The last time I really confronted the issue of growing really old was when I was involved in a production of King Lear. I could not work out at what point Lear stopped being the tragic hero– a noble man fighting his corner and became the whimpering wreck finished off by Cordelia’s kindness. Did the Fool ask me to laugh at Lear’s pitiable detoriation or rage at his outrageous torment?
This is the trouble of the Play. Yeats wrote of Lear and Blake “beating upon the wall-till truth obeyed their call” but in his wretched final moments Lear appears a beaten man deluded and delusional, prepared to seek solace where no solace can be found. He becomes the fool.
I mentioned in a recent post the sad reaction of Basil D’Olivera’s relatives to his later dementia. In hospital dementia wards and care homes throughout the country, we see respected folk eek out their final days and months and we can look away.
Not so those who care for them. For those nurses and carers who are committed to looking after our most vulnerable old people there are few awards. They do what needs to be done in the most unglamorous of circumstances.
They are left to witness the..
Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything