Article: What Shakespeare Didn't Know.

Essay by CrabholeHigh School, 12th grade October 2005

download word file, 8 pages 4.5 1 reviews

Downloaded 44 times

Examine a range of alternative readings of King Lear and their relevance to contemporary audiences.

What Shakespeare Didn't Know.

Many faithful 'bardolatarians' have labelled the plethora of alterative interpretations of Shakespeare's greatest tragedy that blossomed in the twentieth century as 'false' and 'blasphemous'. "The Tragedy of King Lear," they oralise, "was never intended by our William as anything other than what is - a profound Aristolean tragedy that remains the highest and most precise embodiment of the universal human condition. The perennial fable of a father, blinded by hubris and love, betrayed by his ostensibly-filial children and forced to embark on a painful, shriving journey which enlighten him upon better wisdom - was never meant to be understood as a class struggle, or a battle between the sexes, or (most monstrous of all) as a meaningless farce[!]"

Or is it?

The voices of many English-speaking Marxists, feminists, and existentialists suddenly rise in protest.

"We have reinterpreted King Lear within our ideological construct" says one existentialist, "enhancing its relevance to a variety of audiences in the global ideological boiling pot of the twentieth century".

"Existentialism developed during the 20th century, so Shakespeare would not have recognised this term, even though he's ahead of his times" confirms this existentialist, "But he would have, at some point during his chaotic marriage, subconsciously acknowledged that the individual is responsible for their own moral choices, questioned the existence of God, and thought... 'hmm, maybe existence comes before essence'".

Nihilists take this further, accepting the failure of conventional reason and embracing meaninglessness as a condition. Such a reading dwells on the inhumanity and disinterestedness of the forces which destroy Lear. It focuses on the grotesque humour, the absurd and incongruous elements like the jesting Fool and Gloucester's failed suicide. Cordelia's death is viewed as...