Fredrick Buechner

Insofar as the word of [King Lear] is a tragic word, it rings out in its fullness when Lear comes upon Edgar standing half-naked on the bitter heath and asks for all of us, “Is this man no more than this?” and then gives the answer to his own question. “Thou art the thing itself,” Lear says. “Unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal as thou art” (3.4.105-11). Then the old king starts to tear off the few rags he has left as if in the awful lucidity of his madness he knows that if there is ever to be a true healing and helping, a true sheltering and clothing fro any of us, it is with our nakedness and helplessness that it has to start. Almost the last thing he says as he is dying is “pray you, undo this button.” (5.3.310), of all incongruous and enchanted words, as if all the moments of his life the one he relives there at the end as most precious is the moment when in his nakedness he was most kingly, when in his helplessness he was most invincible, in the madness of his despair most lucid. Shakespeare strips his characters bare, and great preacher that he is, he strips us bare along with them…. Beneath our clothes, our reputations, our pretensions, beneath our religion or lack of it, we are all vulnerable both to the storm without and to the storm within, and if ever we are to find true shelter, it is with the recognition of our tragic nakedness and need for true shelter that we have to start. Thus it seems to me that this is also where anyone who preaches the Gospel has to start too—after the silence that is truth comes the news that is bad before it is good, the word that is tragedy before it is comedy because it strips us bare in order ultimately to clothe us. – Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, & Fairy Tale

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