Shakespeare's "King Lear" with "the Tempest": The Discovery of Nature and the Shakespearean Recovery of Classical Natural Right

Dissertation, University of Dallas (1997)

This dissertation is an inquiry into the political thought or philosophy of Shakespeare, through a reading of King Lear with The Tempest. Drawing on the work of many readers, it is an attempt to carefully consider and comment on King Lear, beginning from the argument that in Lear, Shakespeare centrally considers the uncovering of nature and recovery of philosophy as this occurred in the Renaissance. What happens to Lear and to his kingdom resembles that which occurs in the ruling opinion of the West, and to this kingdom. In the central scene of the central act, the king sees what he calls "unaccommodated man," in the appearance of Edgar disguised as mad, near naked beggar. Lear identifies this divested man with the "thing itself" of man, calling him "philosopher." But Lear sees only the appearance of the disguise of Edgar. In his madness, Lear comes to believe that there is no justice or filial ethics, but that all the human things are artificial additions to a nearly animal nature. The reconciliation of Lear to Cordelia is a reconciliation to the higher, specifically human nature, or to the divine in man. ;In light of The Tempest, the character of Edgar appears as analogous to the philosopher. The opposition between the two brothers Edgar and Edmund reflects two fundamental philosophic appeals from custom to nature. In his first soliloquy, Edmund, like Machiavelli, appeals from conventional legitimacy to the fierce acquisitive nature which disregards justice in the pursuit of worldly goods or power. By contrast, Edgar is the example of virtue or the royal nature. In the characters of Edgar and Cordelia, Shakespeare points toward a recovery of natural right in the circumstances of modernity. This response to the principles of the animal and the tyrannic natures indicates a Shakespearean recovery of Socratic political philosophy. This recovery might save the West as Edgar saves Britain from the tyranny of Edmund
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