King Lear essays

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King Lear essays

"Every new reading of "King Lear" implies a reconsideration of the ways audiences value the play and respond to it."
Explore this statement with close reference to the reception/valuing of two productions.
King Lear has proved one of the most controversial of all Shakespeare’s tragedies. Writtenbetween late 1604 and 1605. A time of great social and political chaos within England. It is a notoriously ambiguous and ‘difficult’ work, as a study of its history makes clear. The feminists, in more modern times, were offended by Lear’s perceived misogyny, as for instance in the ‘guilded fly’ speech (IV.vi), which in their opinion reeked of chauvinism, to the extent of demolishing any claim Lear had on the audience’s sympathy. Existentialist critics have seen the play as demonstrating the absurdity of human existence. Christian critics have seen it as affirming the power of love and charity. Some see the comic elements (the Fool, ‘Poor Tom’) as misconceived while others see them as the key to the play’s very meaning. Each new reading forces us to rethink what the text is saying to us. Four centuries of criticism have not resolved the key problems: they have simply added new players to the dispute. I will refer to two productions; Peter Brook’s film produciton, and Kozintstev production. As well as current valuings applying Marxist, and Existentialist theories exemplified in my chosen scenes of analysis.
‘The theme of King Lear is the decay and fall of the world… But unlike in the Histories and Tragedies, the world is not healed again…Everybody has died or been murdered. Gloster was right when he said: ‘This great world shall so wear out to nought.’ Jann Kott.
A valid interpretation or valuing has been prevalent for decades that ‘Lear’ is an absurdist or grotesque play. Jan Kott’s influential essay of the early 1060s argues that King Lear is a grotesque tragedy, expressing absurdist and existentialist p…