Subversion Of The Old Order In King Lear By William Shakespeare
The tragedy ¨King Lear¨ by William Shakespeare, allows us to delve into different topics that were present in The Early Modern England. One of them is the ability to dramatize the breakdown of Providentialism. King Lear successfully managed to accomplish it in various ways. At the same time, other characters displayed their way of challenging the old order. Throughout this essay I am going to explore aspects, reasons and consequences of character behavior and, finally, conclude why and how the old order is subverted.
Lear´s tendency to believe that gods are going to take his side leads him to take abrupt decisions about giving away his inheritance. The idea of praising gods, reveals the true nature of Lear, which shows signs of blasphemy, as he swears by different gods, ¨Now, by Apollo¨. He expects that the higher power will lead his daughters to pay for the betrayal and greediness, but meanwhile he is allowed to turn his daughters into objects of his discipline. Yet when Kent tries to enlighten Lear that his decisions have gone awry, Lear stubbornly takes it as Kent being disrespectful and warns him, ¨That thou hast sought to make us break our vows¨. Lear also dramatizes the breakdown of Providentialism, when giving up his inheritance while he is still alive. The Fool, on the other hand, warns him of his possible foolishness and its consequences, ¨Fortune, that arrant whore, / Ne´er turns the key to th´poor¨. However, as the play progresses so does Lear´s `perception of the reality. He starts to acknowledge that gods are not treating him as goodly as expected and claims, ¨you see me here, you gods, a poor old man¨. In addition, Lear starts to question his existential matters, as gentleman say about Lear, ¨Bids the winds blow the earth into the sea / Or swell the curlèd water ‘bove the main, / That things might change or cease¨. It leads Lear to think that gods are indifferent to humanity, ¨as flies are wanton boys are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport¨. Unfortunately, only by losing everything, he is capable of admitting the reality as it is, ¨He finds truth only in madness, which represents the upheaval of the semiosis he has rejected.¨
Furthermore, some of the characters challenge the old order. For instance, Lear is misogynistic and he discriminates women. He wishes to fathom the daughters love and intentions in terms of materialistic forms. Lear gives away his inheritance to daughters that are gifted to speak, but has no good intentions. Lear acknowledges betrayal claiming, ¨O, how this mother swells up toward my heart! / Hysterica passio, down, thou climbing sorrow! / Thy element’s below! — Where is this daughter? ¨, showing disgust towards women and calling them a sickness. Moreover, Cordelia is not capable of expressing her love verbally and thinks to herself, ¨What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent¨. Cordelia has her own principles and wants to be honest, in this manner she challenges the old order and is seen as disrespectful by her father and other characters. Edmund goes against the Providentialism by acting selfish and being a complete ¨bastard¨. Although not a reason to be excused, he acts these ways, because his father has been disrespectful and mocking him many times as Gloucester claims, ¨I have so often blushed to acknowledge him that now I am brazed to it¨.
At the end of the play the old order is most likely to be subverted, taking into account that characters that challenge it, dies with their values. With Lear´s death, the values cannot be passed forward or re-established. This is because Edgar, who takes the crown, has played many roles in the play and has shown different sides of him as being honest and powerful man, later on he acts inadequate ways, hiding as poor Tom and not revealing his personality to his father as he says, ¨You´re much deceived. In nothing am I changed / But in my garnments¨. His actions were not always fair to others and sometimes were full of uncertainty, which leads us to ambiguity of the order that Edgar would establish.
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