What Is Your Response To The Marxist Reading Of Shakespeare's King Lear?

1307 words - 5 pages

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" as being louts who trash their castles rather than a necessity. However, in the end, all are defeated and killed, following the Marxist ideas that the working class, the proletariat would eventually emerge triumphant.Instead of condemning him, the Marxist interpretation chooses to view Lear as a hero, one who must undergo a vast transformation from a king to a man. He realises his weakness and insignificance and becomes a humble and caring person, coming to cherish Cordelia over everything else - to the point that he would rather live in prison with her than rule as a king again. For example, at the end, he admits his folly, calling himself "a very foolish and fond old man". But this is stretching the idea of a hero, since a "hero" is someone idealised for courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities. Lear has none of these and is an average human being. He is irresponsible - for example, he wants to be treated as a king, but he doesn't want to fulfil the obligations of governing. He is also extremely conceited and egocentric - he arranges a test where he values a public display of love over true love. He doesn't ask "which of you doth love us most," but, "which of you...

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