Folly in William Shakespeare's King Lear Essay

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Folly in William Shakespeare's King Lear In "East Coker," T. S. Eliot pleads "Do not let me hear / Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly…." (Eliot 185) The folly of old men must surely be a central trope in any discussion of Shakespeare's imposing tragic accomplishment, King Lear. Traditional interpretations of the play, drawing on the classical Aristotelian theory of tragedy, have tended to view Lear's act of blind folly as hamartia, precipitating the disintegration of human society. In the ensuing crisis, "the basic ties of nature fall apart to reveal a chaos where humanity 'must prey on itself like monsters of the deep.'" and "evil is immanent and overflows from the smallest breach of nature." (Mercer 252)…show more content…
But to the extent that we ourselves are leaving behind that Enlightenment battery of critical concepts centered on a transcendent author, transhistorical subjectivity and value, and transparent, single-levelled meaning, then, as has been widely understood, a new early modern period emerges, one in which poems and plays are complexly connected with every other cultural ebb and flow of the time, when 'authorship' was far from an established cultural form, when meaning and interpretation were unstable and disjunctive as the fictive Hamlet and the historical Montaigne insisted, and when the individual self was constituted through processes and logic far less unitary and less stable than those assumed in many of the ideologies of the classical bourgeois epoch. (Grady 8) In this view the Renaissance, as the immediate precursor of modernity, has a special symmetry with the current period (modernity's immediate successor). The early modern period saw a brief emergence of a 'Renaissance skeptical' mentality characterized by the free play of the fragments and shards of the collapsed earlier systems and of newer discourses coming into being. (Grady 17) In the context of such a mentality, King Lear looks less like a stable
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