What is your response to the Marxist reading of Shakespeare's King Lear?

Essay by stella8h8changHigh School, 10th grade July 2004

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King Lear, when read from a Marxist perspective, blames everything on the conflict of classes. In particular, there is a focus on the traditional feudalism versus the "new" capitalism. Lear is viewed as a hero because he manages to journey from being a mentally impoverished king to a simple man, while Cordelia is the heroine. The villains of this story are not clear-cut, crude villains but complex villains with more logic and commonsense the conventionalists. The Marxist reading even attempts to reduce the whole story to the idea that the rich are hindered by their material goods, and must drop to the level of the poor to understand the truth.

The Marxist reading believes that King Lear's rule is feudal, and he along with Gloucester represents the "old order", the aristocrats who demand unquestioning loyalty and service. These characters believe in obedience from their subjects, and when they do not receive this, they become enraged and rashly throw their power around.

For example, when King Lear does not receive a favourable answer from his daughter Cordelia in the "love test", Lear immediately disowns her, and when Kent dares to challenge Lear, he is banished. Similarly, when Gloucester suspects his son Edgar of defiance, he also flies into a rage. At the same time, Gonerill, Regan, Edmond and Cornwall have the characteristics of the bourgeoisie, the supposed middle class who rise to competition with the feudalists for power. The bourgeoisie have a more realistic view than the feudalists - for example, in the confrontation with Gonerill and Regan, the old-fashioned Lear wishes to age with dignity and keep his hundred knights - they are one of the symbols of his power and allow him to throw his weight around. On the other hand, Gonerill and Regan see the "riotous knights"...