These mornings, when I first awaken, I sometimes feel a little bleak. And when I think of bleakness, I often think of King Lear. In particular, I recall the scene in which when, out on the heath, battling the elements of nature, Lear thinks of the poor and wonders How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides/Your loop’d and window’d raggedness, defend you/From seasons such as these? He realizes, tragically, that he has overlooked issues that were once within his power, and cries O, I have taken/Too little care of this.
The play has a lot to do with wickedness and malevolence. Perhaps the most shocking scene Shakespeare ever created was the one in which Goneril and Regan bind Gloucester and gouge out his eyes. The line Out, vile jelly! Is hard to forget! But there is also love and loyalty. If Goneril and Regan are led only by appetite and ambition, Cordelia is guided by honesty and devotion. Gloucester is faithful and trustworthy, as is his son, Edgar, disguised as Mad Tom so that he can help his father.
It seems to me that the Covid crisis is making us all more aware of good and evil and, for the vast majority, it has given us a reinforced desire to do good. We are becoming aware of some of the things that have misled us. Like Goneril and Regan, we have suffered from too much appetite and ambition, but now every day now we see both small and large acts of kindness and generosity.
Very often we hear people speaking now about how thankful they are for their family, friends and neighbours. We feel fortunate to live in Canada, and are very grateful for all the health care workers and so many others who take great risks to make this plague much more bearable for the rest of us — and much more bearable than the conditions many had to endure in previous times. I feel lucky for all of this and for a great many people in my life, especially my granddaughter who sends me Guardian articles to keep me challenged!