Monday, July 12, 2021

King lear

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0th Century Critical Readings of King Lear

A. C. Bradley (105)

· About characters and their motivation

· Individual suffers as he comes to terms with his own human character

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& failings

G. Wilson Knight (10)

· Gods torment man for no reason but to cause pain

· Comically absurd cruelty (violence for its own sake)

Cultural materialists

· Concerned with institutions and power (power structures)

· Recognises importance of gender and race relations, but are less

concerned with it

Marxist reading

· Relate covert & overt content to Marxist themes class struggle,

progression of society through stages

· about falling and rising classes

· Relate work to social class status of author (who may be unaware of

what s/he says)

· Talk about literary structures in terms of socio-political order

New Historicism

· We only know the past through the present (compare power relations,

social values between then and now)

· Try to detach text from previous literature (involves parallel reading of

literary & non-literary texts, equally weighting them)

· Individual constrained & affected by social & ideological structures

(rank, class, occupation, education)

· Personal identity is a social construction

· Impact of authors relation to audience & personal beliefs on text

Feminist reading

· Focuses on absence of female voice (patriarchal society) &

subordination to males

· Challenge representation of women in text by male & female authors as

other, lack, or part of nature

· Ironically strong female characters

· Play reinforces prejudices against women (Goneril & Regan embody

fears of society towards women)

· Sympathies in play all towards male characters

· Male anxiety (Lear goes mad when he realises his dependence on his

daughters, admits feminine side with crying in the end - Shakespeare

explores feminine potential in males)


· Relates texts to genre, intertextual connections, underlying narrative


· Interpret literature in terms of underlying parallels with structures of


· Treat objects as systems of signs, with systematic patterning &


· Focus on parallels, balances, repetitions, symmetry, contrasts, patterns

· In order to show textual coherence & unity

· Eg. Binary oppositions and contrasts in Lear

Psychoanalytical reading

· Central importance to conscious and unconscious mind (overt & covert

content), disentangle the two and show covert as true textual meaning

· Pay close attention to unconscious motives of author & characters

· Demonstrate presence of classic psychoanalytical symptoms, conditions

or phases, including emotional & sexual development

· Find a psychic context for a literary work rather than social & historical



· Look for textual disunity, contradiction, paradox

· Make similarities in sounds, roots of words, and less significant

metaphors, crucial to the overall text meaning

· Concentrate on single passages (out of context) and take language into

multiple meanings

· Look for shifts and breaks in tone, tense, viewpoint, time, and attitude;

absences, conflicts and linguistic quirks


· Use of montage, stream of consciousness and such fragmentary &

reflexive techniques

· High art / elitist view of culture, focuses on literary medium


· Usually not purely literary text

· Open use of intertextuality, montage, multiple viewpoints

Joel Nothman

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