ENGL 220 King Lear Notes
King Lear reflected era in which it was written
o Indirectly explored the issues of the day
o Had to be wary of criticizing because they were funded by the monarch “King’s Men”
Shakespeare wrote King Lear 2 years after James was crowned – James wanted to unite
Scotland and England as one “Great Britain” – to restore ancient title and unity to the land.
o King Lear dramatized what would happen in the kingdom was divided (instead of
o Appears conservative, but underlying subversion
King Lear wants to retain the powers of being king – the credit, he doesn’t want to give up his
o Act 2 Scene 4:
O, reason not the need! Our basest beggars
Are in the poorest thing superfluous.
Allow not nature more than nature needs,
Man’s life’s as cheap as beast’s . . .
In this scene he goes mad from not knowing who he is anymore
In his madness, he becomes wise and learns a lesson of human
o Questions his identity, if not king, who is he?
o Act 4 Scene 7: I am a very foolish fond old man
Gloucester – parallel to Lear
o Goes blind
o In a sense Lear is blind – cannot see that Goneril and Regan are evil
Aspect of Hobbes’ thinking relevant to this play
o “the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”
Says that people are better under sovereign rule, surrendering autonomy
Protection from anarchy
Man’s natural state is monstrous
Act 3, Scene 4 “Unaccommodated man is no more than a poor, bare, forked
Questioning if Lear is no longer King, loses his identity – does he sink to
Hobbesian natural state?
o Beginning of colonial era – encountering people whom in their eyes were UNNATURAL
Nihilism – nothingness, no laws, no status, no privilege; negation of meaningful aspects of life