“Advice to King Lear” is a short lyric poem of thirteen lines that are divided into two stanzas. The first stanza has six lines, and the second stanza has seven; the same end rhyme is employed for all thirteen lines. Turner Cassity has made his reputation by writing structured verse. “Advice to King Lear” was included in his 1986 collection Hurricane Lamp. Like many poems in this collection, “Advice to King Lear” is a compressed creation in which Cassity wryly combines the profound past with the seemingly ordinary present. The poem combines the Shakespearean tragedy King Lear (c. 1605-1606) and the bizarre Texas setting in which it is being staged.
Cassity reprints as an epigraph a description from San Antonio: A Pictorial Guide, which states that the Arneson River Theatre is unique because its stage stands on one side of the San Antonio River, but its grass seats are located on the other side. The final comment of the guide notes that “Occasional passing boats enhance audience enjoyment.” This particular setting fits well with Cassity’s use of the ironic. As the title states, the narrator of the poem will be advising King Lear. The first word of the poem is “Unlikely,” which—as becomes evident as the poem progresses—is a definite understatement; the unlikely and the unusual are common in Cassity’s poems. (Other poems in Hurricane Lamp that illustrate this theme include “News for Loch...
(The entire section is 458 words.)