king, his fool and Cordelia within a green world setting suggested own disordered mind. This exegesis of Waugh’s intricate method of textual adaptation, which encompasses numerous additional hypotexts from The Tempest to Waugh’s own contemporaries, urges Pinfold’s recognition as an exemplar of criticism-through-practice that may be applied across a wide spectrum of symbiotic creative relationships. Reconceptualising Pinfold in this way affords a new understanding of the later text’s notoriously baffling conclusion, which in turn generates a new lens through which to view King Lear. Throughout his ordeal, the embattled Pinfold demonstrates his commitment to the inseparable qualities of modesty and truthfulness that define Cordelia’s character. By ultimately handing Pinfold-as-Cordelia the victory Shakespeare denied her, Waugh announces both his adaptation and adapted text as meditations on the nature of, and need for, personal integrity and the right to emotional privacy.
The Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh
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- Social Sciences and Humanities
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